Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Rush To Judgment

I admit it: There's a small part of me that's felt the need to defend Rush Limbaugh from continued attacks on him.

Now before anybody loses his or her shit, let me explain. I've spent a lot of time and copy space on this site defending people's right -- particularly the right of entertainers -- to say incendiary, offensive things without fear of having their livelihoods taken away. I can't stand Limbaugh and think the national discourse would be vastly improved by removing him from the airwaves and, in a perfect world, dumping his fat ass in a volcano somewhere; I also think that what he said about Sandra Fluke, not once but over and over again, crossed a line from which there's no going back. But there's simply no denying that whether you believe he's being sincere or not, he did apologize publicly for his actions. I realize that there have been those who came before him who screwed the pooch this thoroughly and were forced to pay for it with their jobs in the entertainment industry, but again, I've generally defended those people -- whichever side of the political aisle they happened to be on and almost irrespective of what they'd said to bring the wrath of God down on them.

So, yes, I felt like it would be intellectually dishonest and somewhat hypocritical to root for the utter destruction of Limbaugh's career -- a career that admittedly has seen him spew the most reprehensible rhetoric into the ether for years now -- based on his taking a shot that was absolutely beyond the pale but for which he's obviously feeling some heat now (certainly enough to make him take the uncharacteristic step of saying he's sorry).

As it turns out, though, along came David Frum to make me reconsider -- to spell out carefully why Limbaugh's case is indeed different from so many others and why it's fair to demand that he pay what in his field would be the ultimate price for his transgression.

Take a look and see if you agree.

CNN: Are We Being Fair To Rush Limbaugh?/3.5.12

Adding: Beginning today, Cesca will be contributing to the Daily Banter -- the mothership site for our little network of blogging doofuses -- and his first piece rightly examines how Limbaugh's "slut" comment wasn't even the worst thing he said about Sandra Fluke. It was one shot in a relentless fusillade of slander and vitriol. Take a look. I'll also be contributing to the Banter, as well as answering reader mail, and that'll hopefully begin next week.


J. Dack said...

I do agree. Rush has too much power over his dimwitted, and admittedly, huge audience.

I also agree with defending free speech, including awful statements. But free speech isn't without consequences. Especially when you're a public broadcaster.

Imus lost his job over what he said, Rush should too.

Chez said...

Here's the thing: I didn't think Imus deserved to lose his job for what he said. I thought -- and still think -- Imus is a laughable tool, but I don't think what he said was some apocalyptic sin.

I do think that Limbaugh is a repulsive pig and I certainly agree that it's within the right of his advertisers to pull their ads. I'm just always wary of these targeted online campaigns because I feel like they can be turned around and aimed in the wrong direction very easily -- and in fact already have on more than one occasion.

Joy said...

I think Rush will likely not lose his job over this, although I wouldn't lose any sleep if he did. It is absolutely his right to express himself, and it is absolutely his channel's right to stand by him, and his advertisers are also free to do as they wish. As consumers we are free to do as we wish with our buying habits too. If we rouse the only God Limbaugh prays to, TOO DAMN BAD. This is why it is bad to believe in very little besides money. Decorum, basic human decency, and a few other things come in handy even if your job is to be a professional dick. And yeah all the things Frum said too...

Bob Cesca said...

The apology was for the use of the word "slut" and not the surrounding hours of broadcast time spent smearing a noncombatant's name and reputation. And during the apology, Limbaugh repeated the exact same misinformed point he was making when he called her a slut. It wasn't an apology at all.

This wasn't Stern saying penis on the air or O&A orchestrating a stunt in a church -- this was an ongoing personal attack bordering on slander. It's going to take much more than a throwaway apology.

Mart said...

I think of Rush as a propagandist, not an entertainer; so I have trouble granting him entertainer exemptions. Even as an entertainer, he still shouldn't yell fire in a theater. But that gets back to what your definitions of fire and theater are.

I remember Maher was fired from ABC for not calling the 911 attackers cowards, but instead said they were (in a way) brave for dieing for their beliefs. Donohue was fired at MSNBC for booking anti Iraq war guests when no other network was going near there. Liberal political entertainers say the most horrible things.

Rush will likely survive just fine. His numbers are too large for advertisers to shun for too long. And it was certainly the case he fell into a classic Saul Alynski trap, so it won't be his fault in a week or so. And that is fine by me. His propaganda is aimed at old white guys, and we are a dwindling breed.

Sheriff Bart said...

