The Rush Limbaugh You Don’t in Fact Actually Know

A relative of his explains what it’s like to have him in the family. I’m no fan of the man, but I’m not really entirely surprised to discover he’s good to his family and on a day-to-day, non-performing basis may be a perfectly nice guy to know. And reading this person’s description of how everyone in the world responds to her last name (either positively or negatively) reminds me that one of the best things to do with anyone you meet is to judge them for themselves, not who they may happen to be related to.

67 Comments on “The Rush Limbaugh You Don’t in Fact Actually Know”

  1. I’m sure he’s a down to earth guy (and that’s just what the article says), but I’m not sure it excuses the divisiveness he creates between people. Considering the state we are in right now as a nation, I’m thinking we could use some unity.

    I’m sure that Lord Haw Haw and Tokyo Rose were nice people too, after they came home from a hard day of propagandizing.

  2. A comparison of Rush Limbaugh and Lord Haw Haw or Tokyo Rose is risible nonsense. There is a material and legal difference between what they did, and I don’t think equating Rush with those two does you any favors in making your argument for you; all it shows is that you can’t recognize the difference between the exercise of free speech and treason.

    I don’t like what Rush Limbaugh does with his microphone, but it doesn’t make me reach for the most inflammatory comparison possible, either. Please do better the next time around, Christian.

  3. This doesn’t surprise me; Rush is an entertainer above all and once you get him away from the microphone, I bet he his a different personality.

  4. Wow, I’m so sorry that she has had to deal with so many rude people who decided they knew her so completely based solely on her last name. Their behavior is utterly inexcusable. I have no dispute with her there.

    She did say something that I do wonder about. I understand the view that Rush Limbaugh is, in her words, ” a self-aware self-parody, the original Stephen Colbert.” Maybe that was clearer when he first started. Nowadays, the head of the Republican party apologizes to him, and people anoint him the de facto leader of all that is Republican. Perhaps the game has gone a little too far? I suppose this is really more of a symptom of how adrift the modern Republican party is…

    Still, one thing Stephen Colbert has done really well is make clear what is part of the persona and what is part of the flesh and blood being. I don’t think Rush has been nearly as successful in that respect.

  5. I, too, have long heard that Limbaugh adopted his stance and persona years ago after looking around and figuring what would sell. Never really sure how much of it to believe, although the Salon article makes it sound as if the politics led him to the persona rather than the other way around.

    Several years ago, Markie Post and John Ritter had a television show, Hearts Afire, in which Post played a liberal reporter (which, apparently, matches her own political leanings). Limbaugh appeared on the show, once, as himself and Post commented in interviews about how different Limbaugh-the-person was from Limbaugh-the-bombastic-radio-personality.

    That said, I think that what Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity, Coulter, and now Beck are doing in keeping this country divided is horrendous. Even worse, there are many actual politicians who are trying to do the same thing. (I’m sure there are similar people on the left, but I tend to avoid actually listening to political “pundits” or bloggers of any stripe since I find that they are usually “tale[s] told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.)

  6. The only far-left pundits I can think of in America would be Rachel Madow and Noam Chomsky, if Chomsky counts as a pundit. Doubtless there are some, but they don’t have the prominence of the ones on the right.

  7. Well, my immediate gut reaction was to break out the Worlds’ Smallest Violin for her, but then I read this passage:

    I mean, everyone has family members others don’t agree with. I’m sure you have a grandpa or uncle out there who complains about the “queers” and the people who speak “Mexican” ruining his neighborhood. I don’t like that, but I bet you’re OK.

    Ok, that’s true. Dear Lord, is it ever true. Point taken.

  8. Perhaps Fred Phelps is nice in person too. But if I were related to him, I’d disown him pretty fast no matter how nice he was in person.

    Where do we draw the line?

    I do have racist relatives, but the thing is, they don’t make a living at pushing racism. Part of Rush’s “schtick” is racism. He makes money off of it. And he makes money off of anti-gay bigotry too. His niece has just never been the *target* of his bigotry. It’s all happening in some other plane of existence where family can hurt other people, but don’t hurt you.

    This would have been very different if Rush’s bigotry actually targeted his relative. Take Maya Keyes, for example. Her father threw her out of his home and cut her off because she was a lesbian. That’s not a situation anything like the cozy family life Limbaugh’s relative has. That’s probably a much more apt comparison than Tokyo Rose.

  9. A nice example of prejudice. To pre judge someone based on who they are related to. I know for a fact that I have relatives who are the political opposite of my views. To say nothing of my relatives who are just plain nuts. I also have no doubt that I have relatives that think I am nuts.
    I hope I am not being trollish but unity? We don’t need unity. That’s the greatest feature of this country, we protect the minorities right to disagree with the majority. I find it funny and sad that Christian asks for unity in one breath and then dismisses one of the most popular talking heads of the political opposition in the next breath. By the way the only talking heads I listen to is the band.
    Reminds me of Obama’s campaign saying he wanted to build bipartisianship if he was elected. Once in office he goes straight party line with one or two Republican votes on the bills he has signed.

  10. I do feel bad for her that she has to deal with idiots thinking sharing a family = sharing an opinion. But given that he’s burned through four marriages I do wonder how good he really is to family.

