05 March 2007

A big fat loogie

For many, many years I’ve kept my opinion mostly to myself concerning the right-wing talk-show host Rush Limbaugh.

The first time I heard him on the radio was way back in 1985. I was driving down the mountain from a visit to Tahoe, and there was Rush. I’d heard of him, but I knew little about him other than that he was outrageous, popular, and surprisingly, my Dad liked listening to his show. I wasn’t a political type at the time; politics were something that happened, for the most part, outside my small, personal universe.

Yet I’ll never forget my astonishment when Limbaugh took a call and, upon hearing the caller’s comment (and I forget the subject matter now) rudely called him an idiot who was wasting his precious air time and hung up on him as he launched into a diatribe against the point the caller had tried to make. I remember thinking that the caller’s point had been perfectly valid, although he hadn’t agreed with Rush’s prior statements.

I ‘d never heard anything quite like it before. It was also during that interesting drive down the steep, twisting, snow-clotted highway that I heard the term “feminazi” for the first time.

That was also an eye-opener.

I happened to catch Rush on my car radio again a few times after that, since he took up a big chunk of air-time at the local talk radio station, but I paid little attention to him. He was talking about things I wasn’t particularly interested in – and knew little about – but his pomposity and rudeness continued to put me off. I’d switch the station or turn the radio off entirely if he was bloviating.

I also kept remembering that “feminazi” reference, which truly rankled me.

Not long after that I moved lock, stock and barrel to northern Germany. Other than West German television, which was fascinating but unintelligible for a couple of years, there was the Armed Forces Network, Europe, the U.S. military TV and radio network. On a single TV channel, it ran public service announcements each morning reminding soldiers to brush their teeth and take showers – with soap -- each day, a few select daytime shows and soaps in the afternoons, CNN as the only non-military news outlet, and a few more network programs at night. Except for the PSAs, it was commercial-free.

And then, one day, I turned on Armed Forces Radio, and there was Rush.

This was probably around 1990, and it disturbed me some. For more than two hours each day, Rush used up airtime on AFN radio – limited and in this case, truly precious airtime -- he was a conservative talk show host, and there was no opposing viewpoint. It bothered me, but I still didn’t quite “get” what was happening. Americans in Germany did have other news outlets – CNN and, via the post bookstore and German newsstands, the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, and British newspapers. And of course, there was the Stars & Stripes, but no one pretended that it was much more than propaganda which focused almost entirely on U.S. military subjects. Most people didn’t read it for serious news. But if they were thinking people, the hateful bile that flowed from Limbaugh's piehole over the AFN airwaves wasn't their only source of political commentary or information.

After I came back to the States in 1992, I learned a lot more about Limbaugh. And after paying more attention to him, and to the political situation in America, I came to detest him. Over the years, it got so that if I turned on the radio in the car, and Limbaugh was on, I’d switch off instantly. He was a blowhard, he didn’t have his facts straight, and it was obvious that he simply vomited out whatever bilge came into his head and presented it as truth. It worried me a lot that so many people in America listened to him – and even took what he said as gospel. My parents thought he was just wonderful.

According to Media Matters,

“On the March 2 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, host Rush Limbaugh stated that ‘since [Sen. Barack] Obama [D-IL] has -- on his mother's side -- forebears of his mother had slaves, could we not say that if Obama wins the Democratic nomination and then wins the presidency, he will own [Rev.] Al Sharpton?’ Limbaugh was reacting to a March 2 Chicago Tribune article that reported that two of Obama's ancestors on his mother's side owned slaves.

“Sharpton, who ran for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2004, recently discovered that he is descended from slaves who were owned by an ancestor of former Dixiecrat segregationist presidential candidate Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC).”

This is, of course, the lowest sort of backhanded ugliness. It has no bearing at all on Barak Obama’s political career or his bid for the presidency. It has no bearing on his ability -- or lack thereof -- to be a good president. If anything, it gives Obama a broader understanding and empathy with, and for, the American citizens he'd represent, should he be elected.

There are probably very few Americans, other than those descended directly from immigrants from abroad who came after America’s Civil War, who don’t have either slaveowners or slaves in their ancestry. Several of the Founding Fathers were slaveowners. Slavery is a dark part of America’s heritage, but it’s long passed, and it’s a truth that no one disputes.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Limbaugh said what he did hoping to make it seem that Obama has been hiding this old family skeleton all these years. If he knew about his white mother’s ancestors being slaveowners, given the man’s obvious intelligence, I doubt it bothered him much. Obviously, owning people as slaves isn’t something we do anymore in this country. If Obama didn’t know, I’m sure he was interested to find out – and then shrugged and got on with his day.

What the news – if you can call it that – did was allow Limbaugh an opportunity to put Obama’s name in the same sentence with Al Sharpton’s – and thereby get the wingnut whirligig hats spinning and causing thoughtless, knee-jerk reactions among his mouthbreathing listeners. His nasty, strained statement that somehow Obama, should he win the Democratic presidential nomination, would own Sharpton is ... twisted, nonsensical, ridiculous and deeply bigoted. I mean, who would think up something like this – and then broadcast it all over the United States?


Freedom of speech is one of America’s most precious rights, and Limbaugh has as much right as any other American to express his opinions and thoughts. But I sure will be glad when his wingnut Republican party finally crashes and burns, revealing its popular enablers, like Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity et al, for the small-minded, greedy, bigoted and yes, evil trolls that they are. It just can’t happen soon enough for me.


Madison Guy said...

First came across Rush on the radio aprox 20 years ago, and like you, couldn't quite believe what I was hearing. Thought if I ignored him he would go away, but of course that's not how it works. A few years later, when I worked in corporate communications at an insurance company, I used to be a smoking buddy with an actuary who was a total dittohead -- and otherwise a completely nice guy. Endless heated discussions. I've since stopped smoking. Hope he's given up Rush, but I doubt it.

Hope the Libby verdict helps discredit the whole damn crew eventually. Felony conviction of senior administration official is getting us back in Watergate territory... Meanwhile, can't help wondering: Did Libby's PowerPoint slides help convict him? People rely on stories to enliven factual information with resonance and meaning. Packaging too much data as bullet points may confuse your audience. It may also convince them that you are trying to hide behind data, or that you are trying to manipulate them with bullet points because your story doesn't make any sense. Which, come to think of it, was probably true in Libby's case.

Dragon Laugh said...

Every once in a while I'll have the misfortune of hearing him on a radio in a store or somesuch, and really, it's pretty scary that someone so very closeminded and just plain... mean... not only made it on air n the first place but is STILL on the air, and still has so very many... fans? Fanatics? Zealots, for listeners.

I'm glad I'm a rather smart-ish person. I think I'd hate me if I were dumb enough to actually agree with the guy.

chautauqua said...

And what news of your neighborly neighbor?