Rush Limbaugh Dead at 70

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Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home.

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  1. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    What you write is true but I can think of very few Americans who poisoned the public discourse more than this man.Report

    • Avatar JoeSal in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      Ah yes, Saul turning OT into another LGM echo chamber. I guess the solid amount of conservatives here yielded….Andrew……to write about this.
      HahahaReport

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to JoeSal
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        says:

        If this is the hill you want to die on, so be it, it is a free country but you may want to reconsider:

        https://twitter.com/Politics1com/status/1362106104793104386?s=20Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to JoeSal
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        says:

        Here is the time Rush Limbaugh made fun of Michael J. Fox and his Parkinson’s disease: https://twitter.com/SageRosenfels18/status/1224902092457943041?s=20

        You can try to hide behind the shied of “It’s satire” but that does not fly. He believed this, he figured out how to profit from it, and spread his message of hate and cruelty.Report

        • Avatar veronica d in reply to Saul Degraw
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          says:

          I saw a cool vid about “satire” the other day. Sadly, I can’t find it now, nor remember the specific subject of the vid, but it was about how some chud claimed his chuddery was “satire.” IIRC, he was either doing a racism or a sexism, something like that. Anyway, the narrator made a point: good satire is when you present an extreme version of a position you disagree with in order to reveal its absurdity. It isn’t satire when you present a position you do agree with. In the latter case, you’re just presenting an offensive version of your own views.

          In other words, if I pretended to be a chud and said terrible things about LGBTQ people (or whatever), I could argue I was satirizing terrible chuds. If, by contrast, a chud did the same thing, then they’re just being a chud.

          When Limbaugh mocked Fox, it’s pretty clear he was presenting an offensive version of his actual views. That’s not satire. That’s just him being offensive.Report

          • Avatar InMD in reply to veronica d
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            says:

            I think when most people say ‘satire’ what they really mean is closer to parody or caricature. Not that it can’t still be in poor taste or arising from ugly motivations.Report

            • Avatar veronica d in reply to InMD
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              says:

              I think the same argument applies. You can’t parody your own views.

              Or was that your point — that I was describing parody and not satire?Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to veronica d
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                You can parody yourself. There are episodes of Seinfeld where it’s the whole joke. Arguably, the entire series Curb Your Enthusiasm is Larry David parodying himself.

                What I think most of the people in question mean to say is they are either (i) parodying an actual reactionary which they themselves are not or (ii) that they are in fact parodying some other person for comedic value with no ill intent.

                What I think you’re saying, and where I probably agree with you in many cases, is that their claims aren’t credible and they actually are a reactionary or that the parody being performed is so inherently bigoted and offensive that the intent doesn’t really matter.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to InMD
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                Good point. I didn’t consider self-parody, but now that you mention it. In fact, it’s common enough for we transes to parody our own weird community quirks, so that’s a thing.

                Still, there is a difference between turning quirks up and turning raw offensive bigotry up.

                Actually, I now remember the original video. It was about (of all people) RooshV, who claimed one of his “rape is good actually” articles was meant as satire — but satire of what exactly? The narrator’s point was that we shouldn’t accept his excuse that he was satirizing misogyny, as he is clearly a misogynist.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to veronica d
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                says:

                I’m not familiar with that specific situation but I think I hear what you’re saying. A Modest Proposal requires a certain context for the explanation to make sense.Report

  2. Avatar Greginak
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    says:

    We could fill a long post with vile things he said or did. I imagine that will happen below. However I’ll go a bit more orthogonal. There has been a bit of debate about intent of speech due to the recent dustup at the NYT. The evil Wiles say intent doesn’t matter which isn’t correct. But I get where it comes from due to guys like rush who would say vile filth then when called out would scamper back being “I was joking… I didn’t mean it… It wasn’t my intent” he didn’t invent that bs but he sure as hell popularized it to a poisonous effect.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Greginak
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      Is this related to Slate Star Codex or the dismissal of the reporter?

