The question about Rush Limbaugh is this: is he an idiot, an old idiot, an old-fashioned idiot, or a right-wing idiot?
I raise this possibly strange-seeming problem a full week after Mr Limbaugh, a US "shock jock" of some notoriety, decided it would be fun to call a student who argued in favour of free contraception a "slut" and a "prostitute" who had to be having "so much sex it's amazing she can still walk". He also suggested that she should post videos of her sexual adventures online for him and his cohorts to watch.
So that's Rush. It is to be hoped, if not expected, that his outburst and the resulting fury will have the massive upside of making him irrelevant. I don't like him much; nor, indeed, am I a big fan of the Republican Party's weird inability to fully disown his bilious, lecherous routine.
Sadly, we are obliged to contend with his chunterings. That's why I asked that question at the top. If we have to think about this guy, maybe it's best to think in terms of what he represents, so as not to get too close. In other words: is the idea that only sluts want free contraceptives the stupidity of an old man? Is it the stupidity of a bygone era? Is it the stupidity of the right wing? Or is it simply the stupidity of Rush Limbaugh?
The question is important because it helps those of us who find Limbaugh's bile offensive to figure out where to direct our distaste, and what to do about it. The easiest thing – for someone of my political persuasion, anyway – is obviously to tick all of the above.
But there are obviously plenty of people on the right who wouldn't dream of making such a pronouncement. And whereas Limbaugh and his ilk might like to suggest that we will all come round to his way of thinking in the fullness of time – that is, that his position is the inescapable result of hard-won wisdom, and those who disagree just haven't realised it yet – there are many others of about his age who consider him repellent. What Limbaugh's views are, mostly, is outdated; the spittle-flecked ranting of a man whose time has passed.
It is true that men like Limbaugh tend to be old. It's true they end up on the conservative side of the spectrum more often than they do elsewhere. But those are coincidences. Blame the Republican Party for letting him thrive, sure, but don't ascribe his view to the whole movement.
Instead, consider these cheering facts: because Limbaugh's views have nothing to do with him being old, we are not bound to generate more of his ilk. And because they have no more to do with the right wing than they do with the left, there is no need for his squalid sensibility to ever take hold again. Rush Limbaugh is an idiot, and an old-fashioned idiot. But he doesn't stand for anything else.
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