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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Limbaugh slams Colbert: "CBS has just declared war on the Heartland of America."

Perhaps no one hated the announcement that Stephen Colbert will replace David Letterman on CBS’ The Late Show more than Rush Limbaugh, who has been the object of so much satire and scorn from Colbert over the years. Limbaugh declared on his show today, “CBS has just declared war on the Heartland of America. No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values, conservatives.”
I wish that was true. During all of the controversy over #CancelColbert, little attention was paid to the fact that Colbert’s character was never nearly as racist, sexist, and homophobic as he should have been to provide a realistic depiction of a conservative talk show host. Colbert was just too nice of a guy to be a consistent representative of a hate-filled, bigoted movement.
With his new show, Colbert will no longer utilize a Limbaugh-esque pompous fool character. But let’s hope he continues to be exactly what Limbaugh fears: an honest critic of the idiocy of today’s conservative movement. Sadly, too many network talk show hosts are afraid of alienating the right-wing extremists by being opinionated. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have been incredibly successful precisely because they are fearless in confronting right-wing lies. If he wants to continue that success, Colbert needs to break out of the mold of apolitical talk show hosts who think that “the Heartland of America” is a bunch of mindless Dittoheads.
Limbaugh has always hated Colbert. In 2010, he called Colbert and Jon Stewart “stupid-and-smug-about-it, overpaid, metrosexual comedians.” Limbaugh has complained, “Colbert's shtick is to make Republicans look like idiots… to make us look like a bunch of Looney Tunes…”
Today, Limbaugh declared, “What this hire means is a redefinition of what is ‘funny’ and a redefinition of what is comedy.” As a self-styled comedian, Limbaugh is upset by the changing nature of humor. To Limbaugh, what’s funny is adopting a gay lisp to mock liberal men, it’s calling women “sluts” and “prostitutes,” it’s calling our first black president a “Halfrican-American” and playing satirical songs about “negroes.” That’s what is hilarious in a conservative world shaped by Limbaugh’s bigotry.
But it’s not Limbaugh’s world anymore. His sense of humor is dying out. Only a few years ago, Colbert would never have been considered for this job. Network heads would have said he was too liberal, too political, too sharp-edged in his satire. Now, as a younger generation rejects the old conservative humor of a Limbaugh, the nature of what’s funny is changing. CBS isn’t declaring war on conservatives by hiring Colbert. CBS is following a new generation of Americans who think making fun of bigots is funnier than being a bigot like Rush Limbaugh.
Crossposted at DailyKos.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Rush Limbaugh Denounces Judge for Making Same Mistake He Did

Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh mocked U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruling (now corrected) that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution because her opinion incorrectly mentioned that the “all men” are created equal was in the Constitution rather than the Declaration of Independence. What Rush didn’t mention is that he himself has misquoted and mixed up the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Limbaugh repeatedly denounced the judge: “Now, this judge does not know the Constitution from the Declaration of Independence.…she mixes up the Declaration with the Constitution.  She claims that the Constitution says that all men are created equal, and it doesn't!  The Declaration says that.”
And: “So basically here's a woman who thinks it's the Constitution that says all men are created equal.”
Limbaugh said: “And she's citing the Constitution as the reason for her ruling!  She's citing something that isn't there!  She's a federal judge.  We are so screwed.”
Allen’s ruling merely mentioned the phrase in the introductory paragraph as a core American legal principle (which it is), she didn’t cite it as the basis for her ruling.
But Limbaugh certainly can’t claim to be an expert on the Constitution. During his 2009 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) upon receiving the “Defender of the Constitution” award, Limbaugh proclaimed: "We believe that the preamble to the Constitution contains an inarguable truth that we are all endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life. Liberty, Freedom. And the pursuit of happiness." The correct phrase is “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And these words don’t appear anywhere in the Constitution. They're from the Declaration of Independence.
It takes some hubris for a man who misquoted a clause in the Declaration of Independence (and claimed it was in the Constitution) to laugh at anyone else for getting the two mixed up.
Not only did Limbaugh mix up the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in 2009, but in 2013 he chose to re-play that part of his speech on his show because he thought it was so important, once again not realizing that he was wrong (and apparently not having read my 2011 book about Limbaugh where I mocked him for his mistake).
This isn’t Limbaugh’s only error about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. For example, he claimed that “when the Founders wrote the Constitution, they put the prescription in the Constitution for ending slavery, in the amendments, and in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence.” The Declaration of Independence says nothing about slavery, and the original Constitution actually defends the institution of slavery and requires the return of escaped slaves.
Crossposted at DailyKos.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rush Limbaugh, 25 Years Later

