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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
I HAVE taken the Limbaugh Challenge, dumbass 
Sunday, March 29th, 2009 | 12:40 pm [commentary, politics]
There’s an editorial in today’s Los Angeles Times by Andrew Klavan, headlined “Take the Limbaugh Challenge.” In it, Klavan writes, “If you are reading this newspaper, the likelihood is that you agree with the Obama administration’s recent attacks on conservative radio talker Rush Limbaugh. That’s the likelihood; here’s the certainty: You’ve never listened to Rush Limbaugh.”

He goes on:


Whenever I interrupt a liberal’s anti-Limbaugh rant to point out that the ranter has never actually listened to the man, he always says the same thing: “I’ve heard him!”


On further questioning, it always turns out that by “heard him,” he means he’s heard the selected excerpts spoon-fed him by the distortion-mongers of the mainstream media. These excerpts are specifically designed to accomplish one thing: to make sure you never actually listen to Limbaugh’s show, never actually give him a fair chance to speak his piece to you directly.


Klavan’s insight here is right on par with that of astrologers and tarot card readers. It’s also a very popular, very comforting notion clutched tight by pundits all across the right wing of the political spectrum, from Mark Levin to the increasingly insufferable Dennis Miller. It’s a crutch on which Miller’s political piece of mind leans particularly hard. He calls it animus in absentia, and cites it to explain away critics of Ann Coulter and Fox News Channel.


It’s easy to see why this is such a popular notion. It’s reassuring to believe that the only reason people disagree with you is that they just haven’t heard you yet. If they only gave you a chance, only took the time to really understand, they’d have no choice but to surrender to your self-evident wisdom — or that of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, name your own right-wing talking head. Andrew Klavan’s faith in this heartening little bit of self-bullshit is so strong that he doesn’t even allow for the possibility of the contrary. Writing about the readers of his own newspaper, who subsidize his income, he says,


You’re not a moderate or you wouldn’t be reading this newspaper. You’re not tolerant of a wide range of views; you are tolerant of a narrow spectrum of variations on your views. And, whatever you claim, you still haven’t listened to Rush Limbaugh.


Jesus, no wonder newspapers are in fucking freefall. But at least Klavan still thinks enough of his audience of “yellow-bellied, lily-livered intellectual cowards” to issue them the following challenge:


Listen to the [Rush Limbaugh] show. Not for five minutes but for several hours: an hour a day for several days. Consider what he has to say — the real policy material under the jokes and teasing bluster. Do what your intellectual keepers do not want you to do and keep an open mind.


Quite the dare from Mr. Klavan. The one problem I detect is this: I’ve been taking the Limbaugh Challenge for fifteen years. I started listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio in 1992, when I was twelve years old. By eighth grade I had read both his books, The Way Things Ought to Be and See, I Told You So. When his television show was on the air, I rarely missed an episode. During the summer when I wasn’t in school, and over vacations and sick-days, I routinely listened to all three hours of his radio show. I was familiar with Rush Limbaugh and the “real policy material” beneath his “jokes and teasing bluster” before there even was such a thing as Media Matters or ThinkProgress to spoon-feed me distorting excerpts. Remember back during Clinton’s first term, when Rush started wearing a lapel ribbon made out of a rolled-up dollar bill, both to mock the practice of wearing AIDS and breast cancer awareness ribbons and to allow the dittoheads in his audience to more easily identify each other in public, like conservative gay-dar? I wore one of those to school for months. I wrote an article for the teen page of the Herald-Mail and was photographed wearing the goddamn thing.


I don’t disagree with Rush Limbaugh because I’ve never really heard him. I don’t oppose his politics because I just haven’t taken the time to understand them. I’ve heard him plenty. I understand him perfectly. That’s why I oppose him. It wasn’t always this way. It took a few years. I had some growing up to do. The more I opened myself up to a wider range of views — and not merely a narrow variation of my own views, as Andrew Klavan writes, perfectly describing the phony broad-mindedness of which many conservatives are guilty, it seems to me — the less what I was hearing from Limbaugh made sense. Once I had read Voltaire, Carl Sagan, Thomas Paine, the wisdom of Rush Limbaugh looked trivial at best. Once I had read and heard from Mark Twain, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, the humor of Rush Limbaugh hardly seemed to exist at all. I have no intellectual keepers. No one has shaped my opinion on Rush Limbaugh other than Rush Limbaugh. The more I heard him as an adult rather than an adolescent, the more I came to see him not as insightful, funny and wise, but as tiresome, clownish, self-serving, and oh, just the tiniest bit hypocritical.


