I’m vaguely aware that there are some people who are attacking my credibility, and if——I notice that none of them are attacking my credibility on my stance on the substance of the issues——and this, I just take this as a testament to my effectiveness and also an attempt like so many others to hop on my back to sell their stupid, worthless book on the benefit of my name.

                                      Rush Limbaugh, responding to a
                                      question regarding the book The Way
                                      Things Aren’t by Steve Rendall (of
                                      the media watch group Fairness and
                                      Accuracy in Reporting)


The most beguiling of curiosities is that which makes a personality like Rush Limbaugh so hugely popular to begin with. What exactly is it his devoted fans see in him?

Surely this is a multifaceted thing. The psychological aspects aside (which I’ll delve into a little further on), there’s the man’s sheer wit and charm. For although Limbaugh is completely serious about his convictions, one cannot overlook the diversionary factor of his success. He loves the showmanship of it all, and can be genuinely amusing (at times). There’s little doubt he wouldn’t have as big a following were he not so talented at mixing his commentary/criticism with such often wry humor, were his show not so simultaneously entertaining.

This isn’t to say, however, that his fans don’t take him seriously. Because my fear is that some take him just a little too seriously, and of course Limbaugh doesn’t do much to discourage this.

Limbaugh wrote in his The Way Things Ought to Be book that he tries to provoke people ‘‘into thinking for themselves, and not blindly accepting all they are spoon-fed by the media, myself included.’’ How does he do this? By telling his audience that he’ll keep up with the news for them and then, as a bonus, also tell them what to think. Paradox? Not according to Limbaugh: ‘‘My little offer to think for people motivates them to do just the opposite: to think for themselves.’’

Oh, so when he tells his audience (over and over again) that he’s all the truth you’ll ever need and that he’ll do their thinking for them, this is just his reverse-psychology way of prompting them to think for themselves? Funny then, because I can’t seem to recall Mr. Sigmund ever encouraging his audience to get abortions, do drugs or vote Democratic. Those things he takes seriously, but when offering to think for them, that’s when he’s just kidding?

Limbaugh downplays the breadth of his considerable influence (and any and all responsibilities that come along with it) in a variety of ways. One such tactic is to insist that he’s not a part of the mainstream media, that he’s some kind of lone alternative, an ‘‘equal time’’ minority barely making an audible squeak above the rash of leftist journalists. And as such a rarefied voice, Limbaugh practically deems himself above critical reproach.

He also has a tendency to contrast himself with the government, shoveling digressions like people can just switch his show off but nobody can turn off the government, and that he doesn’t have the power to tax or restrict people’s freedoms. In that respect he’s correct, his power is pretty meager compared to that of the state. But this doesn’t automatically exclude him from taking responsibility for what he says or protect and sanctify him from criticism.

Yet another tactic is to say that critics who rebut his views are insulting the intelligence of his audience. And in so doing Limbaugh attempts to enclose himself in a bubble, a self-contained vacuum, in which none of his fans should take criticism of him seriously because, he seems to suggest, if he’s a fool then they’re even greater fools for listening to him.

But I hardly believe the majority of Limbaugh’s listeners take everything he says in equal measure——I suspect there are a fair number who accept everything Rush says without a second (or much of a first) thought; and that there are detractors who, though they agree with little he says, enjoy his show on some perverse level anyway; but I’d like to believe that the majority of Limbaugh’s audience take most everything he says with a couple tablespoons of salt. ’Cause while they may agree with many of his points (and not without good reason as much of what the man says is grounded in common sense), nonetheless there must also be those in his audience whose bullshit detectors sound off on a fairly regular basis. To those people I’d ask that they allow me to present my case without automatically assuming, as Limbaugh suggests, that I hold them in the same esteem as I do him. For though they may not be as flamboyantly well-spoken as Limbaugh, I’d imagine most of his fans are a good deal more discerning and reasonable in the beliefs they hold. Or at least I’d hope they consider themselves such upon finishing this book.


Another favorite line of Limbaugh’s is that his audience doesn’t need the rest of the media as long as they’ve got him. (After all, who needs a halfway objective source of information when Limbaugh’s there to screen life through his own impeccable eyes for them?) Again Limbaugh would most likely demur this as another exaggeration. An intentional absurdity. Yet it certainly falls in line with his ongoing assumption that the mainstream media is the sole playground of the radical left. Whenever a journalist or media pundit makes an error in their facts or better judgment, or, for that matter, whenever Limbaugh simply disagrees with their position, according to him it’s for absolutely no other reason than that they’re a bunch of dewy-eyed liberals.

