Why Rush Limbaugh and the Politics of Prejudice Thrive

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[Speaking Truth To Power]

Actress Jane Fonda, feminist writer Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan—co-founders of the Women’s Media Group—are calling on the
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to remove conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh from the airwaves for attacking Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke and calling her a "slut."

But is removing Limbaugh from the airwaves really the answer to silencing the xenophobic sentiments and opinions he represents on hate radio?

In a CNN column, the female activists argued that Limbaugh should be removed from the airwaves for the “degrading language” he “deploys on women, people of color, lesbians and gays, immigrants, the disabled, the elderly, Muslims, Jews, veterans, environmentalists and so forth.”  The FCC regulates broadcast stations and does have the power to revoke the licenses of stations, especially, ones who are deemed to be acting outside of the “public interest, convenience or necessity.”

The women also pointed out that “Limbaugh doesn't just call people names. He promotes language that deliberately dehumanizes his targets. Like the sophisticated propagandist Josef Goebbels, he creates rhetorical frames -- and the bigger the lie, the more effective -- inciting listeners to view people they disagree with as sub-humans. His longtime favorite term for women, ‘femi-Nazi,’ doesn't even raise eyebrows anymore, an example of how rhetoric spreads when unchallenged by coarsened cultural norms."

According to some reports, as many as 140 companies have either terminated, or, blocked their advertisements from being played on Limbaugh’s conservative talk shown. The furor started when Limbaugh attacked Fluke a law student during a period of three days—some 46 times over nine hours of broadcast time. Limbaugh launched the vicious verbal assault on Fluke for her congressional testimony regarding President Obama’s support for contraceptive mandates.

Fluke’s testimony was in response to all-male panel convened by Congress’ House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Feb. 16, 2012. The panel’s ostensible topic was, supposedly, to examine whether President Obama was stifling religious freedom by pushing for all employers—even religious entities—to provide contraceptive insurance coverage to female employees.

However, many saw the panel’s primary focus as an attack on the reproductive rights of women. And the absence of women on the panel didn’t help that perception as many protested the exclusion. In fact, New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes walked out on the panel in disgust. Fluke was later asked to speak before a congressional body about the issue of contraception.

Then on February 29, Limbaugh launched into his verbal assault on Fluke, saying at one point: “What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.”

It’s truly ironic that this despicable hate-peddler has the nerve to call anybody a prostitute. Limbaugh is nothing more than an opportunistic broadcaster publicizing bigotry for profit. He makes in excess of $50 million to peddle hate-- a provocateur of prejudice. Does anyone really think he believes half of the odious idiocy he utters daily? This week he’s crying conspiracy with claims that the Obama White house orchestrated the controversy his filthy mouth got him into.

However, the answer to defeating the prejudice and division Limbaugh encourages, is not by silencing him. The answer to beating these bigots is to expose the emptiness and moral destitution of their arguments and reasoning. Our goal must be to win the hearts and minds of those who haven’t been completed, and hopelessly, corrupted by the politics of prejudice.

Now, it is quite understandable that Fonda—and women across this country—are infuriated by the misogynistic nonsense bellowed by this bigoted bigmouth. And, this type of broadcasted hate must continually be challenged by people of conscience. However, we must be careful not to mirror the tactics of these charlatans by engaging in another form of censorship. Although, we loathe the insensitive invectives of Limbaugh we must never stoop to his level by trying to silence him this way. We must silence him by our arguments. Moreover, we need to pay more attention to the promoters and supporters of hate radio.

First, let’s start with those who employ the likes of Mr. Limbaugh. For years now, we’ve heard conservatives make the claim that the media is run by “liberals.” Ironically, when one looks at broadcast media, we see it dominated by vile voices like: Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs and Michael Savage—all right-wingers.  With the exception of MSNBC’s weeknight lineup of Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow and Laurence O’Donnell, where are all these “liberal media” figures they like to tell us about? Limbaugh’s employer is Premiere Radio Networks, which also hosts shows by Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. Premier Radio is a subsidiary of Clear Channel.

The Texas-based media conglomerate has gained a dubious name in some circles for its monopolistic ubiquity in broadcast radio circles. But the question here is: why does a company like Clear Channel endorse hate programs like Limbaugh’s? The answer to that is: untold millions of Americans support the prejudiced poison of these programmers. And advertisers—most of whom only care about the bottom line—time and again turn a blind eye to the revolting content they support.

Unfortunately, the uncomfortable, inconvenient truth is that hate radio is profitable because legions of Americans live with hatred for others based on racial, cultural, sexual, and ideological differences. And people like Limbaugh feed on these deep divisions in American society. Removing him won’t change that toxic intolerant reality. For example, this week the Southern Poverty Law Center just released a report that illustrated the rise of hate groups in America.

Whether we like it or not, America is still a place filled with racism, hate and fear. Therefore, those who peddle prejudice on the airwaves will continue to prosper—until we win the battle for the hearts and minds of those Americans who cheer idiots like Rush Limbaugh.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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