Monday, March 24, 2008

Can't We All Just Get Along?

I was listening to Rush Limbaugh today between errands (Work Friend, New Reader and Fellow Wonk The Swedish Pirate Captain is probably rolling his eyeballs onto the floor all "ENOUGH with the Rush, Jos, holy crap.") and I wound up thinking, as I so often do, about how damn disappointed I am with him and those like him.

Let's have it said...Rush himself is an obnoxious blowhard who purposely avoids engaging with sane liberals and at this point in his career can't escape the crushing weight of his own ego.

That being said, I came out of the Post Office today, and he was saying that the reason America and Americans are great is that people here care - deeply and for their entire lives - not just about the present day state of the union, but about how things will be in the future, and thus stay engaged and concerned with politics. That is 100% true...that is one of the greatest things about this country and its people, and while (as even Rush said) it's likely not a trait exclusive to Americans, it's a defining one, and essential to our entire political theory.

PRE Post Office, he'd been talking about how James Carville had called Bill Richardson "Judas" and explained that this meant that Carville thus thought Bill Clinton (never mind that Carville was referring to Richardson having betrayed Hillary) was Jesus. Apparently Rush has never heard of hyperbole.

And that's what irritates the shit out of me, quite honestly. Rush Limbaugh is a fucking smart guy. He's created a towering career for himself built exclusively on vitriol and spin, and to do it so long, and so successfully, is really remarkable. The problem arises when people forget that's what they're listening to and accept what he's saying as the gospel truth. Take the above piece of retardery...first of all, I have a deep and abiding love for James Carville. The man is brilliant and might be the solution to the Wussy Liberal Syndrome. That being said, I also acknowledge (and somehow also cherish) that he is absolutely batshit crazy and just LOVES serving up that Cajun Word Salad of his. Second of all, to pretend that Carville's use of "Judas" to describe Richardson (for those not paying attention, Richardson, much of whose political success came from Bill Clinton, announced publicly that he was backing Obama instead of Hillary, thus the Judas) comes complete with the belief that Clinton is Jesus is utterly absurd, and ignores not only hyperbole as mentioned above, but also the massive influence of the Bible on the way we speak and write. When Carville called Richardson Judas, people everywhere knew what he meant - Richardson had stabbed the Clinton Camp in the back. For flunkers of English classes, we use Bible references (amongst references from many other famous books and stories) as a shorthand. Like I said, Limbaugh's no dummy - there's no way he somehow missed learning about this shit.

My main complaint with Limbaugh is that he only takes shots at the complete nutcases. Again, not dumb, so he may start by mentioning a more sane liberal writer, but before you know it, he's swerved into talking about the "far left blogs"...dude? I think those writers are douchebags. It's established fact that there are some crazy-ass people out there, and since the Internet is the new Utopia, they can all spew their crap all over the joint. In my very own beloved hometown of Worcester, some dipshits recently got seriously upset that there were plans to mess with a small square in front of the Brand Shiny New Hanover Theatre. Why, you may ask? Well, you see...the homeless people sleep in that square, and the new plans would disrupt their sleep. There is no discussion here, people...the discussion is: "these people are crazy, small in number, and do not involve logic." That's the level of discourse that Rush points to as indicative of the feelings of the entire left. I just do not belong in a bucket with the people who think that cultural development should accommodate the homeless instead of, you know, help them. No thank you. And moreover, come on, Rush! You KNOW that liberal does not automatically mean crazy, just like conservative doesn't automatically mean douchebag.

I know why Rush does it. If he spends his days engaging in serious discussion with folks like, oh, I don't know...say, a 18-25 year old blue state female who is socially liberal but financially conservative and thinks green energy is the way to go just so we don't have to breathe smog in LA, people might realize that there's more to liberalism, more to being a Democrat, more to being on the lefthand side of the aisle than being a crazy weirdo in a bunker, he'll be out of a job. Rush's job depends on an adversary, and his is The Left. The best adversary is the most frightening sounding one, so he gathers up the nuttiest offerings from the Internet (a place where one can freely find animated porn featuring demon octopi, lest we forget...oh, Japan.), the most deranged ranting of lame-ass Congresspeople and Senators who most thinking liberals think are dipshits anyway, and presents it all as representative of the whole. Brilliant, really...and clearly it works, considering his unbelievable ratings and listenership. Listen, from what he tells me (constantly) (forever) (until he's blue in the face), Rush has a lot of expensive shit, so he needs to keep his job to fund that lifestyle.

The problem arises in said listenership. I don't know if you've noticed this, but many people with access to radios, TV and voting booths are kind of stupid. Even if they aren't stupid, it's rare to find a voter who does their homework before they vote. I've talked about this before, so I won't get too into it, but we're stuck in a rut dug by two issues - one, the media has grown monstrous, bombarding us equally with Britney Spears and Mideast Peace Conferences, all in the tiniest of sound bites that could not POSSIBLY explore the depth and myriad views of any issue. It skews our understanding of importance (Britney vs. Hamas), and gives us the illusion of having received the story ("It's on the evening news!") when in reality we have only the title sentence of what's often a complex and various issue. Secondly, back in that whole period of figuring out what the hell we were going to do with the newfound independence we'd gotten from England, a "large, commercial republic" was formed. That guaranteed we'd always care more about making money than voting. Today, in conjunction with the decay of the media, it also means that we care more about being at work on time and over time than researching to the best of our ability the candidates and issues in front of us. There's just no time...we have mortgages and gas bills and phone bills and groceries to buy and then it's Christmas or someone's fund our lives and subsist with only the barest of support from the government (for instance, in the case of health care), we must stay at work through polling hours, and through the evening news.

So when Rush replaces actual research and actual reporting, and presents it all in his bombastic, entertaining style, why wouldn't a certain type of less politically aware person rely on his rhetoric instead of taking time off from their life to probe more deeply into these often convoluted and confusing areas? The worst of this is not just that Rush KNOWS what he's doing, but that it is all so polarizing. I'm sure we've all had the experience of arguing with someone whose views are the direct opposite of our own but don't really know why they hold those views. It's infuriating and useless, leaving you with nothing to do but walk away (usually with anger on one or both sides of the table) or devolve your argument to their dippy level. Can't we do better than this? Seriously. It seems that modern political life has been wholly consumed by this polarized, middle-ground-denying, bickering, and this is why nothing gets resolved or accomplished. That is lame. It's lame and it's just not right. I don't know what else we can do but insist on maintaining a high level of discourse in our personal lives, and to do the political homework we should do to make informed choices. The answer is absolutely NOT to kick Rush and his ilk off the air (Fairness Doctrine = horseshit), because to do that is to allow the dissolution of our First Amendment rights, which fucks us all.

I guess the answer is to do the best we can, and demand the same of others.

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