The mainstream media definitely suffers from some weaknesses, but it’s not that they’re all ‘‘liberals’’——it’s that they’re more interested in headlines and ratings than in what’s most perspectively important in our lives (not that this is always the easiest thing to assess itself), and they’re too demure and diplomatic-like, too hesitant to criticize big business or established institutions.

Limbaugh’s own greatest journalistic accomplishment was pointing out how President Clinton was elected on intellectually dishonest campaign promises. What——you mean Bill Clinton lied to get elected? Getouttahere! Like this is something new for a politician? That’s pretty much the only way a politician can get elected; the majority of the voting public don’t want politicians to talk about all them complicated fact thingys and issue majiggers. They want comforting assurances. (Does the phrase, ‘‘Read my lips: No new taxes . . .’’ ring a bell?) News would be if a politician were elected based on anything but exaggerated campaign promises; now that’d be a groundbreaking story!

Clinton was playing the politician, putting on whatever mask he felt he needed to please the voters. I don’t hold that against him so much. What I do hold against him is how much he’s stayed the politician and conformed perfectly into the role of president, whose main duty seems to be as that of the government’s ultimate PR man. It’s sad it has to be that way, but that’s what the public is most interested in: Image, not issues.

Still, Clinton’s done a decent job. I believe his winning of the presidential election was, however, greatly responsible for the rise of the Christian Coalition as a political power over the past few years. And with a Democrat in office doing what politicians do best (exaggerate, lie), Limbaugh had the perfect target for his own self-righteous slander. The perfect monster to propel himself off of.


Limbaugh is constantly telling his audience he has more proof of how ‘‘we are winning.’’ He seems to find it virtually impossible to make any kind of commentary without comparing and contrasting his righteous ideology against that of an opposing, sinister ideology, whether real or simply in his own mind. Which is likely the reason he has a tendency to blame anything he dislikes on this disease called ‘‘liberalism’’ in comparison to his antidote: ‘‘conservatism.’’

He writes that, ‘‘The frightening thing about these people [liberals] is their insidious nature. They would present much less of a threat to this society if they would simply be honest and open about their agendas. Instead, they disarm us with such harmless platitudes as "we are in favor of clean air" or "we are against poverty." People should be aware of the extent to which our way of life is under siege by an increasing number of groups with candy-coated causes, but poisonous agendas.’’

What is the liberal agenda?

· ‘‘. . . the Socialist Utopians don’t tell you that their agenda to end it merely spreads the misery to include more people.’’

· ‘‘. . . they are all based on the same misguided premise held by the ’60s radicals: that Utopia is possible. They think that a centralized government authority can bring us Utopia.’’

· ‘‘Remember this about liberals: They survive and thrive on a fundamental belief that the average American is an idiot——stupid, ignorant, uniformed, unintelligent, incapable of knowing what’s good for him, what’s good for society, what’s right and what’s wrong. . . . So they impose affirmative action, quotas, welfare.’’

The process of this ‘US vs THEM’ syndrome is as follows. Through sweeping generalizations, Limbaugh defines liberals as a threat to our American freedoms. In so doing Limbaugh establishes his extreme conservatism as the natural counteragent to this extreme liberalism. Limbaugh builds the liberal straw man into a freedom hater; he then tears the straw man down with a few patriotic epithets and proclaims victory for conservatism. ‘Them’ the enemy, ‘us’ the hero.

Such ‘us against them’ sentiments are nothing new. A Senator named Joseph McCarthy did much the same thing against many innocent Americans, except he accused them not of being liberals, but Communists. And unfortunately McCarthy was in a political position to do great harm to those who were victim to his patriotic witch hunt. But the sentiment remains just the same today.

Limbaugh is only too eager to accept the torch of patriotic paranoia: ‘‘Now that Communism has collapsed . . . it’s time we reidentify today’s biggest threat to the American way of life. I’m convinced it’s what I call the Socialist Utopians. . . . Theirs is an anti-American credo, which abhors American political and governmental institutions and this nation’s capitalistic economy. Their value system is at war with the Judeo-Christian tradition upon which this country was founded. . . .’’

As such a fervent ‘us against them’ freedom crusader, Limbaugh believes partisanship is a healthy thing. When Republican Congressman Mit Romney said he wasn’t into winning or losing or mudslinging, Rush responded to this by laughing at the idea that the American people are tired of partisanship. In his statement, Congressman Romney said he didn’t think any significant change would be made from only one side of the aisle, that he wanted to work with Republicans and Democrats alike more on a common ground. Again Limbaugh laughed at this idea, saying change wasn’t going to occur with, ‘‘Can’t we all just get along?’’