      The thing about the current era is that “own the libs” has become such an overdriving ethos for a certain kind of internet writer and/or reader/automatic contrarian that it makes them go and defend stuff without really thinking it through. The firing of Gina Carano is one example. Chait, Shapiro, and Weiss all rushed to defend her even though some of her tweets were extremely anti-Semitic (and intentionally cropped to look less anti-Semitic than the images were). These were similar images that they denounced when Corbyn tweeted something similar. All three are Jewish, all three should know better but the undertwisting they get into over “social justice warriors” and “cancel culture” that they decide Carano was someone to go to bat for. I think this decision is both reflexive and questionable.

      The same goes for SSC and its view that “the only thing the Blue Tribe cannot tolerate is intolerance/bigotry.” Why is this a shocker? Yet something drives a good number of people to think it is clever to accuse people of being intolerant for not being nice to their oppressors.Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq
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    Rush is one of those people who had more power and influence that they logically should. Like my brother, I think this was mainly a corrupting influence and wasn’t for good.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      No one ever sees themselves as the villain of the story.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon
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        says:

        Funny thing, there is this really good anime, Twelve Kingdoms, wherein one of the subplots is about a dude who wants to prove the gods don’t exist, so he is deliberately evil to see if they’ll punish him. His death scene is kind of cool, as he is overjoyed that the gods exist.

        Anyways, aside from that guy, yeah.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon
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        As an aside, if you believe, as I do, that right and wrong “exist” — although I certainly don’t want to get into the metaphysics of that claim — then we have to conclude that sometimes people are wrong about not being the villain. This raises the question, to what degree are villains responsible for not realizing they are the villain? Should a reasonable person be able to tell they are the villain? How do they tell?Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d
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          says:

          Questions like this is why philosophers still have jobs outside of fast food.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d
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          says:

          Standard digs aside, “Are we the baddies?” is a necessary, but probably not sufficient, starting place.Report

          • Avatar veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon
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            It’s a good start. It won’t help in the case of a narcissist or full on sociopath, but most of us aren’t narcissists or sociopaths.

            It can work. I know this because on a few occasions, I’ve looked at my own behavior and concluded that, sadly, I was being a complete shithead. I needed to improve.

            This might happen again. In fact, it probably will, although I hope it is rarely required.

            This plays into our guilt/shame conversation the other day. Guilt and shame are important. I’ve done two things in my life about which I am deeply ashamed. I won’t say what — which is how shame works — but I certainly don’t want to feel that way about myself again.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to veronica d
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          Should a reasonable person be able to tell they are the villain? How do they tell?

          Good question. This probably sets a bar that’s too high but I’ll take a swing at it.

          How many people (alive or dead) think that you, personally, victimized them?

          Why do they think that? Are they right? What were your motivations? What did they lose?

          If you told the truth about that in a court of law, what would happen?Report

          • Avatar InMD in reply to Dark Matter
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            I certainly think being a moral person requires at least some wrestling with the question. I have to think that virtually everyone can think of some time they didn’t do the right thing, even just in some small way. The more complicated the scenario the harder the assessment becomes, not that anyone should let themselves off the hook for complexity.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon
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        says:

        That’s true. Nobody ever seems themselves as the villains of the story. The NSDAP, Communists, Islamists, and other groups saw themselves as the good guys despite doing serious malign harm to literally millions of people. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t a bad guy simply because you are the hero in your head.Report

  4. Avatar veronica d
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    says:

    The question is, should we greet his death with more or less enthusiasm than he greeted the death of AIDS victims?

    According to Wikipedia, he later apologized for his mockery of AIDS victims. However, at least for me, apology not accepted. He never really changed. He was a truly rotten man, an absolute shit human being. He is the veriest embodiment of “the cruelty is the point.”

    He is also the godfather of the conservative media ecosystem. This is not an accident. This tells us what we need to know.