  11. I’ll be completely honest in saying that I don’t think it really matters if he’s a wonderful happy person with his family. Limbaugh runs a radio show where he is supposed to be speaking the “truth.” He’s not pretending to play a Nazi in a Hollywood movie or acting a part in a radio drama. His radio personality is permanently attached to who he is as a person. And that person is a hypocritical, hateful, and downright horrible one. So, good for him he’s nice to his family, but I’m still going to view him as a horrible individual. He’s earned that by being a complete bastard on the radio and in public. One doesn’t get a magic pat on the back just because they act differently at home.

  12. Very interesting article, and a little surprising, seeing that I am also no fan of Rush or the way he voices his opinions. I’m sure he’s a decent family man, though it must be easy to like the guy when he treats his family like royalty. From the article, he does seem to have genuine moments of sincerity and thoughtfulness, and that’s good to hear.

    As for the first comment above, I will say this, Rush IS a propagandist and I don’t think there’s any denying that point. Perhaps it’s all for entertainment value, as was said above, as he certainly draws a big audience when he opens his outh. But he tackles issues with a hammer in hand, and this way of thinking and sharing ideas doesn’t appear to HELP anyone.

  13. I’m not impressed.

    Julie Limbaugh is making two points. One is obvious. The other is bullshit.

    The obvious point is that the “real” Rush is different from his “public persona.” That’s true of any celebrity. And Rush, like anyone, is undoubtedly nice to his friends and relatives. He’s obscenely wealthy and he likes to treat his family members to nice things. That’s one of the major benefits of being obscenely wealthy. And it’s no surprise that he isn’t an obnoxious windbag 100% of the time. Nobody has the energy to keep that up, and if he behaved that way in real life, very few people would be willing to associate with him. In private, he’s a somewhat normal person. Like anyone else. Well, of course he is. Big deal.

    And it’s equally obvious that someone who is related to Rush, and who shares his last name, is going to run into trouble as a result. Maybe that’s unfair, but it’s also inevitable. We all have unique challenges in our lives of one sort or another. Julie Limbaugh’s is that she happens to be related to a public figure who generates strong opinions in people, and as a result she finds herself having to listen to those opinions more often than she would like, and occasionally faces prejudicial treatment from people as a result of those opinions. Sorry, Julie — you’re not going to get a lot of sympathy from me. We all face prejudices of one kind or another from overly-opinionated people who think they know more about you than they really do. Try being an ethnic minority sometime. It’s hard. And “Cousin Rusty” makes it even harder.

    Which leads me to her second point — the one that is bullshit — that “Cousin Rusty is okay.” No, he is not okay. The fact that he isn’t the same asshole at home that he is on the radio, or television, or when he is addressing the GOP, does not make him “okay.” I get that Rush is providing a product, he’s putting on a show, he’s giving his fans what they want, and he gets paid very, very, very well to do so. I get that when you sit down and talk to him, he may well be a reasonably likable person (although his multiple ex-wives might tell you otherwise). None of that changes the fact that he knowingly influences the general public on a daily basis with lies, that he actively encourages evil, that he has become a major destructive force in the political sphere. You might like to think that the Rush the public knows is a put-on, an exaggerated character intended for entertainment purposes only, a lucrative game played by Rush and the media outlets who carry his filth. But as Jon Stewart might say, “This isn’t a fucking game.” “Cousin Rusty” doesn’t hold himself out as a mere entertainer…and, in fact, the chairman of the GOP found himself having to issue a public apology for suggesting that such is the case. Think about it.

    No, “Cousin Rusty” isn’t just some clown who is only trying to amuse us — and if she’d listen to his radio show from time to time, she’d understand that. If believing that helps her reconcile the reasonably decent human being she knows personally with the twisted psychopath hell bent on destroying all that is good and right with America that the rest of us know and loathe — then she can go right ahead and believe whatever she wants to believe. But I’m not buying what she’s selling. I don’t need to see the decency of the private Rush. I assume that to be the case, and I don’t particularly care.

  14. If anyone thinks Rush doesn’t actually influence public policy, they’re fooling themselves about as much as The Iraqi Information Minister was fooling himself during the US invasion.

  15. Rembrant@9
    Reminds me of Obama’s campaign saying he wanted to build bipartisianship if he was elected. Once in office he goes straight party line with one or two Republican votes on the bills he has signed.

    Obama started out with several meetings with Republican leaders and talking to rank and file Republicans. They all basically said that they listened to what he had to say and were going to vote lock-step against him. Only part of the blame for him not being bipartisan can go to Obama, a significant portion has to go to the Republicans who are refusing to entertain any of the ideas Obama puts forward.

  16. lowest common denominator. Hitler, Macarthy, Limbaugh? The bigger the lie, the more of it people tend to believe. The more people massed together, it would appear the lower the IQ. People hear Rush and believe what he is saying, and even those who should know better will question what they know. The first person used this to gain political power and caused WWII. The second used it to gain political power and ruined a lot of very good Americans lives and helped to create the fear of the Soviets that I grew up with. Rush has so far used his to gain financially. He can not stand for office since so many of his lies would ruin him. If people would realize he is entertainment (would the Romans have allowed something like this) and not the NEWS he would go away. I blame the networks. The evening news used to be something that had integrity. Sure, it lost money, and ratings were not the driving force, but people would watch and find out waht was going on in the world. Would Vietnam have been the same with todays media?