Twenty-five years ago today, Rush Limbaugh went on the air in New York City and began his syndicated radio show. I believe that Rush has been the most influential figure in American culture over that quarter-century. He helped turn Newt Gingrich into Speaker of the House and then pushed the Republican Party so far to the right it makes Newt look like a compromising moderate. He paved the way for Fox News Channel and an entire genre of conservative talk radio occupied by hundreds of his imitators. For decades, he has single-handedly had a bigger audience than all progressive radio shows combined. He has moved public opinion, convincing millions that global climate change is a fraud even while the scientific evidence has grown more and more overwhelming. He has had presidents carry his bags up to the Lincoln Bedroom and give him a birthday cake in the White House.
He ridicules science and mocks intellectual arguments. He makes bigotry more publicly acceptable by his use of racial insults and sexist comments. He destroys the moderate wing of the Republican Party by imposing rigid adherence to his particular brand of conservatism. Rush Limbaugh is dumbing down America and coarsening our culture....Limbaugh is not some random guy who happens to express a political view every now and then; he’s a leader, I would say the leader, of the conservative movement in America, and his views are a powerful force in American politics. Limbaugh mobilizes and inspires the lunatic fringe of the far right. However, his influence extends far beyond the hard core conservatives; he popularizes right-wing ideas to a mass audience of mainstream Republicans and independents. Limbaugh pushes the Republican Party—and American politics—far to the right.
So what should progressives do about Rush? The most popular answer, and the worst one, has been to try to drive him off the air. The most successful approach has been to make Rush the face and voice of the Republican Party, and expose just how stupid, bigoted, and unpopular his ideas really are. But ultimately, progressives need to do what Rush himself did: build a media and political movement to bring our ideas to a wider audience.
The unsuccessful effort to drive Rush off the air by the Flush Rush campaign has had one unexpected and highly beneficial side effect: it revealed that companies were unknowingly and unwillingly advertising on these shows, being secretly used by right-wing media companies to help fuel the conservative movement. And the backlash against these revelations has cost these companies millions. But it hasn't cost Rush a dime, yet. In 2008, he signed an 8-year contract worth over $400 million. When he renews that contract, the boycotts against Rush will cost him many millions of dollars, but boycotts won't force him off the air.
Those who hate Rush have been elated by the recent news that Cumulus might drop Limbaugh from its stations in 40 markets. This is a negotiating tactic between two right-wing media companies for the allocation of massive profits, and it's highly unlikely Cumulus will drop Rush. But if they do, it won't change anything. Rush will be picked up by other radio stations, and Cumulus will replace him with a cheaper alternative chosen from the hundreds of Rush imitators he has spawned.
The misguided efforts by some on the Left to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine will never succeed. Even if it was politically feasible to enact the Fairness Doctrine (it's not), and even if the Fairness Doctrine was used to target conservative talk radio (it never was, and never would be), then the Supreme Court would declare it unconstitutional (as it should be). Boycotts and censorship will not work. Even if Rush Limbaugh announces the end of his show today, the political and media movement he built will not go away.
What progressives need is not a movement to “hush Rush,” but a movement to amplify our own voices. We need progressive media like Amy Goodman and Rachel Maddow and The Daily Show. We need progressive social media and websites like Daily Kos to expand. We don't need a reverse mirror image of Rush Limbaugh's idiocy and bigotry to succeed. But we do need more progressive voices to be heard, and we are swimming upstream against the same pro-conservative biases that helped Rush Limbaugh succeed in the corporate media.
This won't be easy, and we won't have a single leader like Rush Limbaugh or success measured in tens of millions of dollars and millions of listeners to any particular show. But ultimately, imitating Rush Limbaugh the only path to defeating him.
Crossposted at DailyKos.

