Why Illustration of the absurd with absurdity matters


By James Holm, Senior Producer

On Saturday March 32012, Rush Limbaugh said, “For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week.  In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.”

The Rush Limbaugh Show’s nationally syndicated program premiered on August 1, 1988, just 17 days before Republicans nominated Vice President George H.W. Bush & Sen. Dan Quayle to be on the presidential ticket.  Limbaugh spent years developing his show to be a vehicle for conservative thought.  Early on Limbaugh used “bits” to parody the homeless, gay people, environmentalists and the women’s movement. 

The theme song to Rush’s “homeless update” was Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s Ain’t Got No Home.  Limbaugh played the 1956 rhythm & blues classic as he would read stories of poor people gaming the welfare system. The racist laced parody became so popular that Henry shared the stage with Limbaugh at a 1991 “Rush to Excellence” event.

Early on Limbaugh popularized the term “Feminazi” to describe women whose goal is to allow as many abortions as possible. Rush would perform “caller abortions” to cut off anyone who disagreed with him. Limbaugh would pot the caller down and play the sound of a vacuum and a scream.

Limbaugh also used a “Gay Update” in which he would play Klaus Nomi’s cover of Lesley Gore’s 1964 hit You Don’t Own Me to bash homosexuals and trivialize the AIDS crisis.  Nomi died in 1983 at the age of 39 as a result of complications from AIDS.

Limbaugh railed against environmentalists for decades.  Rush’s “Animal Rights Update” used the song Born Free followed by gunfire and animal sounds. Limbaugh also popularized the term “environmentalist whacko” to describe anyone who believed in climate change.

In the late 1980’s the radio industry was filled with white male executives and program directors. Within two years of the launch of the Rush Limbaugh program the conservative talker had reached 600 radio stations. The attack on people of color, homosexuals and women was pumped into almost every radio market in America.

Radio programmers had never seen anything like it, so they started to seek out other talent to fill other hours of the day. Limbaugh has given rise to well-known talents like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. At the same time, hundreds of local talkers followed the Rush playbook to lesser success.

By radio standards, currently Limbaugh has 15 million plus listeners. Keep in mind, that’s 15 million a week, 3 million a day, or less than 1% of all Americans.  The reason Limbaugh is perceived to be the most powerful force in the Republican Party is because of the conservative talk radio main audience, elected Republicans.

Political talk radio listeners are vocal and active. They show up at town halls, call their congressional members, blog and vote. Politicians only listen to people who threaten their jobs.  This is where Rush and his talk radio clones come in.

Over the last decade, the Republican Party has fought increases in the minimum wage, unemployment benefits, food stamps and housing assistance.  Republicans have fought equal pay for women, breast cancer screening, preventive care and most recently contraception.

Republicans have stood in the way of giving homosexuals the right to marry, adopt and serve in the military.

Republicans have denied climate change and fought efforts to lower emissions. Republicans have vilified solar, wind and any other alternative method for energy. At the same time, Republicans have protected oil company’s tax breaks and drilling standards.

The economic meltdown in America cannot be blamed on any talk radio host, but it can be blamed on a spineless group of elected officials who are afraid of the man behind the golden microphone.

The record number of Americans who need food stamps or are homeless need not blame Rush Limbaugh or the “Frogman.”  But the Republican’s depraved indifference to their plight is far more pervasive than it was before Limbaugh was foisted on the American public.

In 2012 women are more educated than men, but 2010 was the first year where the number of women in Congress did not increase.

That leads to an all-male panel at a congressional panel on contraception. It also leads to cuts in healthcare, early childhood development and public education.  

American women have never had more opportunity to succeed, but a super majority of male elected officials’ are clinging to power by putting as many hurdles as they can in the way. Wanting equal rights and equal pay doesn’t make anyone a “Feminazi”.  Treating an entire gender of people as inferior is, in a word, Un-American. 

Why Illustration of the absurd with absurdity matters