When you catch the other guy doing something wrong, most folks would say that’s an opportunity of sorts, an opportunity to correct them. For some though, it’s license. This is the basis for much of Rush Limbaugh’s schtick. His narratives rarely stray far from the Libs-do-it-too theme. He is particularly fond of saying that he is only “illustrating absurdity with the absurd”, which is a fancy way of saying that his cheap shots are really attempts to undermine some parallel logic on the part of his political enemies. Were such moments carefully tacked to some particular piece of liberal rhetoric, this might be a plausible angle, but this just isn’t generally the case.
If Rush Limbaugh is satire, then it is a particularly adolescent form of satire. Whether or not he is just kidding depends a lot on how much backlash he gets, and whether or not he and his fans feel like distancing themselves from a given comment. All to often, his cheap shots become gospel to a significant segment of the pseudo-conservative public. His game becomes satire precisely when Limbaugh is forced to deal with the absence of a rational case for his position.
Case in point, many people still seem to think Sandra Fluke testified about her own sexual activities and/or that she wanted the public to pay for her contraceptives. She didn’t.
But that’s a different rant. What has my attention today is a rather different gambit, Limbaugh’s efforts to spin the captivity and sexual abuse of three young women in Cleveland Ohio into a diatribe against the welfare state. Media Matters ran a story about Limbaugh’s comments here. The audio is painful to anyone with an ounce of sense, but it’s what I will be commenting on, so my apologies…
Limbaugh’s narrative is slick as Hell. He doesn’t assert that the Cleveland kidnapping has anything directly to do with welfare opportunism; he simply uses the coincidence of an episode of Hawaii 5-0 to field the story. The potential effectiveness of this meme is readily apparent, welfare as a subsidy for kidnappers, the mere thought of it may do more to combat aid to the poor than a thousand stories about the dreaded welfare mother. Limbaugh doesn’t need to assert the truth of his narrative; it is enough to generate the association. Much as he has done with one outrageous suggestion after another, Limbaugh settles for insinuation.
Limbaugh will of course cry foul (or ‘drive-by media’) if people call him on the claim, because of course he never quite made it. But that is a skillful propagandist for you. Long after his audience has forgotten the details of his particular presentation, they will remember the narrative he presented for them. The power of that narrative is what will matter in the long run, and neither the facts of the case, nor the logic of Limbaugh’s half-assed argument will matter in the long run.
But what really interests me is the disclaimer; “I couldn’t help but make the connection. I mean if everybody else in the low-information crowd is gonna use what happens on TV for reality, why can’t I?”
‘Low-information crowd’ is of course a reference to ‘low information voters’ which is how the right wing echo-chamber has taken to referring to liberals. That this summary judgement is utter nonsense has little to do with its value in pseudo-conservative rhetoric, and Limbaugh must know that his own less-than-impressive fan-base will love to think of their enemies as ill-informed. Of course this remark adds another ingredient to that theme, suggesting that liberals rely too much on TV for their information. He doesn’t need a reason to believe this is true, and neither will his fans. It is enough to assert it.
But all of this is the powdered sugar on the brownie, so to peak. The real work of this disclaimer is the suggestion that if there is anything wrong with using a TV show to interpret a news story about which Limbaugh admits himself to be ignorant, well then that fault lies with his liberal opponents. They are the ones who do this for real, Limbaugh is merely showing us how silly they are. This gambit is a tu quoque fallacy at best, or in terms with a little more widespread usage, it is two-wrongs-make-a-right. I think teh average third grader can understand the problem with this gambit, but it’s pretty much standard operational procedure for Limbaugh.
The particular particular utility of this you-do-it-too gambit lies in its conjunction with the inability to field a hard claim in this instance (and so many others). Limbaugh has no evidence that this kidnapping is a welfare scam; he just wants people to associate the two themes, preferably without thinking too much about the details. A quick they-do-it-too serves both to relieve him of responsibility for checking the facts before spouting off about them, and to shift responsibility for his own sleazy gambit to others. If it is shocking that Limbaugh would make (or almost make) such a wildly outrageous claim without any evidence, well then that is all the fault of liberals, because Limbaugh is only satirizing their behavior.
…except it isn’t.
This is Limbaugh advancing a narrative, and past experience has shown it is an effective strategy. Time and again Limbaugh’s fans have adopted his narratives as gospel truth long after the facts should have led any reasonable person to conclude otherwise. There is no satire in the successful propagation of such lies. The tu quoque gambit is there simply to cover his tracks in the event that the backlash proves too strong. When the public tires of answering this kind of idiocy, Rush and his fans stick to their guns.
