In the coming weeks, we will no doubt hear the right-wing machine peal with raucous outrage about the ‘left celebrating the death of a man’ thereby affirming their cold, heartless nature. They will squeal in self-righteous fury about how their opponents ‘desecrate’ the memory and passing of a man just because he was a staunch and faithful advocate for conservative ‘values’.
And the entirety of that irony will be completely lost on them.
Now I could go ahead and post and link to all the times people on the right have done their own grave-dancing over the deaths of those on the left. I could easily illustrate their rank hypocrisy, but this is not a pissing contest. This is instead about the reasons we do not always speak kindly of the dead. There once was a time when we did go out of our way to honor even our enemies at their passing. That was because despite our disagreements, those enemies had the same thing we did: integrity. They earnestly believed in their cause. They wanted, ultimately, the same things we all wanted; to further civilization and improve the general welfare of all our countrymen. This was very often, even if not always, true of those who disagreed with us on just how to make the world a better place. Then, a few decades ago, something happened. It had been in the making for nearly a century, it was the twinkle in the eyes of Roger Ailes, it was the deepest desire of the wealthy elites; to break the back of the American working class.
Without getting into too much detail here, it boils down to one thing; profits. Corporations have exactly one priority that supersedes all else; to turn a profit every quarter. For decades, a strong working class has been the greatest obstacle to the guarantee of those profits because it meant that people had the power to push for higher wages, worker protections, and other regulations that protected individuals and communities. What the corporations needed was to convince the working class that they didn’t need those things. They needed to convince people, by the millions, that regulations, higher wages, and unions were bad for the workers rather than the corporate bottom line, and that the corporate bottom line was ultimately better for the workers… rather than the CEOs and stockholders. They needed a champion who would do the convincing necessary to get enough of the working class opposed to their own well-being to just the extent necessary that they would actively fight for the interests of the corporations.
In Rush Hudson Limbaugh III, they found that champion.
He was brilliant. He played expertly on the fears, the anger, and the pride of regular, salt of the earth, working people.
It’s hard not to look down on the people who believed the lies. Not all of them are stupid. Even my father, a bona-fide rocket scientist, fell for the cascade of canards Rush deluged his listeners with. We have to give them a little sympathy, because we’re talking about people who’ve been ground down by the very corporations already screwing them. They were already so overwhelmed, having their productivity turned into corporate profits rather than the things they needed. They were so busy just trying to keep their heads above water. They did not possess the tools or time to ascertain reality. So when Rush told them ‘it wasn’t their fault’, they believed him because it was true. When he told them they needed to fix the situation, they believed him because it was true. When he told them that the solution was to set the corporations free and blame poor people and minorities, it was a lie… but they believed him because he was telling them the things they wanted to hear. They were victims, but once given their directives to stand in the way of every effort to hold corporations responsible, they became corporate pawns and set us all back decades.
They bought the corporate propaganda that green energy would destroy the economy and jobs, and that there was no reason for it because human caused climate change was a ‘hoax’.
They were told to ridicule a woman who was trying to create consumer protections for the working class that would save working class people billions without costing them a cent.
They were told to reject universal health care as ‘socialism’, even though they’d save thousands per year and still be covered. They rejected it, and wound up with the ACA which contained corporate-friendly provisions they blamed on Obama. The mandate they hated was a direct result of standing up in favor of corporations.
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of both large and small examples of just how much damage Rush Limbaugh did to the working class by so skillfully lying to and manipulating them. The above are just a few. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Rush was dangerous to his listeners whether we extrapolate from that, or if we look at other things he told them that could, and quite possibly did, kill them: When he said that the ‘heat index’ was just a part of the global warming hoax how many people ignored the humidity, dressed for just the temperature, and went out and died of heat stroke because Rush told them the index was a hoax? When he played down COVID-19, how many people went on to contribute to the spread who otherwise might have taken it seriously? How many people DIED because someone in their circle of friends or family listened to Rush and refused to take precautions? We’ll never know for certain, but it’s a pretty safe bet to say ‘more than zero’.
No, I will not ‘dance on his grave’. That will do no good in the long run. Instead, let us not pretend he was a ‘good man’ or that he ‘believed in a cause’. Because we know from his career as well as hundreds of thousands of hours of radio that he was quite often aware he was lying. Let us talk about who and what he really was, the damage that he has done, the hatred he has stoked, and how we might one day help regular working-class people avoid falling for the lies of even such a very skilled manipulator as he.