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October 1, 2007

Rush Limbaugh and the Poor, Deluded Dopes Who Take Him Seriously


So, it’s really come to this – Rush Limbaugh says global warming ain’t real because James Hansen took money from George Soros.


We live in surreal times, which is the only plausible explanation for Limbaugh’s bizarre tirade Thursday against Hansen, the NASA scientist who brought global warming to the attention first of the U.S. Congress and then to the rest of the world. If you’d stepped through a wormhole from 1988 until today, you might have mistaken Limbaugh as some rightwing crackpot who’d seized a chunk of the AM frequency band, probably at gunpoint.


Limbaugh didn’t just stop by saying that Hansen is on the take. He turned Hansen into a double agent – a plant by Soros into the American government to serve the needs of some nefarious band of . . . well . . . it’s really hard to say.


Of course, it all makes perfect sense. Hansen, you see, might have lots of facts and data and science on his side, but his side – we’re told – is really only interested in dismantling industrialization and forcing people to crawl to work on roads constructed of crushed human progress and broken dreams.


In the marketplace of ideas, Limbaugh is the guy with the car hidden under a blanket. He’ll give it to you for a song, and conveniently forget to mention that it’s got a cracked block.


There is perhaps no major media figure who is more responsible for encouraging ignorance than Rush Limbaugh. He doesn’t reduce issues to their basics, he slides right past them and dives straight for personal attacks. The problem, to Limbaugh, isn’t whether carbon dioxide emissions are helping to heat the planet. The problem are the environmentalists who say that it is.


Even his most ardent supporters don’t try to defend his unhinged, nonsensical ravings. They say he’s just an entertainer. Most of us, however, understand that part of being an entertainer is that your audience recognizes you as a credible source for something. Limbaugh-style entertainment is built on the belief that he has keen insights into how the world works. He’s supposed to be funny because he sees things clearly.


This is how, in the early days of his rise, he built up credibility. No one knew who he was, and he hadn’t built up a history of saying outrageous, ridiculous things. He’s got better than a decade of this behind him, and long ago spent off the last remaining shreds of believability. Today, his only strength is in the size of his audience, which has bought into his line that the reason the things he tells them doesn’t align with everyone else is that everyone else is hopelessly corrupted.


Thanks in large part to this, Limbaugh does more damage to his own audience than he does to his intended victims. It’s difficult to feel sympathy for them. On the other hand, the rest of us have to share a nation with these poor deluded dopes, and as long as they’re buying Limbaugh’s shoddy product from the marketplace of ideas, it’s hard to imagine the national dialogue getting any less politicized.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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