Monday, May 6, 2013

How Rush Limbaugh Damaged Right-Wing Talk Radio

When Rush Limbaugh went on the air last year and called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” he had no clue that his words would cost the industry of right-wing talk radio hundreds of millions of dollars and bring companies to the brink of bankruptcy. Nor did anybody else. After all, Limbaugh has a long history of insulting women without any consequences, whether it was comparing 12-year-old Chelsea Clinton to a dog, or calling feminists “nazis.” When a group called StopRush called for an advertiser boycott of Limbaugh's show in the wake of the Fluke controversy, Limbaugh probably never imagined that it could touch him, especially after he offered a half-hearted apology for his comments.
From the start of his career, Limbaugh had carefully built a firewall that he thought would protect himself from the constant turmoil in the unreliable world of radio ratings, calling it “ratings insurance.” He carefully chooses and cultivates advertisers to assure their loyalty to him. Limbaugh noted two decades ago, “I realized that the sole purpose for all of us in radio is to sell advertising.” As Limbaugh put it, “if I was ultimately going to succeed I had to get myself actively involved in the revenue stream of the radio station.” Early in his radio career in Sacramento, Limbaugh tried to demand control over what advertisers would be allowed on his show, and when he went national, Limbaugh attained that control.
In my book, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Rush Limbaugh's Assault on Reason, I explained why I thought Rush was right: “Boycotts can't affect Limbaugh because many of his advertisers are not major retailers, but midsize online companies that rely on Limbaugh loyalists for a substantial part of their business.” Crain's New York Business noted, “A good portion of the show's inventory is sold to direct-response advertisers who aren't worried about their corporate image.”
All of that turned out to be true. When the StopRush movement targeted Limbaugh's national advertisers, it was mostly unsuccessful. A handful of Limbaugh's advertisers bolted during the worst of the Fluke crisis, only to be quickly replaced. Limbaugh suffered a blow, but one that he would have easily survived.
But the world of syndicated radio has two advertising markets: the national advertising sold for Limbaugh's show by Premiere Radio Networks (owned by Clear Channel), and the local advertising sold by the individual radio station. (Traditionally, syndicated shows split the ad time in half, with the show offered for free, but Limbaugh's popularity allows him to charge stations to run the show in a few top urban markets.)
Limbaugh exerted enormous control over his half of the advertising time. What he couldn't control, however, was the half sold by the radio stations themselves. And it was there that a dirty little secret about right-wing talk radio was exposed, with enormous financial consequences. A funny thing happened when the StopRush movement identified Limbaugh's advertisers and contacted them: these companies had no clue that they were advertising on Limbaugh's show, and they wanted nothing to do with him in the wake of the Fluke controversy.
It turned out that the sales departments at local radio stations (which were increasingly owned by enormous media corporations such as Clear Channel and Cumulus) had gotten lazy during the Bush bubble. Instead of carefully cultivating loyal advertisers for Limbaugh's show, the sales departments simply sold large blocks of ad time to account agencies for their clients, often without telling them what show they were played on. Many companies were paying for advertising on Limbaugh's show who had explicitly prohibited their ads from appearing on Limbaugh and other controversial hosts.