  17. > Please do better the next
    > time around, Christian.

    Sorry I was being snarky and inflammatory. I hadn’t had my coffee yet :-|

  18. Here’s my problem with the Rush Limbaughs of the world: they dominate the conversation, and they make it so juvenile. I have no doubt that it’s possible to rationally defend conservatism, but you wouldn’t know it from the leading lights of the Republican party.

    And the crap they spout has actual, real world effects. Imagine if the leading lights of the Right went on about how being nice to each other is what Jesus really wants? But no, we get hate and intolerance instead. I don’t understand how gay marriage, for example, can be the defining issue of our age.

    I would love to see an articulate conservative message. I would still oppose them, but the least they could do is make me think about my position.

  19. I remember reading a story when I was ten or eleven, and really really really wanted a dog. And John Gotti, or one of his ilk, from prison arranged to give a dog to a boy with cancer or some terrible illness. And the eleven year old me was really impressed by this and not being strong on logic, I thought Gotti must be a really nice man, deep down inside. I knew he was in prison, but I didn’t know why.

    I think Cousin Julie is suffering a little from the Geek Social Fallacies–particularly the ones where your friend’s friends have to be your friends too, particularly if they are nice to you. My name for the “but they’re so nice in other circumstances” fallacy is the “high school boyfriend” fallacy, and it was explained to me by my ex, who had a number of female friends date complete and utter jerks who were assholes to a wide swath of people at his high school, but when he asked his female friends why they would date these jerks, the friends would say, “Well, he’s nice to me.” Or “with his friends, he’s different.”

    Rush is like that high school boyfriend. It may be that he is nice to his family. My very Mormon family who nearly all voted or helped with the Mormon effort to get Prop 8 passed are all super nice too. (And this is why you won’t find me judging people on their relatives.) They are all friendly, warm, generous folks who meeting people on an individual basis will be warm and generous with them. But that doesn’t keep them from holding beliefs (which in my Mo family’s case, they’ve been indoctrinated in since birth) that in aggregate, expressed in solidarity, hurt and harm groups of other people.

    Orson Scott Card is one of those folks that I’ve met in real life, multiple times, and who in “real life” is charming, takes the time to discuss your point with you, compliments you on your art, and so on. He loves his family too and has sacrificed a lot for them, spends time with his youngest daughter. He’s generous with young writers, and loves to help in community theatre. But he keeps popping up on the internets with these savagely written screeds against homosexuality, and for me, as a former Mormon kid who used to idolize him, it’s downright painful. (Although not as painful as if I were gay, I’d imagine.) The OSC that I know does not and can not cancel out the OSC that writes those screeds.

    Cousin Rusty may indeed be generous with his family, but he holds views that express casual misogyny, racism, and homophobia. Just recently, he tried to compare people complimenting Obama with enforced sodomy. His casual dismissal of Michael J. Fox’s Parkinsons disease lacked humanity. His abuse of drugs is hypocritical. The policies he espouses would threaten my fair pay, my health, and my freedom to be an atheist/secular Zen Buddhist. His kindness to his cousins may be to his credit but it doesn’t cancel out the Rush that foments discord weekly. (I used to listen to Rush, incidentally, as a wee thing–partly because I lived in Utah, and EVERYBODY’S parents listened to Rush–and partly because I was enrolled as a Young Republican. So I’ve heard the man go on. In fact, I grew up in Utah during the Clinton years, so I’ve probably heard more weird conservative propaganda than you can shake a stick at. My friends parents would meet in basements and discuss how the Constitution was hanging by a thread, and they had PASSWORDS! “Ruby Ridge.” Google it, if you don’t remember. So I know shit from shinola, and had lots of the shit fed to me.)

    Furthermore, while I grant that Cousin Rusty may be a nice family member, I put it to you that there are many people out there who manage to be nice to their families AND their fellow human beans. People whose inner lives, family lives, and public lives are all congruent. Real mensches. While the contrast between Rush Limbaugh and Cousin Rusty may be briefly fascinating, I find that he is still not a person I would care to associate with, and were he a family member, I’d be wary about being beholden to.

  20. I just think you should all know that even though Christian’s comment was inflammatory and snarky, he is really terrific at family reunions.

  21. Also, I don’t disagree with any thing substantial in Scalzi’s summation of the article–which you will note, does NOT excuse Rush’s behaviour–but rather my reaction to things that Cousin Julie wrote about Rush himself. As other folks note upthread, it is unlikely that Julie has felt or had to deal with the brunt of Rush’s spoken policies.

    (I do also think that it would be infuriating to be held accountable for my cousin’s actions. I mean, there must be multiple Limbaughs out there. Before Rush, there was that Charles fellow. But even being related doesn’t mean responsibility for the relative’s behaviour. The man at the ticket counter was rude and rather too assuming.)

  22. I’ve always found this Heinlein quote to be useful when thinking about people who I loathed: “No man is evil in his own mind”.

    And anyway, if we’re going to be defending unfairly maligned people, I need to point out that the woman most often associated with the label “Tokyo Rose” was forced into her roll, refused to renounce her US citizenship, and did her best to avoid speaking propaganda herself. She was pardoned by Ford long after serving time in a US prison.