Yeah, but this wasn't a "Nappy headed hos" moment. Rush didn't offhandedly call Fluke a slut then go onto another topic while probably thinking "holy shit was that a stupid thing to say".
He ranted about her for three fucking days. The fact that he apologized only when his advertisers started pulling out makes him look even worse.
I get where you're coming from, Chez, but I have to agree with Frum here.
I will not have any problem pointing and laughing while Limbaugh's ship goes down. He's done everything he can to make sure that happens.

Chez said...

I absolutely agree that calling Fluke a slut was really just one very minor shot in a four day long fusillade. Yeah, he apologized for that little comment, but not for every other thing he said that was cruel, slanderous, and way over-the-line. And you're right, Bob, about the non-combatant thing. It's fucking tragic if we're at the point where anyone willing to exercise their right to free speech immediately puts him or herself in the crosshairs of any pundit or political media blowhard who happens to disagree with the stand that person is taking.

Steven D Skelton said...

I'm reminded of a viral video shot in some sort of town meeting.

While walking back to her seat, a woman (rudely) slaps a piece of paper against the back of another woman's head. After a couple of seconds processing time, the woman falls to the floor and screams in agony as if she had just been given the Rodney King treatment.

Let's face it, nobody was actually offended here. Sandra Fluke is by all accounts a bright, mature and well adjusted woman. It is absurd to think that she was all broke up about Limbaugh saying mean things about her. More likely, she did the Pee Wee Herman happy dance upon hearing the news because it just made her career. Who wouldn't love to be about to earn a JD from Georgetown just as Limbaugh makes a "martyr" of them.

She can no write her own ticket at any public interest law firm she wants.

Look, when your dad says your a failure and embarrassment to the family...it hurts. When drunken uncle Bob says it...nobody cares.

So know we all argue over whether Limbaugh is a pig (really?) and whether or not we can drink snapple with a clear conscience....all while the national debt increases by 120 billion this month and we have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan surrounded by a Dirka Dirka mob of uncivilized stone agers rioting because someone burned the trash.

Come to think of it...those who are feigning outrage about this remind me of the Dirka Dirka people.

Steven D Skelton said...

"It's fucking tragic if we're at the point where anyone willing to exercise their right to free speech immediately puts him or herself in the crosshairs of any pundit or political media blowhard who happens to disagree with the stand that person is taking."

I've thought that since Joe the Plumber and the cop who arrested the professor from Harvard.

Stumble your way into the public discussion and either Media Matters or their right wing counterpart is going to dig through your whole existence looking to bury you.

It's no wonder that to be a politician or well known pundit, you either have to be shameless or pure as the driven snow.

Chez said...

Skelton, I'm really beginning to think that you're slowly losing your mind. I get the whole voice-of-opposition thing, but your arguments are getting more and more ludicrous for some reason.

Calling a private citizen a slut, a prostitute, claiming that she's having tons of sex and that she should post the videos online -- that's fucking wrong. Wrong. I have no clue what world you're living in where that's excusable behavior and it can be mitigated by the fact that the outcome could eventually be beneficial for several parties. Doesn't make it any less reprehensible.

As for the entirely faulty "bigger issues" argument, the Republican worldview is set top-down from Limbaugh -- ergo what he says actually has the potential to set the very policy that does directly affect every American. That's what Frum was getting at.

Please, think before you say this horseshit.

Sheriff Bart said...

I miss Bill White.

Steven D Skelton said...

I don't disagree that it's wrong. Of course it's wrong. Of course his words we offensive.

My point is that I don't believe anyone was actually offended by it.

Do you really think she was offended by what Limbaugh says? No way! Why would a bright, informed and well adjusted third year law student at Georgetown care one way or the other what that blowhard says?

Chez said...

The point wasn't whether or not she was offended -- and to be honest I'm betting that she actually was, considering that she, her family and her friends all had to listen to this idiot and his moronic "dittoheads" -- that sociopath Pamela Gellar included -- tear her to shreds and cast aspersion on her for daring to say something they didn't like. Also, yeah, it's kind of offensive to society in general that he went after a woman who was, as Bob calls her, a non-combatant.

Riles said...

I agree with Frum, particularly his point that we take this issue on it's face and forget about past "obscenities" (even though I don't quite agree with that phrasing). Rush is not equal to Stern or Michael Savage or even locally, John & Ken. He is a power-broker and has bullied his way so that his opinion is taken seriously and as Gospel. He's not an entertainer, he is a player in the political world. He should be treated almost as a politician would be, resignation (probably). And this comes from someone who has a hard time with forcing people out of their job for saying "offensive" things.

Tom said...

