Thursday, June 24, 2010

Limbaugh the Reprehensible

Rush Limbaugh is not just a man with “a different point-of-view" (a phrase that is often used as code these days for “shut the hell up and stop making life mildly unpleasant for complacent people by criticizing the opinions of the idiotic and monstrous”). The beliefs of Limbaugh, and everyone who agrees with him, are nothing short of morally reprehensible.

But let me back up a little bit.

Economic elitists in this country have always had a rough time selling their case to the American people. After all, unlike monarchies and dictatorships, the source of power in democratic countries lies in the approval of the populace. Since class-based elitists are, by the very nature of the arguments they advocate, insisting that the interests of a small fraction of the general public should be put over the needs of the overwhelming majority, their position becomes an extraordinarily untenable one in egalitarian societies.

This goes a long way toward explaining why America’s first prominent voice of economic conservatism, Alexander Hamilton, soon found that these ideas – as most eloquently espoused by himself, and as championed by the political party he helped to found, the Federalists – became politically poisonous:

All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and well born, the other the mass of the people.... The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right. Give therefore to the first class a distinct, permanent share in the government. They will check the unsteadiness of the second, and as they cannot receive any advantage by change, they therefore will ever maintain good government.

I will give Hamilton credit for one thing, though; whereas he attempted to justify his position with rationalizations that didn’t condemn the poor so much as dismiss them as sociologically irrelevant, his counterparts today are not only less cerebral, but so bilious and hate-filled that Hamilton would likely be mortified to have them represent his cause.

This, of course, brings me to Rush Limbaugh, the de facto leader of the conservative movement in our time. During a recent statement on his radio program, he expressed dismay at reports that children from poor families may have to endure hunger this summer once they no longer receive free or discounted school lunches. Sadly, this dismay - as always - was pointed in precisely the wrong direction:

God, this is just -- we can't escape these people. We just can't escape them…

Where to find food. And, of course, the first will be: "Try your house." It's a thing called the refrigerator. You probably already know about it. Try looking there. There are also things in what's called the kitchen of your house called cupboards. And in those cupboards, most likely you're going to find Ding-Dongs, Twinkies, Lays ridgy potato chips, all kinds of dips and maybe a can of corn that you don't want, but it will be there. If that doesn't work, try a Happy Meal at McDonald's. You know where McDonald's is. There's the Dollar Menu at McDonald's and if they don't have Chicken McNuggets, dial 911 and ask for Obama.

It gets better...

There's another place if none of these options work to find food; there's always the neighborhood dumpster. Now, you might find competition with homeless people there, but there are videos that have been produced to show you how to healthfully dine and how to dumpster dive and survive until school kicks back up in August. Can you imagine the benefit we would provide people?

In response to Limbaugh’s remarks, Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) delivered a statement from the floor of the House of Representatives:

I rise today out of disgust over recent comments by Rush Limbaugh about child hunger… Mr. Limbaugh ultimately recommended these children "Dumpster dive" -- Dumpster dive! -- to find food until school starts back up. In the midst of a deep recession that has forced millions of Americans to face the daily fear of losing their homes and failing to provide food for their kids, all Mr. Limbaugh can contribute is another awful example of shameless and callous commentary.

Limbaugh has never been a particularly good debater, so I guess one shouldn’t be surprised at the low intellectual and moral quality of his rebuttal:

It's called a kitchen, and there's cupboards in there and sometimes there's a refrigerator in there, and if you have responsible parents there's going to be food in there. If you find that doesn't work, go to a neighbor's house. Then there's also McDonald's and the Happy Meal.

Oh, and in case you feel that Limbaugh's recent remarks are a mere momentary lapse, allow me to bring you back to the Limbaugh of the 1990s:

The poor in this country are the biggest piglets at the mother pig and her nipples. The poor feed off the largesse of this government and give nothing back... I'm sick and tired of the one phony game I've had to play and that is this so-called compassion for the poor. I don't have compassion for the poor.

I’m not sure what is more disturbing: The fact that Rush Limbaugh and his twenty million listeners can have such smug, self-satisfied contempt for people who are powerless and suffering, or the fact that HIS bubbleheaded, mean-spirited elitism has become so widely admired, thus implying that Hamilton's mistake back in the 1790s was not so much BEING elitist as it was not being sufficiently stupid and hateful in practicing his elitism.

Actually, it's pretty obvious which element of this story is most disturbing: Namely, that I even need to write an article calling Limbaugh and his supporters "reprehensible" in the first place.

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