Monday, January 9, 2012

The Rush Limbaugh Show

During our family’s long Christmas road trip, we drove through lots of remote parts of the country that was frankly underserved by radio programming.  At times, my husband and I got a little tired of all the holiday music and the juvenile fiction audio books our daughters were listening to.  We wanted a change of pace and were a little desperate for something else.  At a few points on the journey, we came across Rush Limbaugh’s show as the only radio option. 

My husband and I actually find Mr. Limbaugh kind of funny in some ways.  I know many left of center folks find Mr. Limbaugh highly offensive and believe it is a travesty that he broadcasts at all.  I don’t know that I have much (if anything) in common with Mr. Limbaugh from an ideological perspective.  My faith informs my political values, and as I understand Mr. Limbaugh is not a particularly religious man.  Nonetheless, I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment and would vigorously defend his right to broadcast. 

My husband has a great sense of humor and cracks me up a lot.  He is one of the least political people I know.  He wasn’t even registered to vote until we were engaged and I got wind of the omission.  My husband is also from a small town in rural Texas and he worked for years in corporate America.  In such contexts, Rush is often cited as a minor prophet.  But my apolitical hubby has always seen through Mr. Limbaugh and thought his ramblings were a terrific joke to garner ratings.  Always the joker, my husband would gently antagonize co-workers when they were quoting Rush with reference to his violations of our nation’s drug laws and his many marriages.  That often got the goat of Mr. Limbaugh’s devoted fans, which amused my husband to no end.

As a result of this perspective, when we found Mr. Limbaugh’s program on the dial in those remote areas on our trip, our eyes lit up and with eager amusement we agreed to listen.  Neither of us had taken time to listen to Mr. Limbaugh in many years.  We’ve been busy raising our kids and frankly don’t have as much free time for such things.  But when I used to listen to Mr. Limbaugh regularly (in part to know what folks around me were talking about), he seemed to have a well-grounded point.  I rarely agreed with him and there often seemed to be an odd strain of paranoia in his ramblings.  But at least he seemed to have a discernible ideology and some consistent analysis.   

When we listened to several of his shows recently, however, Mr. Limbaugh seemed quite different from his old self from years past.  He seemed to have run out of steam.  We listened to several shows on the trip, so I don’t think this was just an off program.

For example, Mr. Limbaugh often made references that seemed racist.   He went on and on about political figures he disliked, and then made strange, seemingly off-topic comments dripping with sarcasm about how at least the person was not a racist.  Those seemed to come from nowhere and didn’t seem to make any sense in those contexts.  Other times he made references to Republicans being afraid to stand up to President Obama because he was black.  I didn’t quite get that.  He also railed against President Obama going Christmas shopping.  I didn’t really see how that was an issue.  Didn’t that support conservative concerns such as the economy, capitalism and the recognition of Christmas?  Mr. Limbaugh seemed to really be scraping the bottom of the barrel at that point.

In a truly strange segment of one show, Mr. Limbaugh went on at length to defend parents who had named their children after Nazis and had had their children taken into protective custody.  It was really hard to follow what his point was with that rant.  At times, I got the impression Mr. Limbaugh was endorsing white supremacy, which is not a bent I would have thought he would embrace.  Towards the end of the rant, Mr. Limbaugh questioned in a paranoid fashion whether children would be taken by CPS if their parents had named them for Che Guevara or Mao Zedong.  I didn’t really follow what he was getting at.  I am a registered Democrat.  I don’t approve of anyone who callously violates human rights to secure or hold political power—whether or not such violations are allegedly done in order to minimize the misery of the poor.  I don’t know if Mr. Limbaugh thought that the American left reveres Guevara or Zedong.  That certainly has not been my experience.  There are no children named “Che” or “Mao” in our family’s social circle.

A particularly odd segment of the radio program occurred when Mr. Limbaugh had been criticizing Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy, then took a caller who offered a countervailing view and defended the president’s record.  Initially, Mr. Limbaugh was respectful and let the caller state his views.  Then the caller made an unfortunate, mistaken point about the Obama administration spurring job growth in the caller’s community—particularly good factory jobs.  Mr. Limbaugh then asked the caller to elaborate on the kind of “factory jobs” in his community, and the caller referenced what are really retail jobs at Wal-Mart and Target.  Clearly, the caller was mistaken and didn’t understand what factory jobs were.  Mr. Limbaugh did not challenge the caller when he was on the line, but after the caller hung up, Mr. Limbaugh went on at some length to make fun of the mistake.  My husband and I were quite skeptical that this was a legitimate caller, the whole thing seemed to be staged.  How many supporters of President Obama listen to Mr. Limbaugh’s program and then also call in to defend him?  Interestingly, the caller spoke in an African American dialect.  I’m sure we listeners were supposed to catch on that the caller was black.  In that context, the whole (probably contrived) exchange seemed particularly offensive.  To me, it seemed to be patently racist. 

Later, Mr. Limbaugh referenced Representative Barney Frank, and did not miss the opportunity to make a comment about fruits and vegetables.  It seemed a pretty immature comment.  Yes, we all know Mr. Frank is homosexual.  Let’s make a silly reference to “fruits” to make fun of that point.  Giggle, giggle.  How comical.  It is the sort of unsophisticated humor that kids use in junior high.  Mr. Limbaugh is way beyond junior high, however, so it seemed very sad that he would sink to that level.  Mr. Frank has done a lot during his career.  But apparently Mr. Limbaugh cannot get beyond his sexual orientation, and is so threatened he has to make silly jokes.  I was embarrassed for Mr. Limbaugh.

After the “fruits” comment, my husband and I just couldn’t listen anymore and turned the radio off.  We didn’t want our kids exposed to that kind of language.  I felt sad for Mr. Limbaugh.  If you are a principled conservative, there is plenty to talk about in a radio program.  But his show seems to have devolved to just silly, bigoted nonsense. 


Zechariah 7:10
Don’t oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; don’t plan evil against each other!

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