  23. Steven@17:

    Only part of the blame for him not being bipartisan can go to Obama, a significant portion has to go to the Republicans who are refusing to entertain any of the ideas Obama puts forward.

    Well, of course they are. Because those ideas go against everything that Republicans and conservatives stand for. If they “entertain” Obama’s far-left ideas, they might as well just call themselves “Democrats” and have done with it. I applaud Republicans acting, for once, like His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, and opposing.

    As for Rush…I believe it was Scott Adams that said that most of the “juicy” stories about “celebrities” were just made up by disgruntled domestic help. People don’t want to hear about how Barbra Streisand (or Rush Limbaugh) is generally a nice person, but gets annoyed when confronted by rampant stupidity, even if that’s all true, as that would describe 90% of all people out there, and that’s boring. They want to hear about how Barbra (or Rush) pistol-whipped the Domino’s delivery boy because he forgot extra Parmesan. Now that’s entertainment. :-)

  24. Steven @ 17.
    One question I have is did either side make a real effort to find a middle ground? I don’t think so.
    I just deleted the rest of my rant because it drifted too far off topic.

  25. It’s true, I don’t know anything about Rush as a person beyond the occasional piece like this. It’s also true that it doesn’t matter to me, because I never come in contact with him in social situations, and don’t expect to.

    I only come in contact with Rush via his influence on national politics and society, where he has been for decades a consistent powerful voice for vulgarity, brutality, and stances that enrich the already most powerful while impoverishing and degrading the rest of us. Maybe if he were to try being as nice a guy in public as he is to people he bothers to care about, we’d all be better off.

  26. Erbo@25
    Because those ideas go against everything that Republicans and conservatives stand for. If they “entertain” Obama’s far-left ideas, they might as well just call themselves “Democrats” and have done with it. I applaud Republicans acting, for once, like His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, and opposing.

    So you’re telling me that all Republicans think in lockstep on every issue. That there is no nuanced thinking and that Arlen Specter and John Cornyn in the Senate or Steve King and Mark Kirk in the House agree on everything.

    Sorry, when the party in opposition (whether the Republicans now or the Democrats of last year) vote in lockstep on multiple bills in a row, it is less about being principled and more about being obstructionist.

  27. Erbo@25

    And if you think that Obama is far left, you have a very skewed vision of politics. The political center in American politics is far to the right of most European countries and Obama, while left, isn’t that far off the American political center. By claiming Obama’s policies, many of which are continuations of George Bush’s policies (after all, Bush signed the initial stimulus packages), are far left, you are undercutting any type of authority you might have on the issue.

  28. Julie Limbaugh also doesn’t seem to get that most people’s racist, fuddy-duddy old relatives don’t have a platform to talk to millions of people. When grampa complains about the Mexicans or queers ruining the neighborhood, nobody hears about it except maybe the family and the letters-page editor. Grampa’s sphere of influence is tiny. But when Cousin Rusty blathers on about the queers, millions of people get taught to hate the queers a little harder.

  29. > I just think you should all know that even
    > though Christian’s comment was inflammatory
    > and snarky, he is really terrific at family reunions.

    I’m like Paul’s grandfather in “A Hard Days Night”, a clean old man – but a mixer :-)

    I am so tempted to say more, but I think I’d get the loving mallet of correction.

  30. Well, let’s see. Gather together a dozen or so of his relatives, and odds are at least one will turn out to be gay. I’d like to hear what that relative thinks of “Cousin Rusty”….

  31. mythago @ 30: This. Exactly this.

    I’m sorry people are being assholes to her simply because of her name, but she’s not doing herself any favors by defending “Cousin Rusty”.

    Him putting the whole family up at some posh resort does not make him “OK”.

  32. Oh, come on. While some people are as monstrous to their families as they are to the outside world, they’re the exception. Generally speaking, people who show a monstrous face to the world don’t show that face to their nearest and dearest. That, after all, is what tribalism’s all about.

    So color me among the not-impressed that “Cousin Rusty” is ‘only’ a monster towards Democrats, liberals, gays, Parkinsons patients, non-servile women (including the housekeeper who got his drugs for him and who he left to the tender mercies of the criminal justice system even as he made damn sure *he* didn’t go to jail), underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, non-Christians, and so on and so forth…

    And add me to the group of people who notice there’s a difference between a dotty old bigoted asshole uncle who no one pays much attention to and a $20 million dollar, widely-syndicated, hugely influential professional bigoted asshole who happens also to be the de facto head of the Republican Party.

  33. I’m a bit flabbergasted by how you Americans are responding to this woman who, as far as I can see, isn’t so much defending Rush Limbaugh as she is attributing him human attributes and motivations to someone who is otherwise loathed by a significant portion of the American political spectrum.

    I mean, the gist of the article wasn’t so much how she’s defending Cousin Rusty, but how difficult she finds her life because so many of you are douchebags to her because of her name. Like she has a damn choice what her surname is, or who her family relatives are. I’m pretty sure Muhammad bin Laden feels that way on some days, as well, when people ask how it feels to have a murderous maniac for a son.

    I mean, yeah, shit, the guy’s a homophobic, Islamophobic, reactionary dipwad, and his policies are destroying America as it stands. But that doesn’t mean that he isn’t human as well, and that he does human things, like be nice to your relatives. I understand that this is a concept alien to some of you; after all, I understand that some Americans have this inability to tolerate relatives of the other side of the political spectrum.

