It was a busy day, but I want to at least start this post about Rush Limbaugh, who died today of lung cancer, before it ended.
Three kind of people said negative things about Limbaugh: liberals/progressives who hated him for removing the Left’s monopoly of journalism, punditry and public debate; his targets, which were the political correctness mob, identity interest groups, and statists; and people who never listened to him and didn’t know what they were talking about. Rush Limbaugh was a transformation figure in broadcasting, politics and culture over many decades, and he should be recognized and honored as such. Yet do you know how I found out he had died? I saw this Boston Glove headline on an Associated Press breaking story:
“Rush Limbaugh, conservative talk radio host who employed vicious but influential rhetoric, dies“
Absolutely despicable. Limbaugh’s rhetoric was seldom “vicious,” though those who never listened to his show would usually talk about how nasty he was. To the contrary, he was usually the opposite; funny, light-hearted, witty, and almost always engaging and civil to callers when they took issue with him. He did not mince words, that is true, but his targets had long been protected by a general fear of calling them what they were. The AP story is typical of what the mainstream media will write about Rush, focusing on the various controversies he stirred up, some when his rhetoric was unduly harsh, as when he called Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who argued that the government should pay for birth control, a “slut.” But that was the worst of Rush, and considering how long he spoke extemporaneously about hot-button topics for three hours five days a week, it is amazing that he didn’t have more misadventures. He apologized for the worst of them, particularly a period in which he mocked AIDS victims, saying later, “It’s the single most regretful thing I’ve ever done, because it ended up making fun of people who were dying long, painful and excruciating deaths, when they were not the target. It was a totally irresponsible thing to do.”
I speak for a living, also extemporaneously and fearlessly, and it is dangerous. Anyone in the field knows that it is inevitable that words will leave your mouth that you wish you could take back, and I grant a lot of understanding and “there but the grace of God go I” sentiments to a speaker, DJ,Talking head or frequent interview guest who has a bad moment. For the most part, Rush Limbaugh didn’t require any slack. He was superbly prepared, clear, articulate, and entertaining, while having the kind of voice and delivery that few could match in the history of radio.
He succeeded because he was talented and worked hard, and especially because he had guts. These factors, and good timing, allowed his show to change so much for the better that it is futile to try to cover his impact in a brief post. Limbaugh gave conservatives a voice and a sense that they could make a difference, while inspiring others to follow his lead. He weakened the Left by exposing its hypocrisy. He helped reveal how many conservatives there were in America, and almost certainly was a catalyst for Fox News to emerge as a desperately needed alternative to the mainstream journalism echo chamber. For this, he was hated; before Donald Trump, no national personality was the target of such venom. For his critics on the Left, those champions of insisting that mocking personal characteristics was a hallmark of bigotry, calling him fat was their favorite mode of attack.
The outpouring of hate today aimed at Limbaugh tells us what the American Left is becoming. Various celebrities and activists tweeted pure hate at Limbaugh now that he couldn’t respond, like feminist writer Andi Zeisler who wrote, “Rush Limbaugh was a shitty, cynical person who did everything he could to make the world meaner, dumber, and more divided. I’m glad he’s dead and I wish it had happened a lot sooner.” She falls into all three of the categories I mentioned at the beginning.
I’m not even going to look at what my Facebook friends have written about Rush today.
Here, in conytast are some highlights of the many fair and admiring assessments of the man and his legacy that I noted”
Critic, pundit and occasional Rush guest host Mark Steyn: “My father liked to caution me with the old saw that the graveyard is full of indispensable men. But, as the conventional bias of the legacy media yielded to something far more severe from the woke billionaires of Social Media, Rush remained the Big Voice on the Right, the largest obstacle to the complete marginalization of conservative ideas in our culture. All of us who labored in his shadows owe it to him to continue the fight.”
Conservative radio host Tammy Bruce (in a long series of tweets): “In the 90s I was a host on a talk radio station in LA, the same that aired Rush….He was so vilified by my then-crowd, I expected a monster. Instead, I met a remarkable, kind and encouraging man…He shook my hand & I was shocked that he was nice & genuinely curious about my radio work and activism. I realized I was going to have a fascinating conversation….Rush was not a monster, he wasn’t evil, he did not mean people harm, he wasn’t a bigot, or any of the other smears lobbed against him by my leftist associates. He approached me and everyone else as separate individual worthy of respect and with a desire to help and inspire….The impact of realizing that I’d been lied to about Rush was significant, but that as a conservative he represented more of what I felt was valuable & important was a revelation. …Rush created the potential of the medium, and set the tone for entertainment, analysis & education. Honest conversations open to everyone is anathema to the left which is why they’re obsessed w creating fear & the cancel culture….The ugliness of the left will be seen throughout today & the days to come in response to the death of Rush, an American titan & defender of conservative values…Rush may be gone, but now it’s up to all of us to continue his commitment to our great nation. Thank you sir, for the time you took with a arrogant & smug LA leftist feminist, one of the millions of lives you changed for the better.”
Dan McLoughlin, The National Review: “As caustic as Rush could be against Democrats and the Right’s various cultural foes, the essential thrust of his program in those days — and for many years thereafter — was upbeat, hopeful, even jaunty. Rush could thunder with a smile. He truly believed his ideas, but he also winked at the audience: He was an entertainer doing shtick, blowing smoke up his own rear, and you were in on the joke. Conservatism, Rush wanted you to know, was good for everybody, more people should try it, and it didn’t have to be stuffy or dour; it could be fun.”
Andrew Klavan, City Journal: “I do not cry for dead celebrities. I have just enough tears for the people I know and love. But I choked up when I heard that Rush had left the studio. He was silenced just at the moment when the elite and powerful would silence us all. Our politicians seek to demonize half the nation—Rush’s half. Our news media calls for censorship. Tech billionaires sit on their mountains of gold and gesture like foppish princes to tell us who shall speak and who shall not. Let us defy them, then. Let us all speak, and fearlessly. Let that be Rush’s monument. In a way, he built it himself.”