    May he rot.Report

  5. Avatar Philip H
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    25 years ago I listened to Limbaugh because he was actually an erudite conversant on what made conservatives and Republicans tick. He made me think.

    20 years ago he decided he needed to become a bombastic anti-liberalism basher because it made him lots of money. At that point I stopped listening because he no longer wanted to actually debate and dissect ideas.

    I hope his passing was as medically peaceful and painfree as it could be. He leaves behind a legacy of intellectual dishonesty and emotional pain inflicted on the nation for his personal profit.Report

    • Avatar Greginak in reply to Philip H
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      Fwiw. I heard him a bit in the 90s. He was viscous to minorities, loved all the Clinton conspiracy theories and had his femanazi shtick then.Report

      • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Greginak
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        Well, yes, he was slimy.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Greginak
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        He was 20 years too early with “feminazi.” If 90s feminists are “feminazis,” then where do you go from there when you need a word to capture the nuclear-grade hatefulness and toxicity of 2010s Twitter feminism?

        Edit: Sorry about tripping the moderation filter. I had forgotten that that was one of the no-no words.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Brandon Berg
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          This was one of the retrospective complaints about Romney Presidential run.

          A solid left columnist remarked that he wanted to call Trump something a lot worse, but he couldn’t think of anything that he hadn’t already used against Romney.

          You really should leave room on your scale of evil for the people who leave large numbers of dead bodies.Report

    • Avatar Michael Siegel in reply to Philip H
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      Agree with this. Listened to him a lot in the 90s. But after 9/11, he gradually went downhill.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Philip H
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      says:

      The first political book I bought was Rush Limbaugh is Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations. I was only a teenager back then but could tell he was cruel and mean-spirited. Rich Lowry is trying to defend him as being “really funny” and also that he was “kind and generous.”

      https://twitter.com/RichLowry/status/1362122764153405440?s=20

      Ira Glass said in 2008 that Rush was an amazing entertainer but all this raises a lot of questions.

      Why was Rush considered funny? His “humor” is well documented in this thread. I don’t find it very funny, it seems to me that if you find it funny, it reveals something not great about your character. Why do we need to describe him as a great entertainer in neutralish terms without stating his cruelty diminished his entertainment value. Ira Glass is not a conservative but he is also not part of the groups that were generally targeted by Rush. I would suggest this feeling of not being attacked allowed him to be a bit more generous in Rush grading.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Saul Degraw
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        I really don’t find this a mystery. After all, sociopaths exist. There are people who positively delight in suffering. It’s not new information, and yet we act surprised when we encounter a terrible person.

        Limbaugh was a terrible person who delighted in suffering. He attracted a large fanbase who, evidently, did likewise. It’s awful, but it’s true.

        Honestly, if someone found Limbaugh funny, they’re probably a bit of a shit person. I don’t know. I’ve encountered a number of jokes of the “I shouldn’t laugh, but that’s funny” variety. They were, however, never about people who died from AIDS. Moreover, they seldom came from someone as relentlessly cruel as Limbaugh. He loved few things more than others’ suffering.

        Contrapoints’ The Darkness is probably relevant to this context. It is often relevant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtj7LDYaufM&t=1534s

        Funny story, as a teen I worked at a service station. One day some dude came in and said, “Hey, wanna hear a joke?”

        I said yeah, sure.

        He proceeded to tell an appalling AIDS joke. I laughed, not because I found it funny, but mostly to humor him because I didn’t want to deal with him more than I had to.

        Next he said, “Hey, here’s another one.” He began the joke, but then stopped and said, “Oh wait, you’re not Irish are you?” Evidently it was a joke about the Irish.

        I just gave him a blank look and said, “No, but how do you know I’m not gay?”

        He boggled. It was funny.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Why was Rush considered funny?

        For the same reason Blackface was considered funny.

