We've always had terrible examples to defend. And Rush Limbaugh has given us another stellar specimen of vulgar discourse. But defend it we must. Not the hateful, demeaning and discomfiting words. But the right of our colleague — the social commentator — to be heard. And the right of the people to decide.
In Defense of Rush … And Others Before Him
Howard Stern … Don Imus … Opie and Anthony … Lisa Lampanelli … Chris Rock … George Lopez … Kathy Griffin … Bill Maher … Roseanne Barr … Sarah Silverman … and George Carlin, of sainted memory.
We’ve always had terrible examples to defend. And Rush Limbaugh has given us another stellar specimen of vulgar discourse. But defend it we must.
Not the hateful, demeaning and discomfiting words. But the right of our colleague — the social commentator — to be heard. And the right of the people to decide.
Rush misfired. But he should not be fired or denied his podium.
Here’s a baseball analogy. Suppose you had a pitcher with remarkable stamina who, during the course of a long career threw some 8,000 innings. Many of his pitches will miss the strike zone. A few may even hit the poor batter. And during those 8,000 innings spanning some 20 or 30 seasons, he may even bean the damn umpire! But he’s still a great pitcher.
Rush Limbaugh forgot that the young woman from Georgetown — no shrinking violet she, who bemoaned the fact, for all the world to hear, that contraception costs some $1,300 annually — was someone’s daughter.
Her candid and sincere congressional testimony thus provoked Limbaugh’s unfortunate, regrettable and completely inappropriate attack that was all too personal and mean-spirited.
Rush Limbaugh is a performer, an entertainer, a provocateur, a social commentator and, in his worst moments, a carnival barker for the hard right. But the sanctimonious holier-than-thou campaign to destroy and silence him has an agenda that transcends the hurt feelings of one individual.
Phil Reisman, the brilliant and astute Gannett feature columnist, says it’s entirely appropriate to remind Rush that chivalry, respectful discourse and gentlemanly behavior still matter. And I would sign up for that.
To be sure, in this whole dreary matter we’re confronted by a civility issue which is valid, necessary and altogether appropriate. But the mission of the liberal sharks like Ed Shultz and other windbags who smell blood in the water, is not to address the wrong, but to drive Limbaugh off the air.
In other words, when you separate the civility, or lack thereof, from the politics, it’s all too clear that Limbaugh’s enemies are using this contretemps as a weapon to knock him off his platform — permanently.
It drives them — and us — crazy that Limbaugh represents a significant chunk of the Republican Party. So, as Rockefeller Republicans, he’s not at all our cup of tea. Over the years I’ve listened only very occasionally to his ranting and raving since the great Ed McLaughlin plucked Limbaugh from an obscure broadcasting station in Sacramento, Calif., and gave him a national podium.
Truth to tell, if my friends at the New York Post had not already dubbed Alec Baldwin “The Bloviator,” I would suggest that appellation might be more appropriately applied to Mr. Limbaugh.
Like I said, Rush misfired. And like that pitcher, he may have hit the poor umpire this time or some poor bastard behind home plate. (Actually, he hit someone’s daughter!) But he should not be fired … even if the whole cannon of his work is filled with raucous vulgarity and incendiary right-wing rhetoric directed at immigrants, illegal aliens and even presidents of the United States.
We broadcasters are ever alert to incursions against free speech from government bureaucrats. But censorship from corporate timidity in the face of economic boycotts is just as dangerous as the stifling of creative and artistic expression by government fiat, decree, sanction or regulation.
You don’t have to be a First Amendment voluptuary to realize this is just as treacherous as any racism, sexism, bigotry or vulgarity.
Let the SOB be heard. And trust only the people to censure him with a flick of the wrist and a changing of the dial.
I’m uncomfortable as hell about it. But I’m with Limbaugh.
He makes his living with words.
William O’Shaughnessy is owner of WVOX-AM and WVIP-FM in New Rochelle, N.Y., and a longtime advocate of full First Amendment rights for broadcasters.O’Shaughnessy broadcast this commentary before distributing to the press.