    Of course she’s going to defend Cousin Rusty — her first exposure to him wasn’t listening to his hateful political screeds, it was of him kicking a football and offering her parents a Cuban cigar, and taking them out to holidays. Note that her defense is pretty much damn insubstantial — she feels like he’s a self-aware parody, she feels she is this, she feels that.

    And notice that she treats Cousin Rusty’s comrade-in-arms in a far colder manner than she believes she should have, mainly because her first exposure to Ann Coultier was very likely one of her hateful political screeds, not that one time where she came dressed as a pretty princess in some Halloween party, or whatever.

    It’s like, you’re hating on the OP because she has some tender feelings for a relative. Fuck, guys. Get a grip.

  34. T-Boy I’m a bit flabbergasted by how you Americans are

    Are you card checking at the door? How do you know everyone responding here is American? Not that you mention anyone in specific, it’s just “you Americans” as if we were monolithic blocks.

    It’s like, you’re hating on the OP because she has some tender feelings for a relative. Fuck, guys. Get a grip.

    Go grip yourself.

  35. I’ve got Jerry Falwell in my family tree, which is weird, but he was only a 2nd cousin to my Mom, so we never had to deal with him in person

  36. Family gatherings with her other famous family member, US Justice Stephen Limbaugh (the Elder), are much less fun.

    “Hey, Steve, I bought a used copy of Shadow of the Colossus. It’s supposed to be really good. My friend said she cried at the end! Wanna play it with me?”

    “Julie, as I ruled seven years ago, video games do not convey ideas or expressions approaching ‘speech’ in a First Amendment sense and thus do not enjoy constitutional protection. However, I will play a round of ‘Pin-The-Tail-On-Hillary-Clinton’.”

  37. T-Boy: I’m not upset with Julie for pointing out that Cousin Rusty treats her well, nor do I find her affection for him weird. (Hey, I pointed out my own relatives.) And a number of us mentioned that it was unfair for people to take HER to task for her relative.

    But why is it wrong for us to point out the obvious: She doesn’t have to deal directly with the results of Rush’s demagogery, at least not any more than any other comfortably well-off, straight white person. That’s not ad hominem, it’s a commentary on her situation.

  38. T-Boy, nicely trolled. The bin Laden reference was a good touch.

    David, you just know that if said gay relative gave Cousin Rusty the cold shoulder, CR would be absolutely baffled. Why, what was that all about? I’ve never said anything awful to you. It’s just entertainment!

  39. I read that article, and while it was okay I had much of the same “so what?” reaction others here have said.

    Sure, it’s cruddy that sometimes people are nasty to Julie L when people find out she’s related. Speaking ill of someone else’s family, unbidden, is just rude and pointless. I feel a little more philosophical about some of the other incidents she relates that raised her ire. Someone commented that she can’t be feeling too proud of her name right now? Crass, perhaps, but as a reaction from someone who may well have been in a societal group Rush had slandered or abused, it seems pretty impersonal an offense.

    What I haven’t seen anyone comment on here is something that stuck out for me in the article – what was almost an aside about reaping some benefits of “Cousin Rusty’s” wealth, from time at his snazzy place to nice getaways at resorts where she could use the room key to charge expensive sunglasses.

    Julie L can view it as payback “for everything he did the previous year that had made your job as a new teacher in a liberal high school any harder,” but what it really means is that getting some part of the financial benefit of airing “Barack the Magic Negro.” I don’t think she should feel guilt over it, but that means you’re not catching crap over something some distant relative did that’s completely irrelevant to you. You’re helping to spend the money that comes from that behavior, and that makes you to some extent a participant.

    So when some clerk who has had their way of life or sexual preference disparaged in a nation-wide venue turns around and reveals that they’ve acquired a negative reaction to the Limbaugh name… maybe you’re protesting too much.

  40. The basic truth is, the more people think they are “morally right” the bigger dickheads they become. It’s not just religion, but the very idea of “I’m morally right” because that means everyone who disagrees with you is automatically morally wrong. There’s no ability to even enter a discussion about it then.

    This applies to both parties. And to many libertarians that believe they are morally right as well.

    I believe in most libertarianism because I think it is most effective and practical, I stopped believing in morality when I stopped believing in God, everything else is genetic programming or cultural conditioning. It’s better to guarantee rights of liberty, property, freedom of speech, but there’s no overriding cosmic morality, it’s just better to do things that way.

  41. I read through all the comments to see if anyone from my hometown, Cape Girardeau, has responded (not so far). Have any of you read Orson Scott Card’s Empire? While I’m with Pixelfish #21 on Card (and have spoken out about not buying his books even though he’s a wonderful writer), I thought his picture of the U.S. divided along liberal/conservative lines was provocative. And ironically enough, I think his identification with political conservative causes put a damper on discussion of the issues he raises.

  42. Part of the reason I can’t identify as a liberal anymore is that 21st century American progressivism has been on the warpath when it comes to evicting people who aren’t Pure.

    The late Ron Silver once quipped that he didn’t leave the Democrats, the Democrats left him.

    A lot of it has to do with the fact that too many progressives these days seem to be emulating one of the worst behaviors of the puritanically conservative: expecting people to divorce themselves from someone if that someone doesn’t adhere to properly progressive attitudes, lifestyles etc. Otherwise, you are condoning that person’s beliefs and are therefore guilty by association!