‘‘The aggressor in combat makes the rules,’’ he went on to say (Halloween ’94). Shortly after Clinton’s mid-term State of the Union Address, Rush said, ‘‘When I look at a liberal, I see someone who needs to be defeated.’’ Limbaugh truly does look at politics as a WAR, us against them, and as long as they’re winning everything’ll be alright. And——harsh as my deduction might sound——this truly is a sort of delusional thinking, needing an enemy (a devil, if you will) to defeat and proclaim victory. He needs an evil against his good, something to bounce his beliefs off of——his greatness compared to this terribleness. This is why he’s so eager to find the conspiracy where one doesn’t exist, to make monsters out of shadows. Why he’s so quick to pass judgment. (See Appendix II for some of my thoughts on partisanship politics.)


And rather than seeking a full, albeit possibly complicated, truth, Limbaugh seems primarily interested in easy answers and surface appearances. Case in point, his ongoing obsession with ‘‘character.’’

Character was Limbaugh’s primary argument against Clinton and for Bush in ’92, and again for Dole in ’96, and is basically one of his largest philosophies/arguments. And, I mean, don’t get me wrong, of course a person’s character is important, that goes without saying. But character is such an absolute intangible. No matter how much drivel a person lays on you or how much they truly open their heart, someone’s character is an almost impossible thing to completely assess, especially someone you’ve never had the pleasure of meeting in person. (Wise words from someone attempting the deconstruction of Limbaugh’s own character, don’t you think?)

Limbaugh’s argument is that we’re supposed to trust these politicians to run our country, and to do so we must trust that their character is good. I take the opposite stance and say a politician’s character is inassessable and not a reliable indicator of how they’ll perform in office, and that no matter how squeaky clean their image none of them should be trusted to do the right thing. Heck, even children are warned not to trust strangers; why then should adults trust politicians? We should watch their every action like hawks . . . in office, that is.

A biography of Bill Clinton called First in His Class, by David Maraniss, was said to hint towards the suspicion that the president has cheated on First Lady Hillary for many years. Limbaugh believes the fact that the mainstream media never jumped all over this story is highly indicative of how the leftist press is pandering to the president, how incredibly out of touch the media is with what the American public is interested in, out of touch with what’s important.

Apparently Limbaugh doesn’t realize that this is another person’s private business and should in no way be an issue concerning their professional standing, that it in no way affects or reflects their ability to perform their job. It’s perfectly alright if Limbaugh feels strongly against adultery, but still, he shouldn’t hold these moral judgments over anybody concerning their professional life. As I understand it, cheating on your wife is not yet against the law (although goodness knows if Rush had it his way, the way he thinks things ought to be, adultery most probably would be illegal——the primeval punishment for which I dare not even speculate).

Just because a politician’s never had an affair, wraps themselves in the American flag and believes in ‘‘family values,’’ this hardly means the public should blindly entrust them to run the country. Such overwhelming faith in one’s character, or shall I say image, is but a desperate grasping for reassurance; if this is the basis on which Limbaugh wishes to judge politicians, then by all means he’s more than welcome to do so. I on the other hand prefer to ignore such irrelevancies and focus on what they do in office on an unbiased, case to case basis.

They’re politicians; all I’m really interested in is their politics.


One of the largest character faults Limbaugh has always pointed out in President Clinton is how he protested our involvement in Vietnam, and how he didn’t go fight for his country when drafted. He calls Clinton a hypocrite for not willing to fight in the Vietnam ‘‘Conflict’’ but being willing to send troops to war as president. But the troops sent to Haiti and Bosnia enlisted into the military of their own free will. They enlisted, they knew the risks; Clinton on the other hand was drafted, he didn’t choose to enter the military, he was being forced.

This is the land of the free——which means being free to have allegiance only in that which one chooses.

A free society means having the right to not always be patriotic, to not have to risk your life, fight or die for some cause you don’t believe in, something you aren’t. The fact remains that our government forcing unwilling men to kill and die for this country was a far greater threat to and encroachment of American freedoms than any damn war in Vietnam. If we cannot at least learn that historical lesson in retrospect (as Limbaugh and many conservatives continually refuse to do), then what right do we have to call ourselves freedom fighters?

I am in no way condoning the president’s decisions to send troops to Haiti or Bosnia, ’cause I’m still unsure as to their wisdom——but I’m certainly not gonna condemn his decisions based on nothing more than his unwillingness to fight some insane war he was being drafted into. It’s a pretty simplistic rationale to attack Clinton’s character as being a larger factor than whether troops really should be sent overseas, no matter who makes the decision to do so or what their supposed ‘‘character’’ is.


