07 March 2012

A hierarchy of insults: Limbaugh against the 'hypocrites'

After an appearance of contrition as advertisers deserted him this week, Rush Limbaugh is back on comfortable ground. Whenever Republican opinionators like Limbaugh are condemned for something they say, their preferred defense is to accuse their accusers of hypocrisy, the assumption being that Democrats, liberals and leftists have no real consistent moral ground, but condemn their ideological opponents for words or acts that would be forgiven from fellow leftists. Limbaugh has raised the double standard by complaining that the President made no objection last year when the president of the Teamsters union, while sharing a podium with him, referred to Tea Partiers as "sons of bitches."

As George Will would write, "Well." I'm not sure if Limbaugh wanted Obama to chide the speaker for swearing, or if the radio talker really thinks that calling anyone a "son of a bitch" is morally equivalent to a man calling a young woman a "slut" and a "prostitute." While "bitch" on its own retains some malignant potency, and it would be beyond the pale for any Democratic orator to call conservative women "bitches," and maybe even more so to use that term for conservative men, "son of a bitch" is practically meaningless. How many people even envision a dog when using the epithet? If this is Limbaugh's best evidence of Obama's hypocrisy as a judge of rhetoric, he needs to try harder.

Limbaugh was further embittered by the President's comment on the talker's apology to the insulted college student. Asked whether he felt Limbaugh was sincere -- why his opinion on the question mattered was unclear -- Obama seemed subtly snarky when using the language of Franklin Graham to confess that he "did not know what's in Rush Limbaugh's heart" and therefore withhold judgment. This provoked Limbaugh into invoking old Rev. Wright once more, reviving the forlorn Republican hope that someday, someone will care about the crackpot divine's condemnation of America. But as not all Christians in America go to anodyne megachurches, it's possible that most Christians have heard a pastor of theirs condemn America (or Americans) for some sin or another. So let the Limbaughs keep bringing him up; they only waste their own airtime.

As I wrote earlier this week, we should strive to avoid real hypocrisy in our outrage at controversial statements. We don't want to set a standard by which only statements insulting or seeming hurtful to liberals are condemned while conservatives have to endure every form of invective. But if we sit down to cobble together an informal code of etiquette, someone like Rush Limbaugh would probably be too interested a party to have a part in the negotiation. Those who agree with his position on collegiates' entitlement to contraception without condoning his slander of a student would be better suited for the job.


Anonymous said...

And to an extent, it's true. Leftists tend to forgive and forget things uttered by their own. But so do their opponents.. So their defense of spouting "hypocrisy" should be leveled directly at themselves as well. And let's talk "no real consistent moral ground" from a political view that repugnicans seem to have, which is "It's okay for us to do to our enemies those things which we denounce our enemies for doing to us." Which is the standard right-wing point of view.

The bottom line is, this is war. A war of ideas. A war which this country - and the human race cannot afford to let the Rush Limbaughs of the world win. When the right-wing Americans hold power, they eliminate any protections the planet has from their rapine and degradation. You and I may not have future generations of our own to think about, but the human race needs advocates. Rush Limbaugh and the entire right-wing ideology needs to be crushed once and for all.

Samuel Wilson said...

Well, if it's war, there's no point to working toward a fair code of etiquette. That's not a criticism of your viewpoint, just a note that my writings this week presumed a state short of war -- a presumption not all the people I've written about may share.

Anonymous said...

Considering that the opposition has, at every turn, refused any real compromise, then what is left? That we, the working class, give up even more? That more of us accept a position of servitude to the corporate-sponsored political machine? No, this is war because the right-wingers will not accept that, in a democracy, they can not have what they want.

According to a very recent study by the Southern Poverty Law Center, anti-government right-wing extremist militia groups have risen from just under 150 in 2008 to well over 1,000 in 2012. Armed, right-wing extremists who are bent on violent overthrow of a legally elected (if not honest and honorable) government. People who are (pardon the expression) "hell bent" on forcing, by violence, their idiotology on every around them. If that is not war, I don't know what is.