Take a moment to consider how arrogant this is, presuming that the only reason anyone would argue with Rush Limbaugh or take offense with anything he’s ever said is because they just haven’t given him a chance. Limbaugh is many things, but a serious thinker he absolutely ain’t. Think of the intellectual giants of conservatism — Thomas Hobbes, Edmund Burke, John Locke, Adam Smith, all brilliant men. Writers and philosophers have been debating and arguing about their ideas for centuries. Am I really supposed to believe that an informed disagreement with Rush Limbaugh is impossible? That’s arrogance exacerbated by insanity.


Check out Klavan’s big finish:


The mainstream media (a.k.a. the Matrix) don’t want you to listen to Limbaugh because they’re afraid he’ll wake you up and set you free of their worldview. You don’t want to listen to him because you’re afraid of the same thing.


Don’t believe me? Well, then, gird your loins. Gather your courage. Accept the Limbaugh Challenge. See what happens.

I dare you.


I accepted the Limbaugh Challenge before there was such a thing. Listening to Limbaugh doesn’t take courage; it takes patience, and tolerance. I don’t listen to him much these days. I tune him in every couple weeks, usually just for a few minutes at a time before switching back to Dennis Miller, or Fred Thompson’s new show, or NPR if I’m not feeling masochistic that day. I rarely listen to Limbaugh not because I’m afraid of him, but because I’m bored by him. He rarely has guests — and almost never a guest who disagrees with him — and he regularly goes long stretches without even taking a call from his worshipful audience. It’s just a series of unbroken, repetitive diatribes. If I’m going to listen to conservative radio, I’d rather give my attention to someone like Hannity, whose politics I find just as ridiculous and repugnant as Limbaugh’s, but who at least makes an effort to appear open to dissent.


So there ya go, Andrew. I took the Limbaugh Challenge. Now I can barely bring myself to listen to him at all. That’s what happened. You’re right about one thing, though. He woke me up. I owe him that much, though I guess that’s not something he’d want the credit for.

Sunday, March 29th, 2009 | 10:29 pm (UTC)
But, your seasoned Steve, and there are so many who are not.

Take me for instance, I've never really listened to limbaugh..or any one else on the radio for that matter.

So, there are those impressionable folk out there who haven't gave one side or the other a chance. There are pleanty of people who almost by accident, read or listen to opionions, and they don't always take the time to hear the other side. We know we should take the time to hear an opposing view, but, many of us do not. That was Klavan's beef.

I didn't hear what Rush said about hoping Obama would fail, but I did read about the responses. I wondered what the big deal was. So, he wants Obama to fail. ok. My guess is that Rush (not ever listening to him) wants Obama's ideas to fail..not necessarily Obama the person or the nation to fail. I know enough to get that he opposes what he believes Obama intends, (he's republican, Obama's a democrat) so why is his wanting Obama's failure surprising or a big deal?

But, there are those who listen to Rush or whoever and don't understand that opposing views have kept us in check since the beginning.

When someone reminds us to check the opposing view, to give it thought, they do us a great service.
Monday, March 30th, 2009 | 01:56 pm (UTC)
I agree with you that we ought to seek out opposing views, and by encouraging people to do that, Klavan did a good thing. But that's not all he was saying in that piece. He wrote as though all you had to do was listen to Limbaugh and your acceptance of his greatness and wisdom would be foregone conclusions, as though the only people who criticize Rush are those who haven't really heard him. And that's horseshit.

