Tuesday, March 6, 2012

More on Rush Limbaugh and crybaby politics

Over at The Philly Post yesterday, I lamented "The Era of Martyrdom Politics" in which we try to advance our cause by being offended by what our rivals have to say about us. I mentioned the whole Rush Limbaugh/Sandra Fluke thing, writing: "Suddenly we weren’t talking about contraceptive policy anymore, but about how a man who made his career two decades ago by coining the term 'feminazi' and crossing numerous other lines is, no kidding, really, a very obnoxious sexist and this time we mean it."

In other words, Rush has always been a jerk—there's nothing new to see here! And I think Gawker probably gets at this point a little better than I did:
So here comes Rush Limbaugh—a media entity who has repeatedly, almost monthly, reveled in a transparent strategy of uttering whatever racist, sexist, homophobic slur comes to mind for the explicit purposes of riling his antagonists—to utter a sexist slur for the explicit purposes of riling his antagonists. And his antagonists got riled! This dynamic is very, very old. (And I have certainly fallen for it). It used to be a somewhat sloppy process. Limbaugh would say things, and maybe some people would notice and write an angry newspaper column. Over the years the calumnies would build up until Al Franken cataloged them in book form.

Limbaugh claims that he does not hate women. But his critics know that he does. So when he lets slip a "slut," it can become valuable evidence in proving your case. ("He claims that he doesn't hate women, but look! He calls them sluts.") The trouble here is that Rush Limbaugh obviously and unambiguously hates women. His utterance of the word slut in the present context adds no new information about Limbaugh or his beliefs. Pre-"slut" and post-"slut" Limbaugh are identical in all respects.
I think that's right. I think Sandra Fluke was right to be very offended by Rush Limbaugh. It's the difference between the generalized bigotry of the term "feminazi" and a specific accusation leveled at a specific person.

But there's still an element of kabuki to the whole cycle of offense and umbrage, and, well, meh. Making a big deal about Rush won't make Georgetown University offer Sandra Fluke health insurance that covers contraceptives—I'm not sure it will even push the needle very far. And that's what the debate is supposed to be about.


zeditor said...

People have every right to be outraged -- Sandra Fluke most of all. But I fear that campaigns to get him off the air will just fuel his passionate "those lefties are out to silence me!" response. And the national dialogue won't have gone anywhere but crazy. The fact that Rush Limbaugh has been tolerated, even coddled, for more than two decades says more about our toxic political atmosphere than it does about his particular brand of stupid bigotry. I guess this is the kabuki you refer to.

What's the answer? Honestly, I don't know. For him to realize his contribution to the cesspool of popular discourse and silence (or at least temper) himself would be nice. So would a million-dollar check in my mailbox today. Neither is going to happen.

I need to keep thinking about this. Thanks for helping me along.

namefromthepast said...

I'm not holding my breath that the outrage coming from the left will illuminate the exact same behavior seen elsewhere.

So far liberals continue to ignore the likes of bill mahar, chris matthews, among others.

Your post is purely disingenuous political bullshit since you don't have-at least I haven't seen-the same reaction to folks who share your political beliefs.

Kirsten Powers did a great job pointing this out in her Daily Beast column.


Joel said...


"Your post is purely disingenuous political bullshit since you don't have-at least I haven't seen-the same reaction to folks who share your political beliefs."





I've got a pretty consistent history of calling out sexism on the left when I see it. You don't know what you're talking about. As per usual.

namefromthepast said...

My apologies Joel.

I haven't been following you long enough to have seen those posts. Shouldn't have commented before I checked.

I must admit I have been pretty frustrated listening to the whole debate over this issue and what seems to be a double standard in some places. That's probably a better way to express how I was thinking. Shouldn't have made it so personal.