Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Rush Limbaugh is Becoming Irrelevant

Image from Salon
It's been a very long trip from fringe to mainstream back to fringe. And I'm not confident enough to say that the age of the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs is entirely over. Goodness knows, today's crop of GOP presidential candidates is squarely in formerly fringe territory, politically. Limbaugh and Co. did their job of driving the right to the very cliff. But it would seem that Limbaugh himself is going over the edge, and like Wile E. Coyote, he's kind of suspended in midair, maybe not yet realizing that he needs to throw up a "Yipes!" sign, and start grabbing for branches to break his fall.

I bought The Way Things Ought to Be and See? I Told You So, Limbaugh's first two big books for my grandmother, who was a fan, way back in the early 90s. I was a viewer of Limbaugh's ill-fated TV show, though never (ever) a fan. I still marvel that he was able to muster such an audience, because over the last 20+ years, I have listened periodically. He has literally never won me over to his side on any argument. Not ever. I've always been able to spot his manipulation tricks, his spin on a subject, his steering of his audience, the red meat nuggets he's lobbing, and mostly the lies he's telling. My B.S. detectors (honed by my skepticism toward religion, and other factors, including my coming to terms with being gay in a world that was not okay with it) are tripped by Limbaugh every single time, and very, very quickly. He might as well be a Jehovah's Witness or Mormon elder at my door on an early weekend morning: nothing he says sounds convincing, and I'm irritated by his effort.

So, I think I have a more honest appraisal of Limbaugh (and his ilk, many others I've also more than just sampled) than do conservative critics of the left. I'd wager that most people who make the false equivalence of MSNBC to FOX "News," for example, have watched very, very little MSNBC. People who believe there is such a thing as a "far left" in this country would have a very difficult time finding an analogue to Limbaugh on the left. Or pointing factually to the areas where such an analogue has dragged mainstream liberal Democrats to the fringe. Or finding a liberal version of the Tea Party with any real influence on politicians.

This is where Rush has done his job well. He's drummed into his audience (and it's seeped into "conventional wisdom") that there is a lockstep liberal media, that President Obama is a radical leftist, that conservative Republican white Christian males are under attack. That absolutely everything contrary to fringe conservative thought is anti-American, anti-Christian and a sinister conspiracy. Everything is an outrage, everything is orchestrated, and somehow liberals (or gays, naturally) are a united front with hidden diabolical motives. Because of Rush and his compatriots, conservatives will declare with conviction that President Obama hates America, and that destroying it is his number one priority. They'll declare that gay people do not seek equality, don't really want to get married, they want to destroy the family, destroy America, destroy Christianity.

I've long thought that permanent rage can't last forever. It's got to burn out. Or at least evolve. I've truly never understood why Rush managed to have such a stranglehold on his audience, given his four marriages, drug scandals, odd forays into island countries with Viagra, and other unsavory behavior. Like Sean Hannity, Limbaugh has no particular foundation in political science, no background education, he's just a guy on the radio. How "Rush is right!" became such a thing, and stayed a thing for so long is as baffling to me as the fact that Dr. Phil is a thing. Why? But Rush's shtick seems to finally be bringing about his undoing. [Story continues below, after my favorite anti-Rush video]

In today's age of social media and instant memes, when you say something egregious, it can zing around the world in a few minutes. So, after Limbaugh decided to go after feminist activist Sandra Fluke (with, let me point out, a rant that wasn't just appallingly sexist, but devoid of any grounding in reality whatsoever), he blew out some load-bearing supports below his career (not intended to be a fat joke, but hey, there you go). An advertiser boycott was launched. And it has been sustained. Rush has been shedding advertisers ever since, and finally, he's also shedding his biggest radio stations.

Unfortunately, it's had the effect of damaging the already hanging-by-its-fingernails liberal side of talk radio, given the same advertiser base. Which is the potential downside of a lot of boycotts, unintended consequences. While that hurts, I can't help but have a measure of glee at the slow plunge of Wile E. Limbaugh off the cliff. And I'll be happy to wait, neck craned and ear cupped for the soft "whump!" and cloud of dust when he finally hits bottom.


Rush Limbaugh is cooked: The stunning fall of the right’s angriest bloviator

The bad news just keeps coming for conservative talker Rush Limbaugh. Which bulletin was worse, though? The news in April that he was being dropped by WIBC in Indianapolis, a booming talk powerhouse that played home to Limbaugh’s radio show for more than two decades, or the news this week that the talker’s new address on the Indianapolis dial is going to be WNDE, a ratings doormat AM sports station that has so few listeners it trails the commercial-free classical music outlet in town? . . .

Read more at: Salon

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