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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Limbaugh's Violent Rhetoric

Today is Rush Limbaugh's 60th birthday, and I want to give him a birthday gift that he rarely ever gets: the truth.

When Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik called Limbaugh “irresponsible” for using false information to get people angry at the government, Rush denied that there was any evidence of him using violent rhetoric against the government (which wasn't what Dupnik said): “He has not been asked, by the way, to cite any evidence or any examples of partial information, wrong information. This is all cliched.” Limbaugh claimed, “this sheriff has not even made anything up, much less produced a scintilla of evidence that anything I've had would inspire such behavior.”

Limbaugh declared on Monday, “at no time has anybody who does what I do or I ever called for violence. I have never subtly promoted it, have never gone anywhere near it.”

Since I literally wrote the book about Rush (The Most Dangerous Man in America: Rush Limbaugh's Assault on Reason, Thomas Dunne Books, March 2011), I would like to provide a few examples of Limbaugh's calls for violence from his website.

Speaking about the 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically-elected president, Limbaugh noted, “the coup was what many of you wish would happen here...”

A few days later, he again endorsed the idea of an American military coup against Obama: “If we had any good luck, Honduras would send some people here and help us get our government back.”

Of course, Limbaugh will never do more than dream about a military coup against President Obama. But the fact that he does dream about a coup, and constantly refers to Obama as a dictator, reflects how far from reality Limbaugh has strayed and how he is encouraging violence by his listeners.

Limbaugh was endorsing a violent revolution against the Obama Administration: “Do you realize, ladies and gentlemen, what we are living through right now is exactly why the Revolutionary War was fought?”

While he calls for violence against the Obama Administration, Limbaugh also imagines vast conspiracies run by Obama to kill people. After reading reports of executives at hedge funds getting death threats, he concluded that it was an Obama-run conspiracy: "probably ACORN people.... I'm sure it's coordinated. Obama has the network to do this."

There is no “network” of Obama minions threatening to kill people. But Limbaugh does not hesitate to falsely accuse the president of ordering death threats. And then Limbaugh has the hubris to cry with outrage when he is accurately described as using violent rhetoric.

Not only did Limbaugh repeatedly invoke the falsehood about “death panels” but he saw in it an Obama conspiracy to murder old people: “This is what dictators do...there's a reason, if you go back to world history, you go back to Cambodia, you go back to Mao Tse-tung in China, you go to Cuba, you go to old Soviet Union, one of the things they did was target -- Hitler, health care -- target the elderly. Target them. Why? Because they vote, they are more likely it [sic] vote, and they're more educated, they have more experience, they know more, they have been alive longer. You get rid of the people who know the past. You get rid of people who know how great the eighties were with a conservative economic policy, get rid of those people....”

It's just crazy to imagine that Obama is planning to murder millions of senior citizens in order to keep the mediocre economic growth of the Reagan Era a secret. But when Limbaugh claimed that Obama was plotting a mass extermination of the elderly in America, not one Republican politician stood up against him.

Limbaugh sees conspiracies everywhere. Limbaugh admitted that his immediate reaction to being criticized by Sheriff Dupnik was to suspect a vast political conspiracy: “My first thought was, "Who has he been talking to the last 12 hours? Who, if anybody in the Democrat apparatus, is coaching this guy?"

Limbaugh made some outrageous and obviously false claims about Dupnik, saying that he “probably wouldn't mind if the shooter is acquitted.” Limbaugh added about Loughner, “he's got a political party doing everything it can, plus a local sheriff doing everything that they can to make sure he's not convicted of murder.” Democrats are not trying to help the man who tried to assassinate a member of Congress. And no one imagines that a mass killer would be found not guilty of murder because talk show hosts used alarming rhetoric.

Limbaugh also claimed, “Sheriff Dupnik is trying to chill free speech. Isn't that a violation of the law? First Amendment?” No. Not at all. Dupnik was quite clear that he defends the First Amendment but feels that people like Limbaugh should be held morally responsibility for their incendiary words: “They have free speech, but I think with free speech comes some responsibility.” In fact, it's Limbaugh who is guilty of trying to chill free speech by bizarrely suggesting that it might be illegal for a sheriff to criticize Rush Limbaugh.

On Tuesday, Limbaugh compared conservatives criticized for their violent rhetoric to rape victims: “Yeah, that's what they used to tell women who were raped, isn't it? 'Just sit back and enjoy it.'"

Limbaugh often equate conservatives with rape victims. Discussing a man who made death threats to Nancy Pelosi, he declared: “Do you people in the White House, do you people in the media, do you ever stop to consider that you have an intelligent, informed electorate who simply doesn't like being raped, and being raped is what is happening to people in this country by their government. No other way to put this.”

To call America's moderate levels of taxation and regulation the equivalent of rape is an insult both to common sense and to women victimized by rape. To use it to defend death threats against female Democratic leaders is nothing but disgusting.

Limbaugh is not personally responsible for the crazed killer in Arizona. It's quite possible Loughner never heard Limbaugh's show.

But this whole controversy does reveal some important facts about Limbaugh.

Fact #1: Limbaugh uses violent rhetoric to describe Democrats and the Obama Administration.

Fact #2: Limbaugh promotes crazy conspiracy theories, from “death panels” to Obama-coordinated death threats and many more I detail in my book.

Fact #3: Limbaugh spreads lies about his enemies, and lies to cover up his own misconduct.

At any time, Limbaugh's lies and nutty conspiracy theories should be condemned by the political mainstream of Democrats and Republicans alike. But as Loughner and other crazy armed fanatics remind us, considering how obedient and deranged some of Limbaugh's listeners are, Limbaugh's comments about dictators and coups are not just idle chatter. They're dangerously irresponsible at a time when death threats against the first black president skyrocketed.

Two years ago on this date, Limbaugh was watching President George W. Bush bring him a chocolate cake shaped like a microphone and sing him “Happy Birthday.” Republican politicians are afraid to say anything bad about Limbaugh. Steve Benen wondered, “for once in their lives, will Republicans have the guts and decency to say, 'No, I think Rush Limbaugh is wrong'?”

So let's ask Republicans and demand that the media keep asking Republicans about Limbaugh's comments and whether they agree with what he says.

Crossposted at DailyKos.

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