Tuesday, March 2, 2021

I'm Not Glad That Rush Limbaugh is Dead

Mug shot of Rush Limbaugh after a 2006 arrest for possession of more than 2,000 pills obtained under fake prescriptions.  Opiate addict, outrageous hypocrite, science-denier, racist, sexist, all around ignorant blowhard (and garish tie salesman), Limbaugh embodied many of the things that went wrong in the United States.  He was also one of the most popular radio hosts in American history.

Rush Limbaugh is dead.  

He died about two weeks ago, on February 17, from complications of lung cancer, and at the relatively young age of 70 years.  

In more ordinary times, this would have been big news, akin to Michael Jackson's death, with a mass outpouring of grief and weeks of public encomiums from right wing lunatics in politics, radio and TV who owe their careers to Rush.

Instead, Rush died and hardly anyone seemed to care.  That's to be expected in a time when so many people have lost their lives to a disease that Rush himself helped downplay.  

People are numb to death right now.  So almost nobody noticed that Rush died, in the same way that people barely noticed that Larry King died, or that the delightful Bernie Rubin of Bernie & Phyl's Furniture in the Boston area died. 

But don't worry, Rush.  Thee Optimist noticed.  We're not going to let you pass without saying a few words.

Rush speaking at a 2019 gathering of nutjobs in West Palm Beach, Florida.  Why do these events always seem to take place in Florida? 

Rush was literal demon spawn

It is entirely possible that Rush Limbaugh's life was the work of the Devil, if you believe in that sort of thing.

Born to a prominent Missouri family of Republican politicians, Rush dropped out of college in 1971, and went to work as a DJ at a Top 40 radio station in western Pennsylvania, outside Pittsburgh.

Later, he became a weekend morning public affairs radio host in Kansas City, where he also worked for the Kansas City Royals baseball team in group sales.  He was repeatedly fired from his various radio jobs.  By 1987, he was working as a radio host in Sacramento, California. 

In August of 1987, the Federal Communications Commission repealed the so-called "fairness doctrine."  This was the media rule stating that you had to give air time to conflicting opinions on controversial issues. 

Rush seems to have been among the first to notice the ramifications of this repeal.  Basically, he could now say whatever he wanted, no matter how outrageous or irresponsible, and he didn't have to worry about presenting the views of people who disagreed with him.

He went to town.  By the summer of 1988, he was so popular in Sacramento that he was hired to work at WABC radio in New York City, the largest media market in the United States.  National syndication soon followed.  By the end of 1990, he was the most popular radio host in America, appearing on more than 650 stations nationwide.  

Millions of people became "ditto heads," a term coined to describe how individuals who called into his show often began their comments by saying, "Ditto."  The word was meant to demonstrate their total, mindless agreement with everything Rush said. 

And what were the types of things Rush was saying, that inspired such passionate agreement?

Rush Limbaugh as John Wayne Gacy.

Send in the Clown

Rush specialized in a sort of humor that tapped into the seething anger of a backward and disoriented group of mostly white, mostly Christian Americans.

He often mocked black people (in one notorious incident, he told a black caller to "take that bone out of your nose and call me back.")  He also mocked Native Americans.  Also gay people.  And feminists (he appears to have been the person who coined the term "feminazis").

He was a rape apologist, stating that at times "No means yes."  He was a drug enforcement hypocrite, calling for stiff prison sentences for drug addicts and drug traffickers, although he was secretly both things himself.  After his 2006 arrest for illegal possession of more than 2,000 painkillers, he largely dropped any reference to drug enforcement from his shows.   

He denied the findings of science at every turn.  During the height of the AIDS crisis, he denied that heterosexuals ever contracted the disease, while mocking the mass death of gay men as part of his recurring "AIDS Update" segment.

He denied the existence of climate change, of course.  A long-time smoker, he downplayed the idea that smoking causes cancer (which is interesting, since this is what killed him).

He claimed that Covid-19, which has now killed more than half a million Americans, was "the common cold."