When the StopRush movement began targeting advertisers in the wake of Limbaugh's Fluke gaffe, these companies responded by yanking their ads, not only from Limbaugh, but from any controversial host. All of a sudden, corporations were paying attention to the controversial content of the shows where they advertised. The conservative monoculture of talk radio that proved so profitable in the 2000s turned out to be extremely vulnerable to a boycott movement.
In the early years of Limbaugh's syndicated radio show, he might be heard on a station that included shows with local, less political hosts, or even a liberal. But Limbaugh's success inspired a bevy of imitators, from Glenn Beck to Michael Savage, and radio stations discovered that ratings went up when they surrounded Limbaugh's show with like-minded right-wing hosts. And the advertisers leery of Limbaugh wanted nothing to do with anyone else who might say similar things.
Now the Cumulus radio network is blaming Limbaugh's comments for financial losses, whileLimbaugh is reportedly threatening to leave the network at the end of the year when their contract expires due to his annoyance at being blamed.
Don't bet on that happening. First of all, Limbaugh cares about money much more than loyalty. Second, Limbaugh doesn't control what station he appears on. He's a hired employee for Clear Channel, and while his buddies make the decisions about his radio stations, Limbaugh doesn't have the final word. Considering how much money Limbaugh has cost Clear Channel, it's hard to believe that they'll be willing to sacrifice even more money for his personal vendetta against mild (and accurate) criticism from Cumulus executives. Third, the harm Limbaugh caused to Cumulus has already happened, and was the result of their own mismanagement. So dumping him won't improve the bottom line or bring back advertisers who have banned controversial advertising.
The reality is that Limbaugh's stupid and sexist remarks only exposed a corrupt practice of hiding the truth from advertisers that was widespread among talk radio stations in order to boost profits.
Ironically, while Limbaugh may have brought down conservative talk radio, he personally hasn't lost a penny. In 2008, at the height of the economic bubble, Limbaugh signed an eight-year contract extension worth $484 million, and he still makes over $80,000 every hour he's on the air. But when Limbaugh's contract is up in 2016, he will almost certainly suffer a significant cut in any future contract because the vulnerabilities of the talk radio industry have become clear, and the liability of Limbaugh to a radio station is now obvious.
None of this will actually end the reign of right-wing talk radio, which dominates over the far smaller world of progressive radio. The advertiser boycotts have hit all controversial programming, but a growing economy will soon turn losses into profits again, albeit not to the degree seen before. The scandal of hidden advertising will continue to hurt profits at talk-radio stations, but Limbaugh will continue his show to his massive audience. However, the StopRush movement has proven me, and many other doubters, wrong: the public does have a powerful voice that can influence what is heard on the airwaves.
Crossposted at DailyKos.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Limbaugh's Lies about Bowdoin College

