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Living Limbaugh

As someone from a family with it's fair share of political discourse, I took this Salon essay by Julie Limbaugh (cousin to Rush) to heart. She struggles her whole life with the fact that she is related to someone at least half the country hates. Even she doesn't agree with Cousin Rusty, but she doesn't hate him. In fact, she's grown up loving him. He is family and reminds her of everything she loves about her family, including the disagreements.

Where it gets complicated is how she feels about Rush today. She still loves him but isn't sure he's the same person she's grown up knowing (albeit, not knowing well).

Yet lately, I must admit, being a Limbaugh has been a little tough. When listening to Jon Stewart or just about everyone lay into the latest outrageous thing Cousin Rusty has said, it just doesn't seem like he's in on the act, and that makes it hard for me to separate my cousin from his persona. Maybe it's just me -- afraid of facing my student loans in our crumbling economy, or maybe I have officially become one of the "crazy liberals" my uncles always warn me of, but it seems that Rush is no longer just playing the political game he plays so well. Rather, he has been attacking hope, and now it feels like there's little room for that.

That Julie Limbaugh loves her cousin is indicative of the problem I have had with political discourse in these modern times. The pitch and tenor is getting increasingly bitter and—yes—hateful. That Rush Limbaugh is one primary cause for this rise in vitriol makes me sad for Julie. Anyone who makes his living by telling other people that their loved ones who have a different political viewpoint are un-American and enemies is a bad person. I am firmly in the half of the country that does not love Rush Limbaugh.



Between Glenn Beck's tearful TV special and Rush becoming the persona, my mind has been wandering back to this piece on Jean Shepherd (A Christmas Story) by Donald Fagan:


"What I saw that night at Rutgers wasn't pretty. In the studio, his occasional abuse of the lone engineer on the other side of the glass could be seen as the petulance of an artist trying to make things work on the fly. But, incandescent under the gaze of all those kids, his self-indulgences looked more like straight-up narcissism and his "hipness" was revealed as something closer to contempt. By the end of the show, he'd crossed the line between artist and showman and then some. No longer wanting to meet the great man, I left before the reception, scraped the ice off my windshield, and drove home. Anyway, the cool early '60s were over and the boiling, psychedelic late '60s had begun. Shepherd was no longer part of my world."

Every now and then I flip away from the Ron Reagan show and listen to Michael Savage--mainly because when he is not apopleptic about liberals, he gives great radio and talks about cultural things no one really talks about--art, music, growing up in Brooklyn, the ingredients in dog food, exotic plants. Just "out there" stuff.

And I think about the evangelical movement and all its weird permutations, showboaty gestures, cheesy pronouncements, and how the act doesn't really square up with what Christ taught--and how your regular mainstream denominations just don't act so obnoxiously.

So reading this article makes me think: I'm not sure these guys believe half the things they say. They WANT to be that guy--but they're not. They have this need to SHOW that they're staunch upstanding liberty loving godfearing defenders of the American dream--as if, were they to let their guard down, they'd be revealed as flawed, phonies, doubters, scam artists, human, etc.

Anyone who is a performer knows the feeling: "This next time I go onstage, people will FINALLY find out I'm a fraud. I've fooled them this long, but tonight, the jig is up for me." Stage fright, performance anxiety--call it what you will. They have a special loathing for Hollywood and it's probably because they see themselves in it.

I don't know--there's a thesis in there somewhere.

what compels me to respond is owl's comment regarding fagen. that's a great personal association you brought up.

go, off the topic i go with fagen. did he ever really exorcise the cult of personality of jean shepard from his life? i think "nightfly" is a direct attempt to address that specific time in fagen's life. it seems that letting go of that period in his life has been a recurring theme in some of his work.

i'm a big fagen fan and never saw that article in slate. thanks for mentioning it and having the link. now i'm interested to see if i can find any of those old jean shepard monologues captured somewhere to hear one of a young donald fagen's fallen idols act was like.

as for limbaugh, i feel that his schtick will wear thin pretty soon and his voice will be marginalized. once we see a turn in the economy, people will begin to feel less disenfranchised and soon they will look at the vitriol and ask themselves what it was all about.

with newt's comments about creating a third party, the base of the republican party that has been appealed to over the past decade is going to be marginalized. with them, limbaugh will be as well. his discourse will be talking to a dwindling base that will have less impact on the national debate.

it sort of reminds me of morton downey jr. and his impact on the talk show. there was a period that afternoon talk shows had rational discussions on interesting topics with rational questions coming from the audience. that all ended with the shock talk host antics of downey. soon other shows changed their format to keep with the rating game. it was about stirring the rancor and bringing out the angry in everyone. soon the afternoon television landscape was nothing but hate, with a few holdouts keeping their format. one of notable regard was oprah. years later we see how thing work out. the parade of pandering sluts of hatred have come and gone and the afternoon talk show format more mimics oprah. sure, you have springer, but he plays to a marginalized base.

so, as with the past several years of rancor and hate, this too shall pass.
we're seeing the numbers increase on the likes of maddow and olberman. stewart is bringing something interesting to the national discourse. so, hopefully we're seeing a sea change. at least it feels like it to me.

"So reading this article makes me think: I'm not sure these guys believe half the things they say."

Yeah, Julie says as much about Rush but with a different take. She says that it used to be a bit of a character he played, a hyper-Stephen Colbert, if you will. She says that there was always this hint that Rush was in on the joke and that SOME of what he was saying was simply to play up the character. Now, she's not sure. He seems to be turning into that character and believing his own hype, which is why she's struggling with her feelings.

It's a really good read if anyone here hasn't taken the time yet. Very interesting.

republican caller strikes back at rush for being a "brainwashed nazi". it's just one caller that is raising their voice against rush. i hope there are many to follow. hopefully we'll reach that tipping point where he becomes marginalized as an oddity versus an influence on mainstream america.


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