In the 1990s, he was an enthusiastic supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement, only later becoming shocked to learn that it led to the unrecoverable loss of hundreds of thousands of previously American jobs to Mexico.  

He was a supporter of the "birther" idea that President Barack Obama was not a citizen of the United States.

He claimed, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster was the work of left-wing terrorists.  He suggested the same thing about the 2019 Christchurch mosque massacre.  

He used to claim that the actor Michael J. Fox was exaggerating his Parkinson's disease symptoms.

I could go on and on and on, but by now you get the picture.  Rush Limbaugh was an idiot.  What's more, his idiocy was so successful, that legions of Rush imitators quickly appeared all over talk radio and on TV, most notably on FOX News. 

Rush's efforts, and those of his followers, gradually demolished any sense of reason or civility in public discourse, dumbing down enormous masses of people, and leading to the orgasmic climax of stupidity that is now evident everywhere in American life.

If the United States is doomed, Rush Limbaugh is a big part of the reason why.  And if this is true (and it is), then why am I NOT glad Rush is dead?

"Everybody Eats Shit Sooner or Later"

My father was a clever man, probably one of the brightest people I've known.  That doesn't mean we got along.  We didn't.  But I recognize that he was intelligent.

The above quote was one he enjoyed repeating, and it has stuck with me.  It dovetails nicely with a concept attributed to the Stoic school of thought.  

That concept is "Memento mori," which is Latin for "Remember that you too will die."  The original Stoics, like Marcus Aurelius and Seneca, were Romans.  Romans spoke Latin, which itself is a language that died.

Thee Optimist is nothing if not a Stoic.  And while Thee Optimist used to gloat over the suffering and deaths of people like Lee Atwater and Ariel Sharon, and think of these people as actual monsters for whom no amount of suffering was enough... he no longer does this. 

There's no sense gloating over the deaths of others, since death is coming for us all, saints and sinners alike.  This past year, more than anything, has made that abundantly clear.  And even more fun than that, before death takes us we are very likely to suffer.  

Yes, Rush Limbaugh was a monster.  But he also suffered.  He was overweight and had heart problems that led to hospitalizations.  As mentioned above, he was an opiate addict who went to great lengths to feed (and hide) his addiction.  His opiate addiction is thought to have caused his repeated bouts with near-total deafness.  

Although he was loved by millions and became vastly wealthy as a result, he was hated by as many people who loved him.  By all accounts, he was difficult to get along with, was fired from numerous jobs before he became famous, and was divorced three times. 

He spewed a lot of hate, over many years.  It is easy to believe that someone with that much hate inside him was dealing with a lot of pain.  

In the end, he died of cancer, a disease that cuts down millions of people, just as it did Rush.  In the last months of his life, after ineffective treatments and with a terminal diagnosis, he struggled to continue working and stay on the air.

In one of his final broadcasts, he said, "I wasn't expected to make it to October, and then to November, and then to December.  And yet, here I am, and today, got some problems, but I'm feeling pretty good today."

"...feeling pretty good today."  That may be one of the very few things Rush and I could agree on.  We live under the shadow of death, and about all you can do in the face of that is focus on living life in the present.


"You could leave life right now.  Let that determine what you do and say and think."  -- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations


  1. You came to a quite sophisticated and surprisingly positive conclusion, considering the horrid subject matter. Yes, death will come for us all, so that should temper our gloating over the worst people's demise. But for the evil incarnate (like Rush), I have to say I'm glad when the exit my reality. Average life expectancy for wealthy, white males is around the mid-80s. So by my calculation, him dying at age 70 spared us about 15 years of this guy continuing to damage our nation and millions of lives.

    1. Thee Optimist is nothing if not sophisticated and positive. Age is forcibly transitioning him into WISDOM. He is going, albeit kicking and screaming.

      The problem with Rush is the damage is already done. FOX News beams an alternate reality into 90 million homes, all day every day. Alex Jones spews toxic hallucinations that reach tens of millions. Part of why Rush dying was no big deal is because he isn't necessary to the effort anymore.

    2. That's true. Unfortunately, other conservative commentators are now contributing even more to the cesspool.