This post is not a dead New Jersey blog post resurrected. It was written today, 3/07/09, in response to a conservative who’s been rattled by comments at BlogHer on a post about whether Rush Limbaugh is the leader of the GOP. It ran pretty long, and I accidentally hit the publish button when I’d meant to hit the preview button after deciding I would probably not publish the full comment at BlogHer, but still needed to get a response off my chest. It’s posted here in case anyone wanted to see what I had to say. Otherwise, I’m moving on to critical life chores.
From BlogHer Comments
What I’m about to say has nothing to do with whether Rush Limbaugh uses hate speech, whether he’s a racist or a homophobe. What I’m talking about now is motivation, and while you may have more to say about economics, I have more to say about people, perceptions, and the end goal of a communications strategy:
In my opinion, Rush is doing a service by pounding on this theme. He is an entertainer…and he is an educator. Whether or not he’s “taken the bait” offered by the administration is immaterial in my mind. If by taking the bait, he is expanding his audience base…then I say good.
I don’t know if you recall when Bill Bennett made the highly inflammatory statement that the crime rates would go down if we’d abort black babies, but if you don’t recall it, you can google it. Anyway, I wrote a post back then that is now offline but in it I asserted that Bennett, who claimed he was trying to bring pro-life issues to the forefront, was no friend of the pro-life movement if he kept talking like that.
Why? Because his statement did not cause anyone to focus on pro-life issues. It boosted attention on him his radio show for a while, and offered the opportunity for well-known hate groups to have a field day about killing off black babies, but that was that.
And I wasn’t the only one who thought Bennett had done a disservice to the pro-life movement. Many people in the pro-life movement were dismayed that he’d derailed the conversation for a while. Whatever reasoning Bennett gave for making the statement got lost and as a result there are some moderate people on the fence who may have listened to Bennett despite his being conservative who now think he lacks credibility.
When Louis Farrakhan made his comment about Hitler being wickedly great, do you think that helped his cause? I could tell you what he really meant, but does it matter? Furthermore, a narrow focus on that one statement, no matter how brilliantly someone explained what he really meant by it, can be quickly expanded to broader vision by his many other statements that sound hateful because they are.
Ironically, if you remove some of Farakhan’s bigoted, inflammatory rhetoric, he’d sound like a fiscal conservative and one that Rush Limbaugh would agree with when it comes to a view that black people should stop relying on the Federal Government for financial help:
Farrakhan preaches the virtues of personal responsibility, especially for black men, and advocates black self-sufficiency. Farrakhan’s message has appealed primarily to urban blacks and draws on a long history of black nationalists who have called for black self-reliance in the face of economic injustice and white racism. (Encarta)
Despite white fears that most black people follow Farrakhan, they don’t. If they did, the crime rate would be lower, black business would probably be thriving, and black people would probably ignore white people until there was a war over land or water right or something.
Farrakan’ s not a “black” leader. He’s a Nation of Islam leader, a religious leader who makes social commentary, but since most black people are not members of the Nation of Islam, he doesn’t have the kind of influence white people think he does. BTW, Nation of Islam and traditional Islam are not the same.
One major difference between Farrakhan and Limbaugh is motivation, however. When Farrakhan makes inflammatory statements, generally he’s not trying to boost ratings on a radio show nor is he trying to influence government policy, however, like many religious leaders he sometimes comments about government.
So, you have Farrakan, a man preaching that black people should separate themselves from white people economically and be self-reliant, and yet you don’t see a bunch of whites, not even conservatives, applauding his work. I doubt you’ll see Jewish people applauding his work. And you have many black people who used to find him credible who have stepped away. While they agree with him about self-reliance and even on some of the points he makes about the sins of America against black people, they’ve stepped away from the Farrakhan. Why do you think that is?
In addition, you’ll rarely hear other people who’ve been identified as black leaders quote Farrakhan or give him props on national radio or TV. They aren’t as hard on him as whites and so don’t shun him completely, but they’re doing nothing to promote him. And certainly, if one of them said something about him similar to what Michael Steele said about Rush Limbaugh, the one who said it wouldn’t have to go apologize. Why do you think that is?
I’ll tell you why. One, Farrakhan doesn’t have that kind of power. Two, people who want genuine dialogue about race, the economy, how we can work things through, know that they sabotage that dialogue by clinging to people who make divisive statements repeatedly. In addition, unlike what I see in Rush Limbaugh discussions, people who genuinely want to work things through will allow historical facts on the table that give leeway for people to express pain and anger regarding oppression, bu that’s another topic.
It’s been my experience that people tend to lose respect when they see anyone sabotaging a worthwhile goal for personal gain. Rush Limbaugh consistently sabotages genuine discussion because he’s found that inflammatory language rather than productive discourse earns him more money. So, we see his true allegiance. And yet conservative whites jump up and defend him constantly. I’m not talking about a few fringe people who also read KKK websites or some of the angriest people who lack education and resources defending him; I’m talking about powerful mainstream people who hold public office and ordinary, otherwise sensible, white people.
So, my point on Rush Limbaugh is that by taking the bait, actively participating in what he knew was a strawman tactic that would throw the GOP into further disarray and a tactic that is also clearly a disctraction, Limbaugh is not doing the conservative movement a favor. It’s not about keeping eyes on what’s going on in D.C. It’s about him. You think he’s pounding issues that will move you forward, but actually he’s quite crafty, keeping all eyes on Rush.
Case in point, what has this blog post forum become but a discusion about Rush Limbaugh?
It’s theater, smoke and mirrors, and he is complicit:
People keep saying let’s get back on topic. Oooh, look what they’re really doing in Washington and Obama’s administration set Rush up. If the Obama administration had a gun at Rush Limbaugh’s feet, shooting bullets to make him dance, that would indeed be a case of power slamming Rush. The truth is Rush likes the spotlight and Rush wants to dance even if his dancing and his showmanship hurts the Republican Party.
We can argue for the next four years about whether Rush Limbaugh is the leader of the conservative movement or the GOP and Republicans can keep up the talking points that he’s not because he’s not technically been elected to anything. The reality is Rush is leader because millions of conservatives follow him, defend him, and apologize to him.
They don’t want to give him up. Limbaugh to the Republicans is like the hot, seductive mistress that appeals to a man’s baser instincts and is helping to wreck his family but the man keeps going back because he likes the sex.
If anyone has a complaint that Rahm Emanuel and Obama set up Limbaugh and that they did it to take the public eye off what they’re really doing in Washington, then they should also have a complaint that Limbaugh’s played along.
Consider how differently the Steele-Limbaugh exchange would have gone if Rush had never said “I want Obama to fail,” a statement he made after knowing the Whitehouse was setting him up as the strawman, and if he had never blasted Steele for the “ugly entertainment” comment by telling Steele bascially to go back to the kitchen.
We know Emanuel’s and the Dems’ motivation for targeting Rush, and their communications strategy was easy to implement. Rush’s ego is huge and so it’s all been like shooting fish in the barrel.
The plan keeps eyes off how things are going in D.C. and has conservatives jumping up and down like specks on the sideline of the Rush parade saying “But we want to talk issues, we want to talk money.”
Limbaugh is an exceptional communicator and strategist. He knows that’s what’s going on. Why is he playing along and why do you think that’s okay?
Score: Obama administration=1, Rush Limbaugh=1, Conservative Movement=0