The Old Truths Often Are the Best Truths

Words written in 1963 still perfectly apply in our modern era. The prescient author could have written them yesterday.

Richard Hoftstadter

In 1963, Knopf published Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, by Richard Hofstadter, a distinguished professor of American History at Columbia University. In 1964, the book won the Pulitzer Prize in Non-Fiction.

Hofstadter, who also is famous for another classic, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, published in 1964, portrayed in Anti-Intellectualism in American Life an American culture largely inimical to intellectuals, and the process of rationality and speculative thought. In this thoughtful and illuminating book, The parallels to our modern know-nothing society are striking. Consider this passage:

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An Ego Bigger Than the Sun

Can anyone really think he or she is this important?

Rush Limbaugh, or as he describes himself, "the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-sensing, all-feeling, all-caring MaHaRushi." Yeah, right.

On today’s radio show, Rush Limbaugh alerted his loyal army of zombie dittoheads to this sudden news announcement: President Obama had just requested that all Congressional Democrats meet with him at 3:00 pm at the White House. The subject of the proposed meeting was not announced.

To Limbaugh, what was most significant about the announcement was the meeting’s scheduled time. You see, Limbaugh’s show ends at 3:00 pm. Ah-hah! Anyone who can put two and two together can clearly see that Obama and his team scheduled the meeting for 3:00 pm so that Limbaugh could not negatively comment about it during his ridiculous show. At least this was the great El Rushbo’s take.

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The Voice is the Sound That the Soul Makes

Matthew 7:16: By their fruit you will recognize them.

Stanley Elkin.

Stanley Elkin, one of my favorite authors, wrote this sentence for his novel, The Dick Gibson Show: “The voice is the sound that the soul makes.” This memorable sentence uncovers a simple truth: We can learn a great deal about who people really are by how they speak, and what they say. To illustrate this point, click on the following chilling video of Adolf Hitler, and watch while the Nazi Führer carries on madly at the podium.

Some who listened while Hitler deliver his hateful, histrionic harangues were convinced he was the devil incarnate. One respected international reporter once had a vantage point behind Hitler while the Nazi leader was at the podium. The man swears that he say a violent series of blue electric flames shoot out from the back of Hitler’s head while he was speaking!

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A Modern-Day Joe McCarthy

Joe McCarthy: "I hold here in my hands ... "

I just finished reading an excellent article entitled “The Last Days of Joe McCarthy,” by Richard Rovere, and published by Esquire magazine in its August 1958 edition. At the time, Rovere was the Washington correspondent for The New Yorker. As such, he had a ringside seat at McCarthy’s 1954 Senate censure and the inglorious public denouement of the politician that followed. Rovere continued to cover McCarthy until his death in 1957 due to cirrhosis of the liver. The Wisconsin senator drank himself to death.

What stands out in Rovere’s on-the-scenes print portrayal of this dangerous demagogue, a malevolent frightener and bully from the paranoid, anti-communist, early 1950s (the “McCarthy Era”), is how closely he resembles another modern-day demagogue from the Midwest, Missourian Rush Limbaugh. One notable difference: McCarthy (“Tail Gunner Joe”) actually served in the military during his generation’s war (World War II) while Limbaugh remained safely on the sidelines during that of his generation (the Vietnam War), due to a cyst on his butt (so appropriate). Other than this discrepancy, however, the picture that Rovere paints of McCarthy could quite easily be that of Limbaugh.

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Wicked Words

Words count. Some lift us up. Others tear us down. Rush Limbaugh and his radio brethren deal only in the latter variety.

Rush Limbaugh – as ugly as his words.

Here is what the hateful Rush Limbaugh had to say right before the Democratic Convention in Denver in 2008: “Now, I am not inspiring or inciting riots. I’m dreaming. (singing to the tune of White Christmas) I’m dreaming of riots in Denver. Remember 1968?”

Then he said, “Riots in Denver at the Democrat convention would see to it we don’t elect Democrats – and that’s the best damn thing could happen for this country as far as anything I can think.”