        I’m sure history is littered with other examples.Report

        • Avatar veronica d in reply to Dark Matter
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          A better question is why are people defending his humor now? It’s one thing to point out that racists found blackface funny. Sure, obviously they did. They were racists. They saw black people as less than fully human. However, few people today will defend that.

          Perhaps it has something to do with recency. The golden age of blackface is long gone. I doubt many are alive who really remember it. Note, I’m not saying blackface totally stopped before our lifetimes, just that is was a major cultural thing in the 30s and 40s, not the 90s.

          A bigger factor, I think, is that Limbaugh’s loathsome attitudes are alive and well today. We can debate how much he created the modern conservative ecosystem, compared to how much he was just a focal point of an ongoing trend, but it remains true that many people today believe I am subhuman and would laugh at my death. Note, this has nothing to do with my personality or character. It’s not that they know me and have concluded I’m awful. It’s different. It’s just the fact I’m trans and literally nothing else. It’s hate. To defend Limbaugh means that the defender thinks hating LGBTQ folks is fine, that bigotry deserves a big chuckle.

          As I said, some people are just terrible.

          Right now on Twitter, many people on the left are mocking Texans because they elect right wing jackasses. I agree that Texas elects right wing jackasses. That is pretty clear. However, I’m not going to mock random Texans who are suffering from the cold. Sure, as I New Englander I can make some light jokes about how the south can’t handle snow — but this is different! People are dying. They’re suffering. Sure, some of those people are QAnon chuds. It’s hard for me to muster any sympathy for those specific people. Fuck them. They’re a menace. However, most Texans are not that.

          Needless to say, I find mocking Texans right now to be way out of line. It’s not funny. It’s gross.

          Anyway, mocking Texans is a bad look. The question is, how many on the left who have a Limbaugh-level of notoriety are doing this? Are they getting pushback? Are others on the left saying, “Good grief, cut it out. This isn’t funny”?

          The answer is, yes, many on the left are pointing out that mocking Texans is out of line. Cut it out. They’re people in need. They deserve help.

          (Note, it’s fine to mock the dipshit politicians, but that’s always okay.)

          It’s particularly unfunny to make these jokes in public, in front of a wide audience, which will inevitably include some Texans and their families. “Ha ha! You’re loved ones are suffering!”

          Suggestion: don’t do that.

          My point about Limbaugh is this: will the right ever step up and say, “This was bad actually”?

          *checks notes about Trumpism*

          I don’t think they will, not in a way that matters. The cruelty is the point. Limbaugh proved that and the right keeps proving it.Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to veronica d
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            It’s one thing to point out that racists found blackface funny.

            Do you need to be a racist to find blackface funny? Are those characters funny without the racism?

            Think of Elmer Fudd (adversary of Bugs Bunny). A black Elmer Fudd (adversary of Bugs Bunny) is racist as the embodiment of a lot of the negative blackface stereotypes (Warner did this once), but Fudd survived as a white character.

            Similarly, do you have to be anti-Polish to like Polish jokes? Anti-blond to like blond jokes? Anti-rich to like 1% jokes?

            It is very tempting to symbolize and caricature groups. Some don’t mean it in a mean way although very much granted, some do.

            will the right ever step up and say, “This was bad actually”?

            We’re a decade or three away from that happening but I expect it will. The gay community is gaining a lot of ground social acceptance-wise at an amazing speed as these things go.

            The people who are seriously opposed will die off and not be replaced.Report

  6. Avatar InMD
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    I struggle to see his legacy as producing anything positive, and it’s an important reminder that the politicization of everything is not only an illiberal left phenomenon. Politics will never give us grace but he made a career and a hell of a lot of money convincing many people that it might.Report

  7. Avatar Michael Siegel
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    “Almost everything we know and think of today as political media has roots in what Rush Limbaugh did.”

