The other day I was getting a little tired of Christmas music in my car and began browsing radio stations until I turned to hear a familiar voice that always made me cringe a little.
Rush “the disinfotainer” Limbaugh.
It had been at least 3 years since I had even heard his voice at all, that constantly angry, relentlessly paranoid, quickly dismissive rant that goes on and on and on. I’d forgotten how toxic he could be, the effect I’ve seen his show had on people I cared about and even looked up to. It had been 4 years since I last wrote about the hypocritical toxicity of his show, comparing him as a conservative Howard Stern, when he incorrectly blamed Michelle Obama for the temporary disappearance of twinkles, and in a later post exposing his ignorance for accusing a batman movie of being a leftist conspiracy against Mitt Romney.
So when I heard his voice again last week I told myself to keep listening because maybe, just maybe, he had gone the route of Glenn Beck and completely transformed from a reckless insult-radio DJ into a decent man with a decent outlook on news reporting and giving people the benefit of the doubt. It didn’t take long for him to prove me wrong.
Right at the beginning of the broadcast, Limbaugh began by dismissing the call for a vote recount on the basis that vote recounts rarely overturn the original decision (which is funny, because even though voter fraud is incredibly rare and innocuous, conservatives are usually the ones calling for more laws making it harder to vote). As we know, rarity is not an excuse to dismiss the necessity of recounts when doubt is arisen as to the integrity of a vote. And the fact that a recount resulted in an overturn in 2004 (Washington) and 2008 (Minnesota), one wonders: how rare exactly is too rare?
A couple minutes later, Limbaugh concludes that rather than the call for a recount being about the integrity of the voting process, Stein’s efforts are “fundraising scammery” to benefit “a bent-out-of-shape bunch of leftists who still can’t come to grips with what happened.” Which is ironic, because Lumbaugh is a full supporter of Trump, who himself said this year’s election was rigged, and for a while refused to tell America if he would accept the election results if Clinton won.
Lumbaugh, the same avid supporter of Trump, who flat out lied, asserting that “millions of people voted illegally” in one of his reckless tweets, a claim that has been debunked.
Minutes later, Limbaugh is talking to a random caller who wants to offer her take on why Hillary Clinton has been pushing for a vote recount. Not an expert. Just a random listener who wants to chime in. The woman offers her theory as to why this is happening: Jill Stein’s call for a recount is actually Hillary Clinton’s big “screw you” to voters in Michigan for not voting for her.
Granted, Clinton has a history of shady dealings, and a recount will take millions of tax dollars in each state it is done. But how can we be sure Hillary Clinton is internally carrying all this out in order to punish Americans for not voting for them by taking their tax dollars just to do a vote recount?
Now, in real journalism, the statement of the person interviewed would merely be left for what it is, or their claim investigated. It would be emphasized that this is a citizen opinion, not an expert opinion. In order for it to be verified, some sort of evidence would be called for.
But that’s not what Rush Limbaugh does. He tells the caller, “You could be right.” And without offering any evidence as to why, he tells the woman she just won an iPod. She gets an iPod. For coming up with a 10-second-long conspiracy theory with no evidence to back it up.
That’s right. When a fan of your radio show offers a baseless theory, reward them with an iPod. Validate their fears, not by using facts, but by telling them they have a free prize. Which is funny, because according to critics like Limbaugh it’s liberals who expect free prizes they didn’t earn just by complaining.
On his own website Limbaugh acknowledged that it was computer scientists having caught a certain pattern in voting machines who brought up to Clinton that a recount should be pursued. It’s pretty obvious why they would bring it up to the challenger and not the winner of the initial vote. And yet Limbaugh dismisses the very fact he cited to claim the opposite: Clinton herself is behind the efforts because she’s willing to do anything to stop the obviously clear results of the election.
Granted, most losing candidates put some pressure on election results, especially when reports come from independent sources that fraud or error occurred.
But no, says Limbaugh. She’s not only behind it, but with sinister intent. Because I just think so.
