Reading Time: 7 minutes Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
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Rush Limbaugh, the infamous conservative radio show host, has died of lung cancer. As I said elsewhere:

So Rush Limbaugh has died. Not sure what to say that is appropriate. During his life, he was a truly horrible and dangerous human being. Or, as my friend said:

“I’m not sad about this at all. He was an awful human being whose pathological lying played a key role in the erosion of productive bipartisan discourse.”

Or as another friend (from a US minority background) said:

“Rush Limbaugbh was an evil human being who lived his life attempting to and succeeding at making life in America worse and more dangerous for minoritized people. He was a prolific, LEGENDARY spreader of hatred and bigotry and many, many, MANY people in the United States and beyond can trace the origins of their bigotry to him.

It’s not sad that he’s gone. It means he can no longer hurt people or downplay the suffering of others. He did forever change talk radio, for the worse.”

One question I could ask myself might be: “Is it right to be happy about the death of someone?”

I was unsure about how to react to his death, so I did my reaction by proxy and through the words of my friends. However, should I have been reticent to show my happiness at bin Laden? Or Sadam Hussein? Let’s bring in Hitler…?

Obviously, some people loved Hitler and bin Laden. I am not comparing Limbaugh directly with Hitler, but I don’t like him at all, and for good reason (some of which is below). He has arguably been the biggest influence on conservative thought amongst the populace in the last fifty years.

And that has been a thoroughly divisive influence. Talk radio in the US is incredibly right-wing, and he has consistently been at the vanguard.

I don’t like Rush Limbaugh. I don’t like him at all. I think he has been dangerous, spreading vast amounts of disinformation and morally repugnant propaganda, and sowing the seeds of hate and division.

In short, I am glad he has died. In the same way I was happy that bin Laden was killed, I show absolutely no remorse in the passing of Limbaugh. Is this right? I’m not sure it’s wrong and it’s certainly how I undoubtedly feel.

One can claim concern for the family and loved ones who cared for him and whom he perhaps cared for himself. I guess I would feel an obligation to do that but no real emotion involved there because I simply despise the man. yes, I can empathize in the abstracta with someone grieving over the loss of someone they love. But I genuinely have to start questioning the moral character of anyone who would love this man.

Some people will feel thoroughly aggrieved at my position here, people who like the man. They might ask ” how would you feel if I showed gladness at the death of someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?”  I would claim that this is a false equivalence because someone like AOC is  a demonstrably nice human being who strives for inclusivity and to make the lives of all people in her constituency and under her jurisdiction better.

The Rolling Stone reported his death as follows:

And that is what Limbaugh delivered, once again, for Republican America in the wake of the insurrection. It was a final command performance of its kind, especially given the host’s condition. But it’s what Limbaugh had done, while dying, for a whole year. This incredibly wealthy super-patriot used his life’s last energies to do his damnedest to recast a pandemic as a deadly, partisan culture war. To paint a lawless and lunatic president as a wronged and heroic savior of the republic, a symbol of all the myriad wrongs done to Team White America. To call the first woman of color nominated for vice president a “ho” and a “mattress,” to depict racial-justice protests as signs of a coming Armageddon, and to stir up hysteria about a Democratic plot to steal the election. And, ultimately, to lead the cheers and comfort the troops as Republicans turned against democracy itself.

In fact, the article is a fascinating biography of his life and how he got to where he did. It seems Obama brought about that final piece of the jigsaw for him to become he did:

The ascent of a black president gave Limbaugh his bite back. During the campaign, Limbaugh mostly took the old-school route, trotting out racial-stereotype “jokes” (“If Obama weren’t black, he’d be a tour guide in Hawaii”) and “parodies” (“Barack the Magic Negro”). But something snapped in Limbaugh, just as surely as in his listeners, when the black man won. Four days before the inauguration of the popular and historic new president, Limbaugh told his listeners that he’d been asked by The Wall Street Journato join others in writing 400 words on their hopes for Obama’s next four years. Limbaugh said he only needed four: “I hope he fails.”

For all Limbaugh’s Democrat-demonizing and liberal-bashing over the years, this was something new. This was openly rooting for a president, and thus for the country, to bomb. Right in the middle of a devastating recession and two unwinnable wars. Not, he insisted, because Obama was black. “Doesn’t matter to me what his race is. He’s liberal, is what matters to me.” And it certainly wasn’t “unpatriotic” — just the opposite, in fact. As Limbaugh explained, “rooting for liberalism to fail is rooting for America to succeed.”