And then he said, “I mean, if people say what’s your exit strategery, the dream end of this is that this keeps up to the convention and that we have a replay of Chicago 1968, with burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots, and all of that. That’s the objective here.”*

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Tea for Tea Partyers

You don’t try to sell grumpy, old, white people hot dogs, or ice cream, or soda pop, or fried chicken, when they have all lost their brains and gone on a goofy tea party binge. You sell them tea. 

Did you know that Rush Limbaugh is now a tea merchant? Recently, Limbaugh began hawking his new tea product, Two If By Tea, on his radio show. It retails at $23.76 a case, which works out to about $2 per bottle. Nice markup for what essentially is tap water flavored with a few tea leaves.

The tea is only available online at Limbaugh’s tea company website. Of course it is: Most responsible shoppers would almost certainly picket stores that sell anything manufactured by this obnoxious radio clown.

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Bloody Microphones)

The secret and shameful thought that rattles around inside the little brains of radio demagogues such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Michael Savage: “Freedom of speech allows me to say any crazy, demagogic, incendiary, inflammatory, rabble-rousing, grossly untrue thing I want on the radio, and nobody can shut me up!”

Right-wing radio talk show hosts and shock jocks feel free to say whatever they want during their broadcasts, no matter how provocative, dangerous, irresponsible, and false.

Why is this? The reason could not be more obvious: Such flame-throwing, burn-down-the-house rhetoric boosts their audience ratings and public profiles. As a result, radio demagogues make more money – which is what they are really all about.

Unfortunately, others often pay dearly for their hateful dialogue. Certainly, Gabby Giffords is the latest example of this, no matter how insane Jared Lee Loughner may be. And don’t try to tell me that the hateful rhetoric that spews forth daily from right-wing radio had no effect on Loughner.

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Crocodile Tears

The silly tears of an even sillier clown.

What is it with all of that goofy Glenn Beck crying? Dubbed the “Crying Conservative,” Beck tears up like a baby at the drop of a hat.

According to Common Nonsense, a tell-all biography of Beck by Brooklyn freelance journalist Alexander Zaitchik, Beck has been using phony tears throughout his long career. They represent Beck’s signature schtick for his nutty radio and TV routines.

One radio colleague from Beck’s days as a New Haven morning zoo DJ (nice background for an influential opinion pundit and thought leader) says that he would begin crying on the air about something, quickly revert to cool control during the commercial, and then immediately start crying again when the show resumed.

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The Ludicrous Limbaugh View of Reality

Beauty is supposed to be in the eye of the beholder.

Rush Limbaugh now features a new commercial on his daily radio show, a pick-up of some of his recent on-air commentary. It goes like this: “I never go on TV. I am way too hot. If I am on camera, no one will be able to hear what I say. They will be too dazzled.”

Based on this photo of Limbaugh after his recent, heavily publicized Quick Weight Loss Centers (an advertising client) diet, he surely must be right. After all, this is the same svelte individual who constantly pays glowing, on-air tribute to, as he puts it, “every square inch of my glorious, naked body.” Yes, indeedy. Some other characteristically humble on-air quotes from old tons-of-fun, “El Rushbo,” or as he describes himself, “the lovable, little fuzz ball”:

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Why Does Glenn Beck Hate the Victims of Natural Disasters?

On his nationally broadcast radio show, Glenn Beck routinely goes out of his way to denigrate people whose lives have been ripped apart by disasters.

In September 2005, when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast and flooded 80 percent of New Orleans, conservative radio talk show host Glenn Beck derided as “scumbags” the victims of the disaster who were forced to huddle for days in the Louisiana Superdome to escape the floodwaters. Apparently, what enraged Beck about these individuals, most of whom were black New Orleanians, was that they did not leave the city in time to avoid the disaster.

Of course, the majority of these people were poor. Many were elderly. Others were disabled, mentally or physically or both. Few owned cars or had money for public transportation. (Unfortunately, for the people of New Orleans, free emergency evacuation via school buses and other city vehicles was non-existent during the tragedy.) On top of everything else, most of the people in the Superdome had nowhere to go, or money to house and take care of themselves when they got to wherever Beck wanted them to flee.

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The Big, Fat, Obnoxious Blowhard in Black

Do we really need a larger-than-life photo of the hateful Rush Limbaugh leering out at us like a schoolyard bully from a cover of Newsweek magazine?