Look, we have enough proof that Hillary Clinton is crooked, manipulative, deceitful, and reckless. She also once called Republicans “a basket of deplorables.” But that doesn’t mean every conspiracy theory you have about her is true. You have to prove each theory you have on a person, no matter what. You have to prove it. If you really want to point out how corrupt someone is, you have to have legitimate evidence on every point. Otherwise, how do you expect your opponents to take you seriously?
Not to mention the hypocrisy of trying to expose more hypocrisy of Clinton while being an avid supporter of Trump, whose business practices and personal character have their own history of corruption.
I don’t trust Hillary Clinton to lead America any more than I trust Donald Trump. But if she was elected according to the rules, then the Presidency, whether we like it or not, belongs to her. If not, then the office is not hers. We can call her a sore loser if we want. We can call her obstructive to transition. We can accuse her of hampering the unity of the country (not that there will be any for a while anyway). Those all make sense because we see some evidence of these things occurring. But what you can’t claim is that Clinton is merely taking revenge on taxpayers by using their tax money for a recount. It doesn’t even make sense. That would mean she is taking revenge even on people who voted for her—roughly half the state. And for what?
And you don’t reward somebody, either with an iPod or even so much as a twinkie, for encouraging such an idea without offering something, anything, resembling tangible evidence. Journalism is not meant to be a game show. Just like the executive office of America is not meant to be like Celebrity Apprentice.
This is why nobody in their right mind should give Limbaugh’s show any of their time. After spouting several theories that he claims could be true according to unnamed sources, he innocently says to listeners, “I’m not saying this is true. I’m just telling you what’s out there…But it’s probably true.”
I know better than that, Rush. You want your listeners to leap to concluding that these theories are true. You know your listeners enough to know that they don’t care enough to investigate, and they trust you to pretend you did. I know this, Rush, because you summed up your efforts at “investigating” in this way: “I’ve read various blog posts and listened to people talk about it.” Millions of listeners putting their trust in you, and the only specifics you give as to how you investigated these claims is that you read some blogs and talked to some people. Lots of people believing a theory doesn’t make it true, right? Isn’t that what you say about evolution, global warming, or the theory that Trump will put gays in concentration camps? If it’s wrong for liberals to do it, it’s wrong for conservatives to do it.
Rush Limbaugh’s media empire is toxic to his own country. I am saddened by how popular he is. I’m saddened by the ignorance, the disrespect, the hypocrisy, the paranoia, the fear, the hatred, the racism, the sexism, the pro-rape messages, the pro-torture messages, the sloppy journalism, the rewarding of bad behavior by congratulating people for having theories they cannot prove. I’m saddened by his utter hypocrisy in claiming that the average liberal/Democrat is “mentally ill,” yet refuses to see how he himself is deluded and vindictive, offering his own listeners daily doses of fear and scaremongering.
I think both Democrats and Republicans are, for the most part, decent people influenced by misguided values and misinformation. What I’m not going to do is accuse millions of Americans of having a mental illness simply based on their political leanings.
This Christmas, I’d rather listen to Wham!’s “Last Christmas” than listen to Limbaugh. I’d rather listen to Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time” than listen to Limbaugh. I’d rather listen to Bill Cosby sing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” than listen to Limbaugh. Actually, I take that last one back. They both belong in the same category, seeing as how Lumbaugh doesn’t believe consent is a big deal.
Rush claims to be and represent Christians, yet his pattern of opinion journalism places him in the camp of the Pharisees of 1st century Palestine, who used rumors and hatred to try and stomp out anything posing a threat to their worldview, even if it meant slaying love, wisdom, and humility.
This holiday season, turn off the fear-mongering, hate-mongering talk radio, and listen to some Christmas tunes. Play the songs about love, peace, gift-giving, warm hearts, and the Good News that a savior is born who cleanses the world of corruption, hatred, greed, and pain, not through being elected, but being anointed in death and resurrection. It’s true. And it’s out there. Believe it. You heard it from me.