Limbaugh’s commentary empowered by Democrats

By: Alex Sorondo/Staff Writer

Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk-radio star of current media attention for calling college student Sandra Fluke a “slut,” does not exist.

At least not in the way that he and his producers would like for you to think.

The Rush Limbaugh we all know – the explicitly racist, sexist, deliberately naïve Republican shoulder devil – is a radio personality. He is not only a character, but a caricature meant to embody the comic extreme of the Republican ideology.

This is the Rush Limbaugh who poses on his website’s background – and seemingly anywhere else he can – with a billowing cigar and the most pompous expression a human face can manage. It’s the kind of face your brother gives you after successfully lying to your parents and getting you in trouble. It’s a face that suggests he’s beating you at a game you don’t even realize you’re playing.

All of this, the offense and the radicalism and the know-it-all posturing, is provocation. If you hate him, he wants you to hate him more – to hate him to the point that you can’t stop talking about him, can’t stop referring to his show in conversation.

Because a large part of Limbaugh’s allure to his millions of listeners, perhaps more so than his bombastic self-assurance, is the ease, the consistency, the efficiency with which he enrages liberals.

This is part of his trick. Limbaugh is an entertainer, and a large part of his success as a showman is contingent on his ability to cause a stir now and then, to make liberals gasp and tear at their hair and flip tables and miss the toilet.

And because he’s so easy to despise – with the arrogance and the pig-resemblance and the sinful popularity – his detractors can hardly help but give him the negative attention he needs.

Another problem is that, silly a character as he is and much as he – in his own words – “illustrate[s] the absurd with absurdity,” a lot of people take Limbaugh seriously, which makes him dangerous.

Last week, Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown University, stood before Congress to request extended medical coverage that would encompass the price of birth control.

Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” and, ever the sage, reasoned that the only way to justify “pay[ing] for [Fluke’s] contraceptives and thus pay[ing] [her] to have sex” is to have Fluke “post the videos [of her having sex] online so we can all watch.”

Understandable. Whenever one of my roommates asks if I have toilet paper, I often dispense it with similar stipulations. “Leave the door open,” I say, “and I’ll see what I can do.”

Calling a college student a slut and a hooker for wanting to use contraceptives is, however, a little over the top.

According to, as of March 7, 43 sponsors have pulled their advertisements from Limbaugh’s show. President Barrack Obama has called Ms. Fluke personally to extend his support, and the Great Jabba himself, Mr. Limbaugh, has even issued a rare public apology for his choice of words.

It’s gratifying to see Limbaugh sweat a little, to see that he’s facing some consequences for his inhuman shamelessness. The fault for the resonance of his words, however, is ours.

For years now we have allowed ourselves to get upset at what he says, have responded to his words as though he were something more than a corpulent little shock-jock in a padded room, and have thus put him in a spotlight that has carried his voice farther and made him – both in terms of fame and influence – larger than he really deserves to be.

As David Foster Wallace writes in his essay “Host,” “The fact of the matter is that it is not [the conservative radio host’s] job to be responsible, or nuanced, or to think about whether his on-air comments are productive or dangerous, or cogent, or even defensible.”

The responsibility comes, first and foremost, on the part of the listeners and the non-listeners and how much power they will choose to give a public figure, how much attention and credit. This was a responsibility we lost our grip on years ago, apparently.

Maybe it’s not too late to change, though. It seems, from his current susceptibility to public outrage (at least insofar as it dwindles his advertising) that the man can still be hurt; the façade can still be cracked.

Maybe we can all still do ourselves a big favor and just stop listening.

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