A quick pre-election pitch.
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Rush Limbaugh’s jarring announcement that he suffers from terminal lung cancer and may soon have to end his long-running political radio talk show, sparked nationwide news coverage this week. Limbaugh's illness is being treated as news because the broadcaster is seen as being important and influential in American politics. But news coverage of the announcement, and of Limbaugh's pending retirement, needs to detail why he's influential and important to American politics.
The coverage needs to be upfront and honest about the damage Limbaugh's career has done to this country and to the democratic process — the vile degradation of our public discourse. It needs to be transparent about the endless litany of lies and heartless smears Limbaugh has gleefully trafficked in for decades, as he stuffed his pockets with millions and wallowed in the misfortune of others.
So far, the press is glossing over the substance of Limbaugh's regrettable career. CNN described him this week as simply a "conservative talk show radio host" and a "Republican icon," while the New York Times similarly provided a bare-bones description — a ""conservative talk radio host" who is "popular among grass-roots conservatives." We saw the same whitewash coverage of the hateful talker when Trump tarnished the Presidential Medal of Freedom by awarding one to Limbaugh in May. Disappeared by the press was the host's signature misogynistic and race-baiting rants.
Before birtherism there was Rush. Before InfoWars and QAnon, there was Rush, purposefully polluting American minds for three decades via his increasingly shrinking AM radio base, as station owners have become turned off by the show's hefty price tag, sagging ratings, and vanishing advertisers.
Memo to media: Tell the truth about Limbaugh. Tell the truth about his history of racist tirades and how he used to refer to then-presidential candidate Barack Obama as a “Hafrican American,” and played the mocking song called “Barack the Magic Negro.” Tell the truth about how he made fun of actor Michael J. Fox's Parkinson’s disease after Fox endorsed Democratic candidates. ("He is moving all around and shaking. And it's purely an act.")
Note that I would be making the exact same points today if Limbaugh were soon retiring in perfectly good health. His cancer has nothing to do with the underlying fact that the press has spent years whitewashing his hate programming, just as the D.C. press whitewashes the GOP's racism. In truth, I suspect that trend of timidity will become more pronounced in coming weeks and months considering Limbaugh is sick and journalists will likely shy away from providing an honest and accurate review of his career.
Looking back over the last 30 years, Limbaugh and Rupert Murdoch have probably done more damage to this country than any other media players. Fiercely committed to blatant lies and to tearing apart the nation's fabric by pitting groups against each other in the name of political pursuit, Limbaugh, 69, and Murdoch, 89, will both leave ugly legacies when they go.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, both men are responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans. Murdoch, by allowing Fox News to gorge on rancid public health misinformation all through 2020, and Limbaugh by lying about the virus's effects for most of this year. "The common cold," is how the radio host has repeatedly described the deadly virus, which will soon claim 250,000 lives in the U.S., and no end in sight for the death count. We’ll never know how many of Limbaugh's loyal, elderly listeners have died from the virus this year, in part because he assured them the infection was essentially harmless.
But Limbaugh has never shied away from putting his listeners in danger in the pursuit of a political cause. In 2017, he urged them to dismiss the safety warnings from government officials about Hurricane Irma because the warnings were all part of a government plot to promote the dangers of climate change.
Limbaugh's career never recovered from his 2012 implosion when he castigated and insulted a Georgetown University graduate student, Sandra Fluke, who testified before Congress about health care and access to contraception. Limbaugh called her out by name, labeling her a “slut” and a "prostitute," insulted her parents on the air, and suggested Fluke post videos of herself having sex on the Internet. The astonishing monologues and the Fluke saga went on for weeks and were supplemented by right-wing media attacks on her boyfriend and her his Jewish heritage, as well as the loopy conspiracies about the White House's alleged role in the story. It all sparked an unprecedented advertiser exodus from Limbaugh's show.
During that same campaign cycle, Limbaugh set his bullying sights on a 13-year-old boy, and even likened him to to a Nazi storm trooper. The boy's crime? His mother came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against then-Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain. The boy had urged his mother to go public, so Limbaugh used the power of his AM radio show to wage war on a middle school student.
Rush Limbaugh is an awful, awful person. Tell the truth about him.
✏️ GOOD STUFF:
Amidst a sea of bad Covid-19 news, there does seem to be hopeful indications about schooling in the age of the pandemic. This week, the New York Times reported New York City public schools tested more than 10,000 students and recorded only 18 positive results.
And from NPR, "Are The Risks Of Reopening Schools Exaggerated?":
Despite widespread concerns, two new international studies show no consistent relationship between in-person K-12 schooling and the spread of the coronavirus. And a third study from the United States shows no elevated risk to childcare workers who stayed on the job.
Combined with anecdotal reports from a number of U.S. states where schools are open, as well as a crowdsourced dashboard of around 2,000 U.S. schools, some medical experts are saying it's time to shift the discussion from the risks of opening K-12 schools to the risks of keeping them closed.
🇦🇺 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
AC/DC, "Shot in the Dark"
From their first studio album in six years, the new single is exactly what you'd expect from AC/DC, note for note, yell for yell. It's the same driving beat, the same signature guitar streaks, and that same booze-soaked voice. How the band’s sound remains unchanged after 47 years is kind of mind-bending.
I'm not complaining.