    If you liked the Daily Show or the Colbert Report or Maddow or any of the dozen late night hosts who have popped up in the last decade, they are following his footsteps. All the gimmicks — using your opponents speech to make them look silly, verbal fisking of speeches, etc. That all started with him. For good or ill.Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to Michael Siegel
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      The replacement of laughter with clapter.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Siegel
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      Hard dissent. Rachel Maddow is partisan, she can be sarcastic, but her show does not have any performative cruelty or shock jock aspects. She does try to inform from her point of view. Partisanship exists, no one is denying that but not all partisan presentations are just like Rush Limbaugh.Report

      • Avatar Andrew Donaldson in reply to Saul Degraw
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        I would agree with Saul with a distinction with Maddow, who I don’t watch regularly or particularly agree with much FWIW, she has also become one of the best presidential debate moderators, showing her abilities beyond just a show format and the good sense of when to dial it down and do the journalism side of the job.Report

  8. Avatar North
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    Rush Limbaugh had an “AIDS Update” segment on his show in the 80’s where he’d read the names of people who died of HIV/AIDS ; play a celebratory laugh track behind it and played Dionne Warwicks “I’ll Never Love that Way Again” to conclude.
    I don’t normally wish someone dead but this is an obituary notice I will read with a certain satisfaction.Report

  9. Avatar LTL FTC
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    says:

    Now everybody gets to write their take on how brave they are to break the taboo on speaking ill of the recently deceased.Report

    • Avatar Slade the Leveller in reply to LTL FTC
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      says:

      Marc Maron says it best:

      “No one sh*t on the dead he didn’t like more than Rush. Always. He would be honored to be treated in kind. Quit crying.” (Asterisk added to avoid the OT censors.)Report

  10. Avatar Pinky
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    Limbaugh was a reaction to the decaying press. In retrospect, he was a way station on the road to the internet, but he wasn’t inevitable. He perceived a gap in the market, and turned out to be very good at filling it. He wasn’t perfect, and I don’t think he had a niche after the internet was born, but he was very good at an interesting time in our history.

    This is a limited comparison, but in terms of a contemporary comparison, I think Jordan Peterson is another guy who performed a valuable role that he wasn’t perfect for. Both had intellectual and stylistic appeal and both elevated the conversation. Viewing Limbaugh historically, I think he fit between George Carlin and Jon Stewart. I’m not a fan of “clown nose on, clown nose off”, but it brings in viewers.Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to Pinky
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      He perceived a gap in the market, and turned out to be very good at filling it.

      On this you and I AGREE.

      Viewing Limbaugh historically, I think he fit between George Carlin and Jon Stewart.

      And this is a swing and a miss. Carlin held himself out as serious comedy tinged with social commentary (as most good comedy is). Stewart is a satirist. Limbaugh attempted to remain the arbiter of what is and isn’t conservative “thought” in America. His millions of listeners took him both literally and seriously.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Philip H
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        From my perspective, where I sat, Rush had his heyday against Bill Clinton and, depending on your opinions of impeachment, scored either a huge win or a giant nothingburger against him.

        Dubya stole the election, then 9/11 happened, and then *POOF*. Limbaugh entirely disappeared from my radar. Nobody talked about him. Nobody recommended him. Nothing.

        In 2006, after the Republicans experienced a Blue Wave, many articles like this one floated across my timeline:

        Check out the top of the third hour monologue from today’s show. Here’s Rush at approximately 1:14 p.m. Central time today:

        The way I feel is this: I feel liberated, and I’m going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don’t think deserve having their water carried. Now, you might say, “Well, why have you been doing it?” Because the stakes are high! Even though the Republican Party let us down, to me they represent a far better future for my beliefs and therefore the country’s than the Democrat [sic] Party does and liberalism.

        “No wonder I hadn’t heard anything about him”, I thought.
        Then he disappeared again.
        Then he surfaced long enough for one of his songs about Obama to hit the zeitgeist…
        And then Trump gave him a medal.
        And then now he’s dead.