Yesterday on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh read a Wall Street Journal article summarizing the National Association of Scholars (NAS) study about Bowdoin, and quoted the finding that Bowdoin doesn’t require history majors to take an American history class.
So a history major at Bowdoin College is taught about the intrinsic discrimination against blacks, women, gays, lesbians, transgender, bisexuals. That’s all they are taught. A history major coming out of Bowdoin College is not taught for one minute about the American founding. There is not one moment of traditional American history taught, and this is just the history department. What’s taught is how immoral and unjust America has been since its founding and how its founding featured institutional racism, segregation, sexism, homophobia, and all that.
The NAS Report doesn’t say a single word about what is actually taught in Bowdoin’s history classes, so Limbaugh’s claim that history majors are “not taught for one minute about the American founding” is simply a lie.
NAS president Peter Wood wrote to me in response to my questions about Limbaugh’s comments that Limbaugh “blurred a couple of points. A history major at Bowdoin CAN graduate without taking ‘one minute’ of formal coursework on the American founding. History majors are not required to take any American history.”
But, Wood added, “American history courses are, of course, offered. Whether it is accurate to say ‘traditional American history’ is not taught depends, of course, on what weight to give the word ‘traditional.’ I’d say that the generalization is fairly accurate in the sense that the Bowdoin History Department is thoroughly imbued with the spirit and the practice of teaching social history, which is conceived of as a repudiation of the methods and aims of traditional history.”
I think Wood is wrong, because even in history courses taught with an emphasis on social history, some traditional history is still taught. Limbaugh’s assertion of “not one moment” is simply unsupported by the facts.
Limbaugh made a very common intellectual error: the assumption that students don’t learn something unless it’s required. Unfortunately, it’s the same error made by the NAS itself, in calling its report, “What Does Bowdoin Teach?” But nothing in the report actually analyzes what goes on in Bowdoin’s classes, because the NAS didn’t study any of that. Instead, they looked at the titles of classes taught, and then imagined, like Limbaugh, that they could use their psychic powers to assume what was taught and how it was taught.
Alex Williams, a recent Bowdoin graduate, wrote a critique of the accuracy of the NAS study (pdf) in which he noted that while he was a student at Bowdoin, the history classes taught included HIST 233c (American Society in the New Nation, 1763–1840) and HIST 274c (The Shot Heard ‘Round the World: The History of the American Revolution). Even without the class devoted solely to the American Revolution, Limbaugh’s “not taught for one minute about the American founding” would be a lie. And the NAS makes no such claim.
Because Bowdoin tends not to require classes, it’s easy to smear the college by denouncing them for failing to require a certain course. But in reality, Bowdoin’s approach is a wise one. As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I avoided the survey courses beloved by the NAS like the plague, and sought out the kind of small specialized seminars taught at Bowdoin. The survey classes were taught in large lecture halls with uninterested students and frustrated professors, they were dumbed down and largely repeated the same failed survey classes everyone took in high school and elementary school. Bowdoin shouldn’t be condemned for being one of the rare colleges to liberate its students from the stupidity of survey courses; they should be imitated as a model for what higher education could be.
Limbaugh also attacked Bowdoin’s first-year seminars (which were mistakenly referred to as year-long by the Wall Street Journal):
Now, the students at Bowdoin College are required to take a year-long seminar as freshmen. They get to choose from 37 different offerings, such as “Affirmative Action in US Society,” or “the Fictions of Freedom,” or “Racism,” or “Queer Gardens,” or “the Sexual Life of Colonialism,” or “the Modern Western Prostitutes.” They have to take one of those courses, as a seminar, but they’re not taught anything about the American founding other than it was racist and immoral.
Actually, among the first-year seminars at Bowdoin were classes with titles such as “Political Leadership,” “Human Being and Citizen,” and “Power and Participation in American Politics.” Attacking the first-year seminars at Bowdoin, the NAS admits, “Some of these courses are solid,” but it condemns some of them for being too specialized, based strictly on the title and a vague description. However, even the NAS would never make the absurd that Bowdoin students are “not taught anything about the American founding…” Peter Wood told me, “I think he is wrong that none of them teach anything about the American founding.”
Limbaugh also tried to claim that his misleading attacks on Bowdoin College reflect all of higher education: “People are going to say, ‘Whoa, that’s unbelievable!’ It’s not the only place. You think it’s the only college?”
Limbaugh blames this kind of education for Obama’s election and the destruction of America as we know it: “It has been happening every day for tens of years. Slowly creeping toward the left’s utopia.” This is the great conspiracy imagined by the far right, and it explains their anti-intellectual hatred of education.
Crossposted at Academe Blog.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Did Rush Limbaugh Breaks NYC Gun Laws?