    Got an uncle who has a problem with Muslims? BZZZT! He’s racist and you should refuse to speak to him.

    Got a brother who is religiously devout and has a religious problem with homosexuality? BZZZT! He’s a homophobe and you should refuse to speak to him.

    Got a boy or girlfriend who is pro-life AKA anti-choice? BZZZT!

    Got a buddy from work who is into guns and the NRA? BZZZZT!




    I have no doubt that Limbaugh is a decent fellow.

    I have no doubt many of the people Limbaugh decries, are also decent fellows.

    This, to me, is part of the problem with the histrionic and hyperbolic tone of our current InterToob discourse. Everyone getting more and more and more pissed off at each other from behind the safety of keyboards and monitors, where it’s perfectly fine to forget the HUMAN BEING on the other side of the flame war, and reduce that HUMAN BEING down to a little cartoonish paper cutout of themselves, representing all the worst of that HUMAN BEING that you despise, and ditching the rest because it’s NOT CONVENIENT to allow a political enemy any qualities which are sympathetic.

  43. Sub-Odeon:

    Well said. I can only add that this disease afflicts many groups, political or otherwise. Certainly, you can find church folks who get all in a lather over how to baptize – immersion, sprinkling, pouring…..

    Almost every subculture has it’s purists who insist on strict adherence to the “faith”. Religious conservatives in the GOP have managed to commit a form of suicide by chasing people out of their party who aren’t “pure” on certain key issues. We’ll see if “liberals” don’t do the same to the Democrats.

  44. Sub-Odeon @44 – you have an odd definition of “decent fellow”. Apparently you believe one shouldn’t judge others based on anything except how they treat you, personally. You’re like the living embodiment of that old joke about members of the Purple Gang – where people in the Jewish community stood up for them by saying “but he was good to his mother!”

    But you go ahead and shout “BZZZZT!” at people like a five-year-old with a spark gun at anyone who says “I don’t particularly want to be around a person who is nice to my face, but is actively working to make sure I am treated as subhuman.” After all, you’re Rush’s target audience – not his target.

  45. A lot of it has to do with the fact that too many progressives these days seem to be emulating one of the worst behaviors of the puritanically conservative: expecting people to divorce themselves from someone if that someone doesn’t adhere to properly progressive attitudes, lifestyles etc.

    Horsecrap. If conservatives policed themselves and didn’t try to run other people’s lives based on blue-nosed puritanism, I wouldn’t care less.

  46. S-O@44 My mother is a Fundamentalist who attends Ted Haggard’s New Life Church in Colorado Springs. My sisters also go there. One is married to an ex-soldier who served in Iraq and thinks it is a good war. My youngest brother is gay and HIV positive. My other brother is married to an apparent idiot (I have not met her yet, that is how she is described). My sister the married evangelical had two babies out of wedlock.

    I am a green who hates Bush, Cheney, their whole regime, and everything to do with the current crop of neo-cons and repubs.

    My mom and sisters and I have never been closer.

    BZZZZZZTTTT!!!! I believe what you are doing is called “projection”. BBBZZZZZTTTTTTT!!!

  47. Julie Limbaugh’s piece in Salon presents two ideas, and conflates them. (You can see the conflation in the second paragraph: “And suddenly I realize that I have become the person I can’t stand.”)

    The first idea is that Julie herself should not be judged, or held responsible, for the actions of her more famous relative. She’s perfectly right about that, and the people who take their hate for Rush out on her are being assholes.

    The second idea is that Rush himself, and Ann Coulter, should not be judged based on their public personas. She’s wrong about that. Nobody’s holding guns to Rush’s and Coulter’s heads forcing them to spew hate in public. They are responsible for the content of their acts, and it’s perfectly appropriate for people to judge them based on those acts.

  48. Mythago, if I am Rush’s target audience, how come I never listen to his show? Hey, if you want to drink haterade, I won’t stop you. And yes, how an individual treats me in-person is pretty important. Once upon a time, civilized people could leave their politics in the coat room and socialize decently in spite of their political differences. Nowadays it seems everyone’s listening for shibboleths and flinging character accusations from behind the safety screen of the InterToob. Smugness and pedantry are everywhere. Bleah. No thanks. My wife is right. The internet warps human interaction as much, or more, than it helps it. Am I excusing Rush for the part he’s played in sewing division? No. But that doesn’t mean he’s automatically a monster, either.

    Liberals who are still humble enough to be in touch with their base-line connection to their fellow human beings know when to separate people from politics. My wife hated Bush’s policies, but she felt he was unfairly maligned as a man and never became a BDS sufferer like many of her fellow feminists. I would say my wife is rare among progressive circles, precisely because being progressive these days seems to too often revolve around demonization and the casting out of designated demons. There is a lot of haterism going on. And no, just because The Other Side does it, that doesn’t mean it’s OK.

    And Josh, don’t be a tool, bro. progressive purists want to run our lives every bit as much as conservative purists. Only the reasons are different.

  49. Corby, a liberal claiming to be a Green is like a conservative claiming to be a Libertarian. You do realize that, right?

