Democratic Underground

The Limbaugh Lie
August 15, 2001
by John Garza

If the "liberal media" cliché ever had a reality, it had to have existed sometime before Rush Limbaugh burst upon the AM talk radio scene about 13 years ago (when I was around 40). So in the first three-fourths of my life a couple of accepted conventions were: 1) that political conservatives consisted of "lunatic fringers," extremists, outside the mainstream, vaguely anti-social or solitary types, and 2) that AM talk radio was a sleepy type of unthreatening thing, composed of information, advice, and entertainment.

Most of my employment consisted of inside-outside tasks, driving to service sites for about one-third of most days, with the rest of the day in the office. Talk radio was a big feature of my daily routine. Wherever I was, in large markets briefly, in smaller ones mostly, there was usually a local talk show likely to be hosted by one of those lunatic fringe guys, whom I could ignore as being "a nut." Then there were the more reasonable nationwide programs with psychologists or psychiatrists like Dr. Joy and David Viscott, and some mild-mannered generalist like Michael Jackson.

Imagine the jolt when Rush Limbaugh replaced one of my gentle opinionists. The Limbaugh steamroller was marked by, first of all, the hot bumper music. This was DEFINITELY un-right-wing. Before this, rock 'n' roll was considered to be the province of liberals. Conservatism was supposedly for the old, un-hip, and the deadly serious. Then there was the "humor," the ridicule, the parodies. Above all else was the single-mindedness. His focus was relentless. Take no prisoners. Scorched earth. There was no good liberal and no bad right-winger. But the supporting corollary was that Rush Limbaugh completely screened out any callers or suggestions of being "fringe." He stopped all callers of the John Birchers or Tri-Lateralist persuasions in their tracks. He was unrepentant and unapologetic about his right-wingedness. He acted as if it belonged in the mainstream, that it WAS the mainstream, that it was normal.

Once relieved of any half-heartedness, Limbaugh was free to unleash the most impressive mastery of propaganda skills: The demonization and ridiculing of "enemies," the mini-skit and song parodies, exaggeration, omission, distortion, disinformation, not to mention outright misrepresentation. In the background, the Reagan administration presented Hollywood tableaux of countless photo-ops in front of hundreds of American flags. The liberals were made out to be unpatriotic, against God, kooky, fringe, liking unnatural things such as anti-melodious modernist classical music and ugly art.

The breaking-down of conventions of the presumably "liberal" radical young - the music, the language, the inhibitions - had played topsy-turvy with who was "fringe" and who was not. Once Rush Limbaugh took hold, the right-wingers took hold of most of talk radio, then came Fox News and Dr. Laura. But most disturbing was the right-wingization of erstwhile Democrats like Tim Russert and Chris Matthews. One explanation that was given to me was that the ratings for commentary programming comes from older, more conservative people.

But now we have the spectacle of CNN in negotiations with Rush Limbaugh, presumably to court right-wing ratings. And the takeover continues. So in the corporate global village, with ever larger and fewer corporate cartels limiting the availability of competition in philosophical ideas, I propose that CNN hang on its screens, "Closed on account of transformation."

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