*Can* anyone fire Rush? He's king of his world. Is he actually someone's employee?

Every single thing that's happened to him in the last week he's earned whole-heartedly. I agree, he's allowed to say whatever he likes, but he's not free from the consequences.

How long do you suppose it'll be before he starts whining that his first amendment rights are being 'violated' by his advertisers bailing on him? Or has he started doing that already? It's not the government punishing him for his repulsiveness, it's society.

On the after party, you and Bob discuss what can be done about people like Rush. I think the answer is pretty easy. Keep holding him up as the 'figurehead' of the conservative movement or the Republicans. Keep equating his opinions with the views of republicans. His views are toxic, and yet they're so scared of him they can't denounce him. Frankly, it's hilarious.

Rush's bluster will get republicans in trouble, but when asked to denounce him, they'll equivocate and whinge and change the subject. Of course, if he wanted to help them win he'd probably be best to shut up, but do you think his ego is going to let that happen?

Anonymous said...

When a guy has a 400 million dollar contract, he owns the bank, as it were. Any notion of "firing him" seems... complicated.

But the idea that a bright light has been cast on what he's been doing all along and his enablers in politics are paralyzed, priceless.

Erin said...

Steven, it doesn't matter that she's a bright third year law student. He told her she was worthless. I will eat my winter jacket if she wasn't offended.

countryjoe said...

What if it was your daughter he was talking about?

Chez said...

He'd be in the hospital right now breathing through a tube.

Benoit from Ottawa said...

Wow. Just wow. About the whole thing.

We're not as media-wedded as you guys to The Limbaugh here in Canada (thank you thank you), but we are following this kerfuffle with much interest. Well, I am...

I thought Colbert's bit on this was superb, last night.

Eric said...

Let's face it, nobody was actually offended here.

I was offended. I have a sister.

Anonymous said...

I get the sense that there's some institutional reluctance from some unlikely sources to see Limbaugh felled. Like some "mighty warrior" adversary that slips on a bar of soap in the shower denying him his due-honorable death.

He's been national since 1988, since I was 15 years old, spouting lies, fear, racism, and misogyny. His whole career is just one long barefoot & pregnant n-word joke.

He's beaten down the country's sensibilities turning hate and bigotry into a national political party's platform and by successfully shaming good people into thinking "liberal" is a dirty word, even though most Americans agree with a liberal worldview more often than not. He's a best selling author as well. People read his stupid books and his brand of cocksucker almost made him an owner in the NFL. He's had more broadcasting opportunities than anyone ever deserves in a culture already leaving him behind to count his millions in a quiet room somewhere. Oh, he's "a brilliant broadcaster," they fawn. Rush Limbaugh is a brilliant broadcaster the same way Mitt Romney looks like a president. It's empty, a little off-putting, and kind of sad.

Who weeps for Rush Limbaugh?

The collective Liberal conscience?

Live by the sword, die by the sword. "Die, motherfucker, die."

dick_gozinia said...

Leave it Frum in his article, and a few of you guys in the comments to pretty much sum up my feelings on the situation.

That being said, what I think is a bit lost here is that Rush wasn't the only guy that went out of his way to slander Sandra Fluke in an irresponsible, reprehensible way, simply because she holds a different political view. It almost feels calculated, or collusion if you will, between the right wing pundits. Come out strongly for something we don't believe in and we'll attack your character immediately. This feels a lot like the Occupy protests. Instead of debating the key points of worsening income inequality, lack of bank oversight, and the repeal of Glass-Steagall, republican pundits (and some presidential hopefuls) went after the protestors as shiftless, lazy, unemployable hippies. It's all diversionary, red herring type stuff that obfuscates the actual point somebody is trying to make, and in Fluke's case probably borderline grounds for slander lawsuits against these guys.

Here's Beck. I'm not an easily offended guy, but I was appalled listening to this. If this was my wife or sister he was talking about, I'd probably be in jail.


Ref said...

There is no First Amendment right to be protected from the social consequences that follow your exercise of free speech. Likewise, that freedom does not come with a mandated radio show or public microphone.

Chez said...

Last week on the podcast, Dick, we talked about the firing squad the right has on stand-by at all times to take aim at anyone who speaks up and says something its mouthpieces don't like. Their message is clear, and it's all about intimidation: You dare to voice your opinion and we'll obliterate you. That message isn't just for the person speaking but for anyone who might think of doing so in the future.

And yes, as I've already said, if it had been my daughter Rush, or Bolling, or Beck or any of their ilk were destroying on television or radio -- he'd be eating through a straw for the rest of his life.