Do you dislike the disgraceful Newsweek cover for the November 8, 2010, edition as much as I do? The cover photo depicts radio demagogue Rush Limbaugh, in a haughty (what else?), in-your-face pose, a smart-alecky expression on his chubby face, the fingers of his right hand extended out in a taunting manner, and dressed all in mordant black. The cover reads: “Rush Limbaugh: Always Right,” by Zev Chafets, his hagiographer.

Why put this hateful provocateur on Newsweek’s cover? With Limbaugh’s obscene $58.7 million annual salary, the broadcast bigmouth is No. One on Newsweek’s list of the “Power 50,” the top paid media celebrities and political commentators. So Americans are graced with Limbaugh’s pot-gutted presence for at least a week. Hot dog!

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The Adolf Hitler Store

I had no idea about the extras I would get in the mail when I ordered a CD of the shameful Father Coughlin’s speeches for historical review.

Recently, in conjunction with a new writing project, I began to research the life of Charles Coughlin, the infamous radio priest, hatemonger, and venomous anti-Semite of the 1930s. To this end, I ordered from Amazon a CD entitled Father Coughlin is on the Air! I actually bought the CD from one of Amazon’s many independent sellers. I did not pay attention to the name of the vendor, and clicked through as quickly as possible to complete the sale and get back to work.

When the CD arrived, it came with a catalog, copied poorly on plain white paper. I paid no attention to this cheap-looking product directory, putting it in my inbox for later review. That evening, I played the CD. Based on Coughlin’s evil reputation as the father of hate radio, I expected to hear a ranting and raving lunatic.  However, during the two radio broadcasts on the CD – programs for April 4 and 11, 1937 – Coughlin did not come across as unduly intemperate or unhinged. Quite the opposite. His delivery was powerful and passionate, and spoken in a strong and mellifluous voice, although for this listener fairly confusing, as the priest spoke disjointedly of unseemly debt and taxation levels, as well as the “manufacturing of money,” and what he quaintly termed “private property-ship.”

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Vaster Wasteland

TV is a big joke. Watch too much of it and your brain will turn to oatmeal. But with all of its many faults, TV is a full Cambridge scholarship compared to AM radio, and its shock jocks, right-wing talkers, sports show meatheads, and other on-air “personalities.”

In 1961, before the National Association of Broadcasters annual convention, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Newton Minow delivered what is now famously known as his “Wasteland Speech.” Stating that, “When television is bad, nothing is worse,” Minow called TV a “vast wasteland.” Minow objected to the programming of that vintage era, as he described it, “game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons.” Minow was right on the money. They didn’t (and still don’t) call TV the “boob tube” for nothing.

At the time, only three TV networks broadcast in the USA. Today, more than 20 national TV networks operate, with hundreds of lesser networks also broadcasting around the clock. With today’s spate of unreal reality shows, dog-eat-dog survivor shows, idiotic game shows, sappy soap operas, and additional broadcasting babblement, things have not improved any. Indeed, the vast wasteland is now vaster than ever.

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Rush Limbaugh, Oceanography Savant

Right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is not a marine biologist. He is a destructive demagogue. Indeed, Limbaugh describes himself as “the most dangerous man in America.” Although Limbaugh’s prediction that the oil from the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico would naturally vanish has proved partially correct, he should not get credit for it. Limbaugh based his forecast on ideology, not science. Plus, there remains the little matter of more than one million barrels of toxic oil – the equivalent of five Exxon Valdezes – still floating underwater and unseen in Gulf waters, along with vast amounts of dissolved methane.

Recently, America’s No. 1. yappy mouth, conservative radio talker Rush Limbaugh, has been crowing that he was right regarding his prediction that Mother Nature would eliminate the oil geysering into the Gulf of Mexico from the broken BP Deepwater Horizon oil well at the seabed bottom.

On numerous radio broadcasts during the height of the BP oil spill disaster, Limbaugh routinely told his audience that the oil would magically disappear. And much of it has now apparently done so according to the federal government. It reported in early August that about three-quarters of the oil dispersed from the well has vanished, or soon will.

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