Limbaugh was absolutely beside himself that President Clinton would say something as human and honest as ‘‘we’re doing the best we can.’’ (I forget what Clinton was speaking in regard to, but it can easily be seen as pertaining to all his political efforts.) Upon playing this clip on his show, Limbaugh dumbfoundedly asked, ‘‘Can you imagine if Bush said that? ‘I’m doing the best I can’?’’ Actually, uh-huh, and it’d have been a step up from what he did do while in office (with the exception of puking on Japan’s Prime Minister . . . oh, and let us not forget the Gulf War——having survived countless hours of sensory-assaultive CNN coverage, I can earnestly say, man, that was one neato war! Big fun for the whole family).

Limbaugh just doesn’t seem to want to know politicians on a human level——it’s as if he wants it in his mind that they’re more than human, like they have these mysterious superhuman powers by which no wrong can come of their actions.

Put simply, he wants sure things. And I believe this is the attraction that keeps his audience listening to him, an attraction common to all mankind. And that is simply something to believe in, to accept as truth; people will put their faith in just about anything to ease their troubles in mind. Limbaugh and his conservatism gives people a sense of order in a world overrun by chaos, he provides a feeling of stability and security to people’s anarchic lives.

More than anything, what Limbaugh does is inspire confidence. He allows people to rest assured that, sure, the world’s a screwed-up place, but none of it’s really that bad, and it’s certainly not their fault or their responsibility——on the contrary, it’s their conservative ideology and religious mythology alone that will set things straight again.

The uncertainty of life is terrifying to most people. Rush Limbaugh subsequently appears to spend most of his time building these walls around himself, trying to convince himself that everything is stable and predictable, that life isn’t something he must venture out into and experience on his own but that it’s all set in stone. It’s like he’s afraid to open up and perceive it all for himself absent these distorted filters, to truly experience life. Instead his experience seems largely dedicated to coping with the uncertainty of life, with the fear his own ignorance breeds, et al & etc.


He’s accused the Clinton administration of using symbolism to essentially brainwash the public (‘‘symbolism over substance,’’ he’d say), and yet the most profound and intelligent solution Limbaugh can come up with for America’s labyrinthine problems is to declare, ‘‘We need more God in our lives.’’

Talk about symbolism over substance, ‘‘God’’ is the ultimate symbol. Where, Who, and What is God? How is God going to solve our problems? Limbaugh asks relevant questions, yet the typical answer he gives is that liberals are bad/conservatives good, and that we should have ‘‘more God in our lives.’’

I’m not an atheist (though I often tell people I am just to see the priceless expression on their faces) in the sense that I do believe in our spiritual center; we are more than just carbon-based beings born into this world . . . we are concentrated energy, spirits existing in physical manifestation, love, light——shit, I don’t know, the unnamable. Our origin.

I am very-much-so an atheist, though, in the sense that I don’t believe in the religious God. The religious God is little but a myth, and like most such myths it allows us humans to do something we have an inexplicable need to: surrender our free will, hand the reins over to this omnipotent being who wishes us to live only one way which is His way. Everything describing and relating how God looks, communicates, and rules is completely human, totally lodged in the physical. Heaven is in our sky, in the clouds. That’s where God, a white male, lives and looks down upon us. When we die, if we’ve done His will (which can be found only in the Bible and through holy men), then we become angels in His Kingdom with our wings, flowing white gowns, and of course our halos.

It’s a nice picture, isn’t it? Simple, easy, requiring no personal awareness or knowledge. Completely and absolutely symbolic.

And hell below us, that toasty place in which people burn for all eternity if they’ve sinned, broken the rules within the Bible. Sort of like the idea of sending people who break the law to a hell-like prison. The whole idea is to instill respect through fear; who cares if you understand the law (God’s or society’s) or are actually obeying it of your own free will. Simply surrender your will to the omnipotent one and everything will be taken care of, no more worries about having to think and decide for yourself.

Religion allows people to surrender to their inborn lack of inner-guidance. Almost naturally people are inclined to find something outside themselves to compensate for this inner weakness. Thus was born myth and religion, something to give people a sense of objective outward truth——a compensatory sanity to use in substitution for knowledge of their own individual self-will, that which so many have such a difficult time coming to grips with. The abyss in all our minds. That which is our fear of the unknown.

I’m not gonna deny the possibility of an afterlife or of a greater power that is the source of this and all existence. But the fact is we know only what we perceive from our physical plane, which is so little. It’s time we accepted any possible before-or-afterlife as the great unknown it largely is.


I sincerely don’t mean to insult anyone’s religion, and I am empathetic to the need people feel for a sense of higher order. But neither can I so fear insulting people’s religious beliefs that I don’t express what I honestly believe to be true. That would be a travesty in and of itself, in the name of the truth, and all that good stuff. (Besides, it’ll be helpful to have an idea of my position on religion before directly confronting Limbaugh’s stance on the issue.)


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