This is not mere entertainment, and it is not satire. It is a propagandist doing what he does best, which is to deceive the public. The man has made quite a career out of it.
It is the career of a con artist.
Reblogged this on digger666 and commented:
Living outside range of his broadcasts, I remain unsullied by the sound of his voice…but gosh, what an egregious scumbag he is.
Thank you, Digger
Robert A. Vella said:
Curiosity compelled me to check out his broadcasts in the mid-90’s. My initial reaction has not changed since then. To me, Limbaugh is nothing more than a charlatan, a carnival barker, a snake-oil salesman, and an opportunist. He sells vile propaganda to sociopaths. What’s disturbing is that he has so many customers.
David M. Green said:
I couldn’t agree more!
‘This is not mere entertainment, and it is not satire. It is a propagandist doing what he does best, which is to deceive the public.’ Perfectly stated, thanks.
Thank you, peerless. Thanks for giving it a read.
David M. Green said:
You are quite welcome! 🙂
Juliana Lightle said:
I do not listen to him or pay any attention so not sure how much effect he has. However, I do know a lot of people, poor themselves, who rant against the Affordable Care Act, welfare, etc. If they know one single person whom they think does not deserve help and gets it, away they go even if they receive food stamps and Medicaid themselves. They have a legitimate point because abuse of the system does occur. Ironically, with government and state cutbacks, there are not enough investigators to go out and find the abuse and get rid of it.
Here is how a person can test their own political impartiality…
If you cannot quickly answer “yes” unequivocally that both political poles, conservative and liberal, are equally guilty of “doing something wrong” using “a particularly adolescent form of satire” then you are biased one way or the other.
There is much truth to the old adage:
“There are none so blind as those who will not see” 🙂
A friend once made a statement to me which I’ve found to be very useful to keep in mind: “Just because you agree with it doesn’t mean it’s not propaganda.”
I’m definitely not impartial, nor do I think I should be. However, over time I’ve come to learn that the people with whom I believe I agree lie or stretch the truth to their advantage, too. I think questioning one’s assumptions is more valuable.
Unfortunately – he has conned a great too many.
Well said. Limbaugh is a cancer on society…
SwampGas (@SwampGas) said:
You followed, I followed back, & then I read this. And I think everything you said is absolutely correct. However, someone should explain to Gasbag that all us liberals are NOT the same. For instance, I don’t even own a TV. Personally I’d like to see this D-bag nekked from the waist down, bent over the hood of a Buick, and left tied there… in Steubenville.
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Clare Flourish said:
It is rare that British conservatives are more loathsome than US ones, but the Daily Mail’s front page headline on the conviction of a man who started a house-fire which killed six children was about his being a benefit claimant.
Thanks for stopping by my blog. You’re a thoughtful writer; I enjoyed this post. Following 🙂
Daniel Digby said:
Do you really think Limbaugh’s satire reaches the adolescent level? He reminds me of when my youngest son was 4 or 5 and he would laugh uncontrollably when an ad talked about a Ford “heavy-doody pickup”.
Judy Smith said:
This steaming pile sold his soul to the devil a long time ago and abdicated his spot in the human race. He markets himself as a politician to the TRUE low-information voter, as a circus barker to the prurience seekers, as a thoughtful analyst to the self-deluded, and god only knows what to himself. I’m assuming the drug schtick is how he sleeps at night. I neither listen to him nor say his name, if possible, but he makes enough of a nuisance of himself that it’s virtually impossible to completely avoid him. When he attacked Michael J Fox as a charlatan over his Parkinson’s, I lost the last shred of morbid curiosity I may have somehow retained. I am gratified to see how many of his sponsors have deserted him and I hope the trend continues until he’s relegated to the dung heap of modern civilization.
I noticed this today and went to it, looking for something interesting to read. Perhaps, you might…I can’t think of a proper word for it right now, go have a look? http://santitafarella.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/is-mind-a-fluke-of-nature/
George Weaver said:
Well, Walldammit, today is my 71st birthday. I saw your smile and that toboggan and wanted to tell you how happy I was to see it! I didn’t have time to visit anybody today, but I had to visit you before the intent got lost in the convolutions of an aging brain… And I got this far in reading your posts from last to earlier ones. I liked the car art and the zombie on the roof in particular. And, of course, I agree with your evaluation of dear Rush. The older I get, the more incredible I find it that there are reasonably competent people who listen to him. I read somewhere a long time ago that people are capable of reasoning (with great difficulty) at only one level above the level required for daily functioning. As my husband used to say of seagulls, they can reliably be counted on only to eat, shit and squawk as can most humans. He was dismissive in that way. 🙂 It’s good to see you. Thank you for stopping by The Fuzzy. You always make me smile.