        I assume that I won’t hear about him after this week but, hey, they pulled Cromwell out to beat him up at least once more. Maybe that’ll happen again over the next few months.Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to Jaybird
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          This is also how I experienced him (my grandmother is/was a huge fan). You raise an interesting point about the Clinton impeachment I never pondered before. Maybe 100 years from now that will be looked at as a watershed moment of media control over politics as opposed to political control over media.Report

  11. Avatar Chip Daniels
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    I credit Limbaugh, along with others like Gingrich for converting me from a Reagan Republican to a Obama Democrat.Report

  12. Avatar Damon
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    says:

    As Phillip said up thread, I listened to Rush back in the 80s. He was funny. I particularly loved his “environmental update”. I seem to recall it had the sound of chain saws. This may have been during the spotted owl debate. I can’t remember when I last listened to him but it seems forever. I always enjoy someone poking a stick at inflated egos–politicians and a lot on the left seem to have them. I’m sure there are those on the right that need it to, but back in the 80s, as now, the media was left of center and it was nice to hear a different set of opinions.Report

  13. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    To the extent that Rush created/cultivated something, he certainly will not be creating it or cultivating it anymore.

    To the extent that he tapped into something, it’s still there.

    I’ve seen a lot of people express some sort of cheerfulness that the guy died at 70 at home in his bed.

    People who used to brag about not believing in superstition making jokes about the afterlife.

    Ding dong. Ding Dong.Report

  14. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    As Mark Twain said of Jay Gould, I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.Report

  15. Avatar Rufus F.
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    says:

    I can’t say much about Rush Limbaugh. He had a television program for a short time and I watched that once while flipping channels. It was, interestingly enough, when Kurt Cobain had died and he was doing schtick about that to studio audience laffs. I didn’t particularly want to join the conservative revolution he was touting at the end.

    Besides, that had already happened. I’ve been reading weird takes that Limbaugh came and liberated the Republicans who were exiled from American cultural life, but his show was first syndicated in 1988 and Reagan had already done much more for the Republicans than Limbaugh ever would. In retrospect, he seems more like the hangover after the party.

    But, when he started, he was unique and now everyone in right wing radio sounds like him, so he was influential, for what that’s worth.Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to Rufus F.
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      Andrew Sullivan’s take which I think
      is about right was ‘Few did so much to popularize conservative values; and few did more, in the end, to discredit them.’

      I also think it’s interesting that his flavor doesn’t quite work on TV and his forays from political television to the NFL were all failures. He certainly inspired conservative TV ‘news and opinion’ but the best it seems able to do is a caricature. I don’t think any of his protégés have had the singular influence.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to InMD
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        He had a job on one of the NFL pregame shows very briefly. On his (I think) first appearance, he dropped the bomb that Donovan McNabb was overrated because the liberal establishment wanted there to be a great black quarterback. He got what I presume he wanted: the other hosts objected, but their arguments were off the cuff while he’d prepared his, so he won the debate. He agreed to resign not long afterward, and then went on about how intolerant liberals were.Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to Mike Schilling
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          says:

          Yes, I recall the incident and remember thinking how bizarre it was at the time to have him doing nationally televised sports commentary. Like, who ever thought this was a good idea?

          I had never considered that maybe he intended the outcome to help his brand. Still it illustrates the limits of what he did successfully on radio which was create the illusion of a one on one conversation with the listener. It doesn’t work as well when on tv and certainly not when the environment isn’t carefully constructed for him to be obviously right about everything.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to InMD
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        says:

        Yeah, I think that’s right. It’s hard to see someone like Ben Shapiro reaching his level of influence, and conversely, without Limbaugh, it’s easy to imagine some of those folks just being standard top 40 DJs today.

        One of the weirder things I seem to remember when they were trying to expand Limbaugh’s brand was an appearance on a sitcom in which he played himself as the romantic interest of a stereotypically liberal character. I swear I’m not imagining this episode and it was as strained as you can imagine with someone who was not an actor particularly, nor a romantic lead.Report

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