On his show today, Rush Limbaugh told a story about attending a dinner party in New York City in the 1990s where Republican guests debated gun control. Limbaugh recounted telling a Nixon Administration official who favored gun control, “I'll give you my gun if you can promise me that when I leave this apartment tonight nobody else out there will have one either.” Limbaugh said he repeated the point: “Now, if you can promise me that nobody in Central Park is gonna have a gun tonight when I walk out of your apartment, then maybe we can talk."

But at that time (as it does now), New York City required a license to carry a concealed weapon, and it's virtually impossible to believe that a private citizen like Limbaugh would have qualified for the license. If he didn't have a license, then Limbaugh was breaking the law when he claims to have carried around a gun for self-protection on Fifth Avenue. So did Limbaugh just confess to being a law breaker?

Of course, it's entirely possible that Rush's gun story, like many of the things he says, was simply invented out of thin air. As I note in my book about Limbaugh, he often makes up stories (in addition to making up facts) to feed his enormous appetite for self-aggrandizement. Back in 2006 when Rush confessed to breaking the law by doctor-shopping for his massive pill addiction, he was banned from owning a firearm for 18 months. At the time, Rush indicated that this restriction on guns didn't bother him because he didn't own any.

Limbaugh loves to depict himself as a heroic gun-toting right-winger standing up against the “establishment Republicans.” The reality is that Limbaugh doesn't really care about guns. He cares only about attacking the liberals who want gun control in the face of yet another tragedy. So we may never know if Rush is a criminal who illegally carried a gun, or just a liar.

Crossposted at DailyKos.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Limbaugh's Landslide

On Monday, Rush Limbaugh proclaimed that “Everything—except the polls—points to a Romney landslide.” Yes, everything—except the election results and every indicator of them—points to a Romney landslide.
But this is not just a story about Limbaugh's incredible stupidity, irrational conspiracy theories, and inability to grasp reality. It's also the story of how Limbaugh created Obama's landslide last night.
On Monday, Limbaugh declared his deep analysis of the race: “my thoughts, my intellectual analysis of this -- factoring everything I see plus the polling data -- it's not even close. Three hundred-plus electoral votes for Romney.”
Limbaugh declared that an Obama landslide was impossible:  “there's no way he's winning in a landslide. Halperin had it right. There are three outcomes here and two of them are bad for Obama: You're gonna have a narrow Romney win or a landslide Romney win or a narrow Obama win. But you're not gonna have an Obama landslide.”
Limbaugh has been using the word “landslide” a lot to describe what would happen to Obama: “I'm on record I don't know how many days in the past three months saying, quote, 'If the election were today, Romney would win in a landslide,' and I haven't wavered from that."
Limbaugh repeatedly said this even when the polls showed much larger leads for Obama than they did right before the election. He claimed that a liberal conspiracy of pollsterscontrolled by the media and universities was trying to fix the election: “Gallup. Rasmussen and Gallup, all they do is poll. The other outfits, they're attached to universities. What's the bias there? They're attached to news networks. What's the bias there? And we know that objectivity is not possible, especially these people.”
Living in a bubble of his own bubble-headed thoughts, Limbaugh and his Dittoheads convinced themselves that the rest of the country was just as crazy as they were, and that an Obama landslide in the Electoral College could never happen. But it did. And we really have Limbaugh to thank for Obama's re-election and the Democratic gains in the US Senate and House.
In the midst of an economic downturn that too many people forgot was caused by conservative policies and Republican politicians, we should have seen the party in power removed in the election. President Obama and the Democrats, in a normal political year, would have experienced the same unfair fate that Jimmy Carter did in 1980, and that so many Democrats in office faced in 2010. But Rush Limbaugh helped make the Republican Party abnormal.
Limbaugh helped create a far right-wing media and Tea Party movement that pushed the Republican Party far to the right. Mitt Romney lurched to the extreme right in order to win the Republican nomination, and moderate Republicans who didn't follow his pandering path lost in the primaries to Tea Party favorites like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. Limbaugh helped establish a Republican Party that was far to the right of America.
And Limbaugh himself intervened to create the Obama landslide. In 2009, Limbaugh declared “I hope he fails” and pushed the Republicans to become the do-nothing party of pure obstructionism. And earlier this year, Limbaugh started a dominant theme of Obama's success, the Republican war on women, by declaring that Sandra Fluke was a slut and a whore.
So when Limbaugh gazes upon the Obama landslide today, he can truly say, “I built that.”
Of course, he won't say that because he lives in a world of self-delusion. Limbaugh declared that if Obama wins, “There will be some who are targeted for the gulags shortly after the election. The regime has plans, I'm sure.”
So if Rush Limbaugh finds himself imprisoned in a gulag later this month, he can take pride in knowing that he made it all possible.
Crossposted at DailyKos.