  50. Sub-Odeon @49: yes, back in the old days if we wanted to socialize and chat vapidly in the drawing room, we had to trudge uphill with our cigars and port five miles. In the snow. Kids today and their Intertubes, why they’re spoiled, I tell you! Spoiled rotten!

    It’s revealing that you chose the phrase “once upon a time”, because that is the traditional opening for fairy tales. In the real world, as the slightest familiarity with history shows, people have always had problems setting aside their personal and political differences and pretending everything was hunky-dory. People have always argued in public, called one another out, make cutting remarks and so on when they were supposed to be socializing politely.

    I’m really not sure what the heck the rest of your post is trying to say other than you and your wife are terribly sensible, kind and humble people, and everybody else is just crazy with the politics.

  51. Limbuagh does not divide the nation. What divides us are multiple conflicting political and economic ideologies, the principles of which are frequently mutually exclusive.

  52. And Josh, don’t be a tool, bro. progressive purists want to run our lives every bit as much as conservative purists. Only the reasons are different.

    I do? Mythago does? Greg London does? Xopher does? Oh, you mean a *straw liberal*.

  53. Josh, so you readily identify as a progressive purist? Someone who simply won’t deign to socialize with nor be around anyone whose ideology does not exactly match your own? You never seemed like the type to me, but if you want to wear that shoe, I can’t stop you.

    Mythago, even you have to admit that the stridency and hate-imbibing tone of our current on-line political “dialogue” has reached a ridiculous level. And no, it’s not just Rush Limbaugh flinging poo. It’s a big crowd of progressives too.

    I remember reading an anecdote from — I think it was Tip O’Neal? — about how the old Dems and the old Repubs would lambast each other for the cameras and when taking the floor, then go have dinner and mingle freely after work. Because it was generally understood that politics were politics, and it wasn’t necessarily a personal war. I’ve read similar anecdotes about the British government.

    These days, in the U.S.A. it seems everyone on the InterToob is hurling insults and vitriol at everyone else as fast as they can. I count myself guilty too, though I’ve been trying to back off lately because the InterToob political circle jerk has reached a level of toxicity even I find alarming. I credit my wife with being smarter than I am and not allowing herself to partake in the wicked brew of InterToob polit(ick!)s.

    Again, would any of us be so quick to be rude, cutting, sarcastic, dismissive, and assholish to each other if we had to see each other at work every day? At the same social functions?


    I realize that for some self-identified progressives the attitude is, “Why be nice when the people on the other side are monsters?”

    That progressivism has more or less sunk to the level of monsterizing those who don’t adhere to the Pure Faith is the big reason I don’t identify as a progressive; even if a lot of my voting record and personal history and opinion marks me as small-p progressive in many ways.

  54. Can we at least agree that the guy at the airport was an immature prick? I mean really. We’d call him all sorts of bad things if he refused service to someone else for their name or any other similar quality.

    @54 here SO seems to be conflating progressives and greens. And I would have to stand up and argue that hardcore greens, with their moral outrage about SUVs and plastic bottles, and disposable shopping bags, etc. do in fact want to control people’s choices. The whole sustainability movement is about limiting what choices people can make in virtually all areas of their lives, from whether they have coffee in the morning to what they drive to work to what kind of house they live in.

    OK, there are lots of obvious arguments against what I’ve just said: sustainability is a valid, temporal concern that may require drastic action; the religious right is much more powerful than the environmental movement right now; the RR’s agenda is more dangerous; there’s plenty of arguments that can be made in favor of the environmental movement (although personally I think that opposition to nuclear power and GMO crops is ultimately wrongheaded) but it doesn’t change the fact that they do want to limit your choices on a much larger scale than now. There’s a certain breed of people who resent that whatever the reason.

  55. PJ,

    Good points. Though I’d be interested in your take on where the line is drawn between granola progressivism and full-on Greenism.

    When I was living in Seattle there was so much cultural and ideological crossover between generic political progressivism and the semi-maniacal Greens, it was very difficult to make distinctions.

    But yes, limiting choices is a huge part of it. For the mindless Right, telling people, “You can’t do that!” is a function of evangelical Biblicalism — the limiting and outlawing of ‘sin.’ For the Left, telling people, “You can’t do that!” is a function of Greenism, as well as Hate Speech codes and other limiters designed to criminalize intellectual activity many progressives deem detestable.

  56. OP: I am not surprised by your revelation. With you being a flaming liberal I am not suprised you are a otherwise decent and caring family man ;-)

  57. Sub Odeon –

    Josh, so you readily identify as a progressive purist?

    Can you name any of those mythical beasts *here*? Or will you pull some made up one out of you hat to knock down on command as some sort of side show to real issues, because that’s all you’re ever on about. You go tolting against mythical beasts, and expect people to think that you’re complaining about something real.

    All smoke and mirrors. Or so I guess you think. But it’s rather transparent. Your complaint about people acting badly is never about anyone here.

  58. PJ – Can we at least agree that the guy at the airport was an immature prick?

    Sure. And a heterosexual man just nearly clipped me with his SUV and then flipped me the bird for having the temerity to legally cross the street on a “walk” signal.

    Oddly enough, I don’t judge heterosexuals or SUV drivers based on him. I do loathe SUV drivers who park in compact car spots though.

  59. Sub-Odeon @55, the level of political discourse in this country, including Internet discourse, is heavily informed by Rush Limbaugh. What’s your point, exactly?