As for Limbaugh and others rooting for Obama to fail, I don't think it's as big of a deal as others have made it, simply because it is nothing new. Limbaugh, Hannity, etc. have always done their best to encourage strident partisanship in their audiences, referring to Democrats and liberals as enemies to be defeated.

But whether Rush says he wants Obama himself to fail, or merely his policies, the result is the same. Here's what he never mentions: Obama's the guy in charge now, and like it or not, he and his allies in Congress are going to deal with our economic crisis in their own way. If they fail, the chaos and suffering brought about by the recession continues. Rush claims he doesn't want socialism, etc., but what he's really telling me is this: He only wants America to prosper on his terms. Surely, it makes sense for him to oppose much of what Obama proposes; he's a conservative Republican. However, by not merely disagreeing with Obama, but publicly rooting for him to fail, Rush is saying that he puts his ideology ahead of his country.

But that doesn't surprise me. Like I said, I've been listening to him for years.
Monday, March 30th, 2009 | 05:16 am (UTC)
Man, I LOVE to listen to that guy! Like that old saying "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" I listen to Limbaugh, watch Hannity and OReilly, I even saw the crazy ass Glenn Beck patriotism-as-religion cult rally.

You gotta know what you're up against.
Monday, March 30th, 2009 | 01:10 pm (UTC)
Oh, dude, I agree totally. That's why I listen to Hannity and Mark Levin almost every day. I used to listen to G. Gordon Liddy, too, when he was on in Hagerstown. I just find Limbaugh difficult to take anymore. Like I said, though, I try to listen to him every now and then, just to see what he's going on about.

I used to listen to Glenn Beck. Know how it took me a few years to sour on Rush? It took me a few minutes to reach that point with Glenn Beck. But I still might check out the YouTube video of his "We Surround Them" special, just because it sounds hilarious.
Monday, March 30th, 2009 | 07:30 pm (UTC) - Can you be explicit?
Steve, I think you missed the point Klavan was making. Many of us who have listened to Rush Limbaugh have "informed disagreements" with him. I, for example, think we have to decriminalize drug use. The devil is in the details, but that's one of the areas where Rush and I part company. However, Klavan's problem was with people who can't be specific when they say they disagree with Rush, primarily because they've never heard him, or if they did listen to Limbaugh's show, they weren't paying careful attention. If you can be specific with your disagreements, more power to you! However, your opinion piece failed to do that, other than highlighting the dollar-bill-ribbon item, which was just Rush ridiculing those who embrace symbolism over actually doing something substantive about a problem. I'm sure you can be more specific. Go for it!
Monday, March 30th, 2009 | 09:52 pm (UTC) - Re: Can you be explicit?
If I listed every specific disagreement I have with Rush Limbaugh, I'd be here all day. But here are a few of the big ones:

Rush supported the war in Iraq, which he saw as an essential part of the larger War on Terror. I didn't.

Rush supports school vouchers, which he often refers to under the vague umbreller term of "school choice." I don't.

Rush is a tireless opponent and ridiculer of the environmental movement. He, along with Hannity and Levin and pretty much every other conservative radio personality in the country, claims that there is not scientific evidence to support global warming, when the overwhelming majority of the world's scientists say there is. He has also long opposed government regulations designed to protect and preserve the natural environment, and clean up the messes humanity has made over the centuries. I'm all for that.

Rush supported George W. Bush's so-called faith-based initiatives. I don't.

There are many more, but as I said in my original piece, my disagreements with Rush's opinions aren't the biggest reason I find him so difficult to take. It's mostly Rush himself, his style, and the format of his show. I have just as many philosophical disagreements with Hannity, but find his show much easier to listen to because he at least puts forward a modicum of effort to put on callers and even occasional guests with views other than his own. For Klavan, or anyone, to put Rush Limbaugh out in front as the guy to turn liberals on to conservatism seems ridiculous and stupid to me. In my case, the exact opposite happened.
Tuesday, March 31st, 2009 | 05:18 am (UTC) - Re: Can you be explicit?
I sometimes have a problem with the way Rush addresses the global warming issue, as well. He sometimes does a "drive-by" hit on the issue and fails to be explicit. It's understandable that you, and others, aren't willing to invest 15 hours each week to fully understand where Rush is coming from. I wouldn't say I agree with Rush completely on this issue, as well.

