As the Limbaugh-Fluke flap dies out, the right wing blogosphere has fielded a number of diversion tactics, not the least of them being the good old fashioned tu quoque argument that liberals do it too. They have fielded several examples of putatively equivalent behavior, but Bill Maher’s comments about Sarah Palin seem to get the most mileage. He has used quite a few derogatory terms to describe Palin, several of which have sexist overtones every bit as vile as those of Limbaugh.
So, is there a difference? Well, yes.
Sarah Palin has a history of persistent dishonesty, malice, and utter stupidity, all committed in the public eye. Called out for her short-comings, Palin has consistently doubled down, blamed others for her failings, and produced one excuse after another for conduct that falls well short of basic human decency. Yet the pseudo-conservative machine that is Limbaugh, Fox News, and right wing radio supports her anyway.
Somewhere in the time since Palin first became a candidate for Vice President of the United States the public criticism ceased to be about demonstrating her faults and became an effort to shame her and her supporters for ignoring (and even celebrating) those faults. Insulting Palin may not be admirable behavior, and it certainly isn’t an adequate solution to the problem posed by a political base completely devoid of judgement. But the transformation of public criticism into outright abuse didn’t happen on day one, or even day three of her candidacy. It happened over time and in direct response to an extensive record of shoddy behavior on her own part.
Fluke, one the other hand, gave testimony in one (unofficial) public hearing. This and this alone was enough to warrant the attacks made on her character and (more importantly) a very deliberate misrepresentation of her actual testimony.
Furthermore, Rush Limbaugh did not merely call Fluke a slut, he supported that insult with false claims about her testimony and her actual sex life. His use of the terms “slut” and “prostitute” served not merely to indicate Rush’s contempt for the woman in question, but to promote a calculated misrepresentation of her politics and her behavior.
At the end of the day, Fluke wasn’t attacked for anything she actually said or did, but for a fantasy scenario having little to do with anything she actually said or did.
In short, Palin has become an object of ridicule, not because she is conservative (she isn’t), but because she has proven herself to be incompetent and shameless. Fluke became an object of ridicule for no reason other than that she was on the other side of this issue long enough to get public attention.
If neither attack is acceptable, each plays a very different role in the current discourse. Take away the insults to Palin and we still need a means of characterizing the public behavior of a person who has proven herself to be utterly irresponsible. Take away the insults to Fluke and we may just begin to evaluate her actual testimony.
That is one very considerable difference.
Arik Savage said:
The point here is well made, but it’s still important to emphasize that man/woman, liberal/conservative, ad hominem attacks are always a problem.
My point here is that civility is only part of the problem (and I think it is the least important). Honesty is another factor. Maher showed contempt in his remarks against Palin, but he did not use his insults to fabricate a story about her. In that respect, I think there is a substantial difference between the two of them. If at the end of the day we must condemn both, then I am happy to do so. What I won’t concede is the equivalence of the grievance.
Very well said, both the post and your comment above.
There is a very real difference between ad hominem attacks (politics as usual for some people) and endless, derogatory, deliberately deceptive and misrepresentative remarks. It would be difficult to exceed Palin in the latter category… and in politics, that’s what matters most.
(Thanks for stopping by my site.)
As far as I’m concerned, Bill Maher gets a free pass for any sexist remarks directed towards Palin. If she chooses to be racist towards Obama, Maher or any liberal can be sexist towards Palin.
By the way, your name alone makes your blog worth reading.
Thanks Lefty. I enjoyed your own blog and I’m glad you stopped by.
Hi Daniel! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I read in the “About” part of your blog here that you live in Alaska. Were you there when Sarah Palin was governor? If so, have you written a post about your impressions of that time?
No. I am going on 2 years up here, so I just missed her time as Governor. I keep trying to get a sense for how others think of her, and if I ever get a decent handle on it, I may write something.
I should say that I’m not a fan myself. So I am likely to hear more bad than good, partly because of the company I would keep and partly because of the conversations that are likely to happen around me. Still, the comments I have heard are not uniformly negative. Often, there is a kind of weirdness to people’s perceptions up here, like they don’t entirely recognize the Palin that is part of the national stage.
Bill Hess’ blog has some interesting pieces on Sarah Palin. He is thoughtful and reasonably non-partisan about it.
Thanks Daniel! I’ll take a look at that.
Enjoyable read. You hit the nail on the head. I have my own blog one here. Hopefully we can have some excellent conversations.
The Mad Jewess said:
The b*tch was a fake for gods sakes.
Who the hell cares what Rush says?
You folks need to stop being bullies. Rush lives in AMERICA where we have the freedom of speech to call Palin a c*nt.
So, in exactly what respect did Fluke misrepresent herself? Also, could you please explain exactly how my post threatens Rush’s freedom of speech? Alternatively, yo could explain how freedom of speech answers questions about the moral value of Rush’s insults, or how Maher’s comments change anything whatsoever about the value of Rush’s comments?
And as to your own question about who cares what Limbaugh says; you do. Clearly.
The Mad Jewess said:
Nope, not a Rush listener, or a Maher listener.
Fluke is a slut, Palin is a c*nt, tit for tat.
I’m not interesting in your listening habits, nor does your ability to play childish games interesting to me. You made some specific claims at the beginning of your post. If you’d care to back them, I would be happy to read your response. If you wish to continue with these childish games, then please move on.
The Mad Jewess said:
Miss Fluck posed herself as a ‘struggling student’ that could not pay for her dildoes, etc.. last year, the ‘struggling’ 30 yr old student for life went to Spain.
So, she can drum up a few grand to have drinks in Barthelona, but not $9- a mon to stop up her own crotch, and now believes the church should pay for her babies to not be born.
Are you a some type of naive sheep? This was all over the news.
I love how the Commie-left makes up a wag the dog and pony show any chance they get….too hysterical, and you buy it, hook, line and sinker LOL
Ms. Fluke did not present herself as a struggling student, nor did she testify as to the cost of her contraceptive use at all, much less to the cost of sex toys. In fact, she made no mention whatsoever about her own sexual activities.
If you have proof otherwise, I would be happy to read it.
Commie left? Is it 1950? Why didn’t someone tell me!?
The Mad Jewess said:
‘I’m not interesting in your listening habits, nor does your ability to play childish games interesting to me’
Hey, tell it to Bill Maher, who thinks its AOK to call women c*nts. He is the game player.
I am the tit-4-tatter.
You should worry about the war being waged against you, you are white man, and the folk you encourage want you dead:
“Make no mistake about it: we intend to keep bashing the dead white males, and the live ones, and the females too, until the social construct known as ‘the white race’ is destroyed—not ‘deconstructed’ but destroyed.”
I’ll go… I know how you sweet, kind, thoughtful, loving and oh-so-tolerant ‘liberals’ cant stand us ‘evil’ rightists.
Lacking any evidence for your initial claims, it doesn’t really help to change the subject. I’ll leave this post, because I think it helps a great deal to put your comments (and your reading skills) in perspective. Should you ever wish to provide evidence for your initial comments, I will be happy to approve the effort. Further plates of red herring will be moved in with the spam where they belong.
Never argue with an idiot. You’ll inevitably lower yourself to her level.
Well written and refreshingly well reasoned piece.
Thank you Chancedagger, and welcome to my blog.