    People have always struggled with finding out that people in their family, people they care about, are actively awful to people who aren’t them. This isn’t really about “aw, Great-Grandpa still calls anybody Asian a ‘Jap’ because he’s 97 and fought at Iwo Jima”, or about how you and Mom are never going to agree about President Obama. There is a difference between odd political beliefs and action.

  60. Josh: Are you saying progressive purists cannot or do not exist? Because nobody here at Whatever is a progressive purists? You didn’t live and work in Seattle during the WTO, or the 2004 election, or go to Seattle Central Community College when they were throwing water bottles at Army personnel and vandalizing recruiting stations. You didn’t have a fellow student call you a killer to your face, and feel perfectly justified doing it. Trust me. Puritanical progressives exist, and they can be mindless assholes just like conservative purists. The closed, narrow, absolutist mentality is the same. Only the ideology is different.

    Mythago: just out of curiosity, what actions would an average acquaintence or family member of yours have to take in order for you to feel uncomfortable speaking with or being associated with them?

  61. Josh: Are you saying progressive purists cannot or do not exist? Because nobody here at Whatever is a progressive purists?

    Sure they can. But what *bearing* do they have on any of the discussion going on in here? You’re dragging them in as some sort of side show that’s got no bearing on anything anyone here is saying.

    I don’t think you want to argue with zealots. I think you want to argue with people who aren’t as if they were, because you’re annoyed with zealots, and want to transfer that annoyance to someone who’s not.

    OTOH, if I have a problem with your political ideology, you’ll hear my complaint about that bit of ideology, not about what club or church or political party you belong to. You might want to drop the strawmen and talk to real people.

    Or not. Strawmen can’t present real arguments. They say anything you want them to say. It’s a grown up version of playing with dolls.

  62. Sub-Odeon @62, if they were a nationally-syndicated talk-show host with an audience of millions, who promoted ugly, bigoted views and who insisted on values they themselves never bothered to follow, I wouldn’t want to hang out with them. How about you – do you draw any lines beyond “are they pleasant to me, personally”?

  63. Josh Jasper @ 60: “PJ – Can we at least agree that the guy at the airport was an immature prick?”

    Sure. And a heterosexual man just nearly clipped me with his SUV and then flipped me the bird for having the temerity to legally cross the street on a “walk” signal.

    Oddly enough, I don’t judge heterosexuals or SUV drivers based on him. I do loathe SUV drivers who park in compact car spots though.

    I’m sorry, I’m not getting the parallel here. Someone was a jerk to someone else because of her name, someone was a jerk to you because you were crossing the street? Okay, kinda got that; you were both hassled when you yourself had done no wrong. But I’m not seeing the connection to the second part, or what the driver’s orientation had to do with it (or how it was even determined).

    This is a real question. I have no argument or anything, I’m just confused.

  64. I’m sorry, I’m not getting the parallel here. Someone was a jerk to someone else because of her name, someone was a jerk to you because you were crossing the street?

    the point was that some people are jerks. The jerkishness isn’t tied to any ideology, race, orientation, etc.

    I’m sure people with Obama’s last name get attention, positive and negative. Decent people who don’t like Obama won’t take it out on his relatives. Just like decent people loathing Limbaugh won’t take it out on his relatives.

    Oh, and the heterosexual thing? Gaydar, my friend, gaydar.

  65. #42, better in what sense? You value survival. Well and good. Someone else does not. In your system, arbitration of these two views is logically impossible. Yet you follow the very impulse you deplore in other “moralists:” You make one thing “better” than another, and you condemn those whose morality differs from yours regarding that one thing, complete with vulgar and disparaging language. Apart from the particular rule you have chosen to support as right, how may we distinguish you from any other proclaimer of right and wrong?

    My point is, taking a position on life, sexuality, economics, etc., and framing those positions in terms of morality is fair play, because both sides do it. The problem with the left is being honest about moral positioning. The right says, we think thus and such is right, and it’s logical opposite is wrong. Morality is directly invoked. Believe it or disbelieve it, but there it is, for open and honest review. The left says, you are morally wrong to say that anything is morally wrong, unless it is one of those things we see as morally wrong. Darn confusing. Most righties are not trained to spot the logical inconsistency, so they can’t even process such nonsense. It’s one of the main reasons the two sides tend to talk past each other rather than to each other.

    Which gets us to Rush. I contend his personal generosity and his public service are actually self-consistent facets of the same basic personality. I don’t like everything that comes out of his mouth either, but he has a great gift. He can spot the left’s illogical excretives better than most people in the media. Then he develops a reachable descriptor for the excretive and equips the rank and file right with a verbal means of exposing and thus diffusing it. Thus, the so-called division he is “creating” is not really his creation at all. It is a real and fundamental difference of perspective on life, morality, and truth that divides our society into two armed camps: Those who believe in a transcendent moral authority derived from something or someone very like the Creator mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, and those for whom morality is a mere arbitrary power struggle among mortals that the strong will ultimately win, as per Nietzsche. That is an important and useful distinction, because even though Rush cannot create what already exists, it is beneficial for us all that he is so skilled in highlighting it’s reality, for in so doing, he prevents many from falling unwittingly into the disastrous belief that moral relativism, as applied to politics, is the only game in town. Thanks, Uncle Rusty.