Suffice to say that Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is likely a fact, given scientific consensus, as is global warming in general. What is clearly guesswork is how much we are contributing to warming. The net effect of the things we do is impossible to measure. We simply can't know all of the variables and their relative effect on climate change. We don't know what we don't know. Change is the only constant in an exceedingly complex equation, and the notion that today's climate is better than tomorrow's depends a lot on where you happen to be standing.

Plus, even the UN folks admit that anything we are willing to do to slow climate change will have very little net impact. About the only thing we can do, even if we "invest" considerable resources in all counter-measures (at least we think they're counter-measures), is slow the inevitable. No one believes we'll stop using fossil fuels without a suitable replacement, and no such replacement is on the horizon. Only a complete cessation of all CO2 emissions would have a significant impact. What chance is there of that happening?

I would be more sympathetic with your critique of Rush's ridicule of the environmental movement if it embraced some form of energy production, but everything from nuclear to wind has been met with some form of "green" resistance.

So then the question Limbaugh, Lomborg and others put to us is, is there a better way to use the resources we would waste fighting global warming? We know the good those resources can do for people today, if spent wisely. Should we not consider that certainty given the iffy nature of computer modeling of a system as complex as global climate? If you listen to Rush enough, you know that's what he's saying, but you might not get that message if you tune in now and then because you're not fond of his style.

I, along with other conservatives I know, get out and actually pick up trash and do other things to make a real difference in the environment. Meanwhile, Al Gore couldn't even be bothered with taking a symbolic stand for his cause by turning off lights during the so-called "Earth Hour" WWF event.

I could address some of the other policy issues you mentioned (my teacher wife and I support vouchers...with strings attached), but again, you're not the guy Klavan was aiming at with his critique of Limbaugh's pointless critics -- folks who haven't a clue what Rush is all about because they never listen.

Or are you? You're admitting now that you don't like Rush's style. That makes clear you're not tuning in regularly to get the whole message. The Rush we hear today is very different from the one I first heard here in Sacramento, so your faithful listening when you were younger may not count.

The truth is, I don't always care for Rush's style. If I didn't have a soft spot for the big guy, partly because I got to know him here where I live, I'd probably not be as forgiving of some of his excesses. But I don't listen to him for his style; I listen for content, i.e., symbolism versus substance.

And my wife can't stand much of Levin's style, though she loves his conservatism.

Regardless, Rush's and Levin's stalwart defense of conservatism (read "freedom") is virtuous enough to excuse their human failings -- shortcomings that inflict us all. I hope you'll take time to read Levin's new book. I consider it a must-read.

Bottom line: I can find a lot to dislike about conservatives and people in general, but conservatism will always be my philosophical home. God bless!
Tuesday, March 31st, 2009 | 01:32 pm (UTC) - Re: Can you be explicit?
Thanks for taking the time to write all that! There's one part of your response I want to touch on, just to clarify my position:

I would be more sympathetic with your critique of Rush's ridicule of the environmental movement if it embraced some form of energy production, but everything from nuclear to wind has been met with some form of "green" resistance.

Understandable. That irritates me about the environmental movement, too. Often it seems like it's all problems, no solutions. So, I should make clear that I am all for wind power, solar power, and transitioning from petroleum to natural gas in the meantime. I'm not a supporter of nuclear, only because I'm concerned about waste disposal. But I say build those wind turbines, already! We need energy from somewhere, and wind and solar power will be infinitely cleaner and, in the long run, far cheaper (and more profitable, for those who invest in it) than mining and burning fossil fuels — and they're inexhaustable.

So there. Just wanted to make clear that I'm not the kind of "No, no, no" environmentalist that you were talking about, which gets on both our nerves, it seems. I agree with you about Al Gore, too. He justifies his conspicuous power usage by saying he purchases carbon offsets, but that still sounds like an excuse to me, not to mention a huge racket for whoever's selling those things to him.
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