In Defense Of Rush Limbaugh

I hate his face, so... Close enough.

I hate when people use the word evil to describe Rush Limbaugh. He’s not evil. Pol Pot was evil. John Wayne Gacy was evil. Augusto Pinochet was evil. Calling Rush Limbaugh evil weakens the term, because he isn’t evil – he’s just a huge, fat, blubbering, worthless piece of shit asshole. Make no mistake: There is a huge difference.

Evil is knowing that you’re inflicting grievous harm on others for your own personal gain and not caring. Neil Goldschmidt, for example, had a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl in the mid 1970s when he was mayor of Portland, as a result of which she developed a number of severe emotional problems and lapsed into poverty and drug abuse, dying in her mid 40s.

Goldschmidt spent the bulk of his career covering up the uncomfortable fact that he was a rapist; after the story broke in 2004 he shiftily accepted responsibility for what he’d done whilst simultaneously trying to discredit as much of the victim’s story as he could, and, after learning that she’d been raped by another man while living in Seattle, publicly stated, ”…bad things happened up there for which she's probably blameless, in the sense that she didn't invite it -- I mean literally ask for it. But she was always putting herself in circumstances like that.”

Neil Goldschmidt is evil. He really wanted to have sex with an adolescent girl, so he did it without particularly caring about what it was going to do to her, and then he didn’t want to face the blame for it, so he attempted to dehumanize her in the eyes of the public.

Rush Limbaugh is a huge asshole and a terrible person, but he’s not evil. Calling him evil is like me calling bleu cheese evil just because it’s ruined pretty much every meal I’ve ever had it in. Bleu cheese is just doing it’s job – being stinky and bitter. Rush Limbaugh’s job is more or less the same.

Not that I’m one of those people waving his hand dismissively and saying, “Oh, he’s just an entertainer. He exaggerates things to get ratings, and he says what a lot of people are thinking!”

Because for one thing, the fact that a lot of people are thinking something doesn’t necessarily mean you should go out and say it publicly to a massive audience. When the Erin Andrews nude video leaked a couple years ago, a significant majority of men in this country thought, “I am going to download that video and look at it while I masturbate.”

However, I don’t recall anybody going on the airwaves and saying that out loud – and that’s the sort of thing you’d remember if you heard it coming from Andy Rooney or Brian Williams. The reason that we don’t automatically vocalize every thought that we have is because humans inevitably have a lot of really shitty thoughts in the course of the day, the bulk of which are better left in the privacy of our own minds.

The things Rush said about Sandra Fluke and women in general really, really pissed me off, because I know, admire, and am, in fact, related to a number of women who did nothing to deserve all this, short of being born without penises. Just the other day I was driving home on the 405, fuming about the horrible things this piece of shit said about women, when a pink Volkswagen Beetle cut me off.

Goddamn it! I thought to myself as I hit the brakes, and, before I even knew what was happening in my brain, followed that thought up with: Probably some fucking woman driver.

See? That was a thing that I, a pro choice liberal feminist, thought to myself. Of course, I don’t actually believe that – it just sort of popped into my head. Sometimes you just think shitty things. The fact that Rush Limbaugh goes on the radio and routinely says every shitty thing that he can think of doesn’t make him some kind of bold and tireless crusader for what’s just and good; it makes him functionally retarded since he seems to lack the part of the brain that tells us when we should just shut the fuck up, already.

So let’s tally it up: Asshole? Yes. Bad person? Yes. Bigot? Yes. Hypocrite? Yes. Detracting from the cause of intelligent and rational discourse in the American political arena? Yes. Deserving of censorship? Fuck, no!

I’m not talking about the consumer pressure that’s caused 140+ of his sponsors to leave, resulting in large patches of dead air between segments on his show. We, as consumers in a free market economy, have the right to do business or not do business with whomever we want, and those businesses have the right to advertise or not advertise with whomever they want.

For example, earlier in the year a bunch of folks tried to boycott JC Penny for hiring Ellen DeGeneres as their spokesperson. JC Penny stood by their spokesperson, the nation had a laugh at the folks’ expense, and everyone moved on. The same pressure has been applied to Rush Limbaugh’s sponsors, almost all of whom have decided that they’d rather not stand by him and have taken their money elsewhere.

This is not censorship; this is a wise business decision on the part of 140-odd companies. Censorship is Jane Fonda’s demand that the FCC ban Limbaugh from the airwaves.

I do not like Jane Fonda.

In 1972 she went to North Vietnam, posed for pictures on a Viet Cong anti-aircraft gun, made propaganda broadcasts on Radio Hanoi, and publicly called American POWs “hypocrites,” “liars,” and “war criminals” who were “trying to make themselves look self righteous.” She apologized 16 years later when controversy about her wartime activities threatened the box office profits from her latest movie. I think she’s a reactionary who makes liberal feminists look bad, and her campaign to sully our reputation continued in a editorial she coauthored:

Like the sophisticated propagandist Josef Goebbels, [Limbaugh] creates rhetorical frames -- and the bigger the lie, the more effective -- inciting listeners to view people they disagree with as sub-humans. His longtime favorite term for women, "femi-Nazi," doesn't even raise eyebrows anymore, an example of how rhetoric spreads when unchallenged by coarsened cultural norms.

Here’s a tip: Criticizing someone for comparing women to Nazis loses its power when you compared him to a Nazi in the previous sentence. Where did you get the idea to compare him to a Nazi, by the way? Nobody ever does that these days. Very creative. Moving on.

This isn't political. While we disagree with Limbaugh's politics, what's at stake is the fallout of a society tolerating toxic, hate-inciting speech. For 20 years, Limbaugh has hidden behind the First Amendment, or else claimed he's really "doing humor" or "entertainment." He is indeed constitutionally entitled to his opinions, but he is not constitutionally entitled to the people's airways.

As I may have mentioned a few times, Rush Limbaugh is an asshole and there’s very little good in him. (Although he never went to a warzone and made nice with enemy combatants while American servicemen were dying…) But above all else, he is a very popular asshole. A lot of Americans like listening to him for reasons that I’m still trying to understand, and the FCC is there to make sure that everybody gets equal airtime.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like I don’t find the idea of an America that blindly tolerates hate speech scary. I just find the idea of an America where the government silences anybody they disagree with way, way scarier.

Truman Capps said a lot of nasty things about people in this update, so he’d like to mention that he thinks George Takei is a really great guy.