An English Teacher Looks At Rush Limbaugh

Democracy — By on March 20, 2012 at 5:29 am

I teach English, writing and public speaking at the college level.

There are three key principles of communication; to inform, to persuade and to entertain. Effective and memorable communicators will incorporate at least one, but preferably all three, of these.

Rush Limbaugh, much to my amazement, accomplishes what I had always considered impossible; he does none of these.

When he is cornered, as he often is, for his outright distortions and grossly inappropriate statements, his default defense is that he is “an entertainer” and should not be compelled to stick to actual facts in his programs.

It’s a fascinating defense, but at the very least, I would expect him to be at minimum, actually “entertaining”.

Rush Limbaugh must be an acquired taste. I do not find his particular brand of blatantly rude and pompous, good-old-boy race-baiting and sexism amusing or edifying in any way.

He is “entertaining” in the sense that an intimidating bully might be found entertaining – as long as we, or those we value, are not among his targets.

I have always marveled that Rush Limbaugh’s program is a staple of Armed Forces Radio. His bloated, self-righteous cynicism is a far cry from the upbeat, invigorating radio programming made famous in the film “Good-morning, Viet-Nam”.

When I picture our troops putting their lives at risk in the name of our national interests – especially in a desolate area, under constant threat, I would want them to hear voices of hope and encouragement – voices that would remind them what they are fighting – and killing – for.

Rush’s cynical, personal attacks, and sometimes outright treasonous tirades are the last thing I would want to hear if I were deployed in a hostile setting. I would want to hear welcoming and reassuring voices – and I would want to hear good news from home.

Love him or hate him, it is painfully obvious that Rush Limbaugh demonstrates every attribute of an abuser; here are just a few:

  1. Charming. At first, or as needed, an abuser can charm his or her way into good standing.
  2. Controlling. Rush decides who will, and who won’t, talk on his program.  He also is “the decider” as to the moral value of anyone else.
  3. A victim. Everything negative is someone else’s fault.
  4. Narcissistic. Everything revolves around the abuser. Only his/her needs or opinions matter.
  5. Insincerely repentant. Abusers “repent” when they need to, but usually only if they can deflect or avoid blame.

Just recently, a group of female military veterans have appealed to Armed Forces Radio to drop Rush Limbaugh’s program. They know all too well the hazards of a hostile environment – and the inherent vulnerability of women in a predominantly masculine military culture. Rush Limbaugh’s tax-payer supported sexism only poisons their environment and endangers them even more – from their colleagues in uniform.

This is one tangible way we could all “support our troops” – give them good news from home.

Rush’s advocates say he has the right of “Free speech” – yes, of course he does, but the Constitutional right refers to the citizen’s right to confront  evil or corruption in government – not personal attacks.

Surely the right of free speech should inspire us to speak truth that heals instead of snide personal comments. Are we so far adrift that toxic insults are considered “entertainment”?

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  • “Are we so far adrift that toxic insults are considered “entertainment”?”

    Yes. Yes we are. Rush is Exhibit A, but there is plenty more evidence that this is the case: Keith Olbermann. Ann Coulter. Bill Maher. Bill O’Reilly. Jeanine Garafalo.

    It’s saddening.

    • Jordan Green says:

      As a fan of many, many comedians who quite frequently dispense “toxic insults”, I can affirm that it is definitely entertainment.

      I don’t know, I’ve always liked Rush. I get that Morf wouldn’t think he’s funny in the same sense that my conservative dad wouldn’t think Keith Olbermann is funny, but I think both are compelling (and funny) in their own way. Neither of them is Louis CK or Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, but they’ve got their own appeal.

      I’ve never really gotten the song parodies on Rush’s show, but I will say that I think he’s interesting because he’s honest and he doesn’t compromise. I think compromise is generally a good thing, but sometimes I appreciate when people stick to their principles. Sometimes that means what Rush says is racist or sexist, but I think we need people like that standing up against the censorship of political correctness as much as we need people to say, “Hey, stop being a bigoted jerk.”

  • STL says:

    I agree with you completely. I’m an English teacher, a Christian, somewhat conservative but more moderate really, and even though I appreciate traditional values, I cannot stand Rush Limbaugh. I first learned of him about twenty years ago, and from that time until now, I have never understood his appeal. He is arrogant, most of all, which is his most grievous fault, in my view. His disrespectful, abusive approach is repulsive to me. What really bothers me is that people whom I love and know to be good, decent people, like him. That’s pretty puzzling. It’s not just his conservatism that bothers me, in fact, that’s the least of it. It’s his prideful dismissive attitude. I feel the same way about people on all sides of the political realm–liberal or conservative.

  • Well done and well written. Thank you!

  • Morf says:

    I find Jordan’s response quite intriguing. It is not that I agree or disagree with Rush (I find Olbermann annoying as well).

    Oddly enough, I thi nk what hits me the wrong way is that I appear to have a “high view” of comedy (and scripture). In other words, I expect humor to be insightful and to take me places where I see situations or people from another point of view.

    Rush has made a good living from airing his opinionated rantings. I absolutely support his right to air his opinions, but I do expect a bit more active thinking before he attacks real (or imaginary) targets.

    It seems to me that Rush has entered (or perhaps has always been in) a stage where actual humor is too much work and he devolves to crudeness and name-calling.

    His appeal to the lowest common denominator (in every sense) should raise some alarms.

    As a side note, the KKK has begun discussions to become a key sponsor of Rush Limbaugh’s show.

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