Right. The real threat of Obama was far more tribal than ideological, of course — and thus, right up Limbaugh’s alley. Here was a president capable, among other terrifying things, of normalizing non-white rule in America. But stopping Obama was “what I was born to do,” Limbaugh boasted. And thank goodness for that, because, as he reported in the fall of 2009, “In Obama’s America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering.” Limbaugh turned Obama-hating into a kind of litmus test for white pride — a way to show that you won’t be played by the liberals and their white-guilt trips. “If any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it’s Caucasians,” he declared. “And yet white guilt is still one of the dominating factors in American politics. It’s exploited, it’s played upon, it is promoted, it is used, and it’s unnecessary.”

Limbaugh spun conspiracy theories that grew wilder, more menacing, more elaborate, and more violent (“Race riots are part of the plan that this regime has”). Obama was transformed into a symbol of the bleak future that white Americans might expect if they didn’t recognize the existential peril and rise to fight it. “We live in two universes,” Limbaugh was now telling his listeners. “One universe is a lie. One universe is an entire lie. Everything run, dominated, and controlled by the left here and around the world is a lie. The other universe is where we are, and that’s where reality reigns supreme and we deal with it.”

Fortunately, with Democratic fascism looming so close, white America still had one last thing going for it, one last flicker of hope. Limbaugh is routinely credited with “paving the way for a President Trump,” the same way he’s characterized as “helping move the Republican Party to the right.” But it went much deeper than that, on both counts. Limbaugh served as a sort of original model for Trump — the comic-blowhard authoritarian who provides endless entertainment, infallible-though-incredible wisdom, and marching orders for the tribe. And by 2015, he’d helped nudge and bully the party not toward some kind of hardcore conservatism, but in a radically nihilistic direction.

So on and so forth – most of you are probably all too aware of who he is and what damage he has done to bipartisan discourse.

A selection of the sort of thing he has said is as follows:

  • He began airing “Barack, the Magic Negro,” a racist parody song about then-Sen. Barack Obama’s popularity with many white voters, in 2007.
  • In John K. Wilson’s book, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Rush Limbaugh’s Assault on Reason, the host was quoted as saying this homophobic statement: “When a gay person turns his back on you, it is anything but an insult; it’s an invitation.”
  • In his “Undeniable Truths,” written as part of an article for the Sacramento Union in 1988, Limbaugh wrote, “Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream of society.”
    • In a later updated version, he wrote:
      • “The Earth’s eco-system is not fragile.”
      • “Women should not be allowed on juries where the accused is a stud.”
      • “The Los Angeles riots were not caused by the Rodney King verdict. The Los Angeles riots were caused by rioters.”
  • On The Rush Limbaugh Show in 2004, he said, “I think it’s time to get rid of this whole National Basketball Association. Call it the TBA, the Thug Basketball Association, and stop calling them teams. Call ’em gangs.”
  • As a young broadcaster in the 1970s, Limbaugh once told a Black caller: “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back,” according to Fair.
  • During The Rush Limbaugh Show in 2013, he said, “If any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it’s Caucasians. The white race has probably had fewer slaves and for a briefer period of time than any other in the history of the world.”
  • During The Rush Limbaugh Show in 2017, regarding LGBTQ+ politicians being elected to office, he said, “I guarantee there’d be some people in the Republican establishment who will now think, yeah, we need to do this. We need to provide a home, we need to provide a comforting atmosphere for the tranny community and the gay community. But those people are voting Democrat anyway.”
  • ” ‘Ching cha. Ching chang cho chow. Cha Chow. Ching Cho. Chi ba ba ba. Kwo kwa kwa kee. Cha ga ga. Ching chee chay. Ching zha bo ba. Chang cha. Chang cho chi che. Cha dee. Ooooh chee bada ba. Jee jee cho ba.’ Nobody was translating, but that’s the closest I can get,” he said on his radio show while “translating” Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2011.
  • Limbaugh called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” after she publicly advocated for universal contraception coverage, NPR reported in 2012.

All of which leads me back to the idea that I feel the world is a better place without this man spreading his lies and hate. If that annoys you and makes you think less of me, you’re probably not the sort of person whose moral evaluations I care for at any rate.


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A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...

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