Defending Rush Limbaugh, who publicly said, “The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People should have riot rehearsal,” bothers many conservatives, including myself. However, disagreeing with a statement (hopefully) made for shock value is not a valid enough reason to stop listening altogether. On the contrary, when I hear, see or read something that stuns or appalls me, I usually react by attempting to learn more.
After actually listening to “The Rush Limbaugh Show,” a nationally syndicated radio broadcast that reaches an estimated 20 million listeners per week, I discovered that Limbaugh’s core beliefs align very closely with those of the conservative movement in this country, specifically fewer taxes and smaller government. He also promotes the death penalty, First Amendment rights and the pro-life movement.
Layered on top of these seemingly acceptable and mainstream viewpoints are over-the-top remarks and comments that some might deem “sharp wit.” In a country where everything is taken to the extreme, it should be no surprise that political commentary would follow the same path in order to be as equally effective as other contemporary marketing campaigns. Are the effects of Limbaugh’s show really that different from the effects of Paris Hilton’s Carl’s Jr. commercial? A scantily clad blonde, soapy and wet, lying on a Bentley and biting a cheeseburger appears to be no less outrageous. The objectification of women and the extreme sexuality of the ad sent many family-values groups into a fury. The outrage came close to that of similar groups against the excessive violence in the Grand Theft Auto series. The popularity of these two examples shows that extremism sells.
In a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, opinion writer Andrew Klavan urged liberals to “Take the Limbaugh Challenge.” In other words, Klavan challenged his readers, especially liberals, to actually listen to Limbaugh’s show. I encourage everyone to do this as well. While Klavan’s stereotypical assessment of liberals as “yellow-bellied, lily-livered intellectual cowards” seems too much like a tongue twister from the Wild West to carry any truth, I do agree with his central message. He wrote, “Why are you afraid to spend a couple of hours listening to Limbaugh’s show and seriously considering if and why you disagree with him?”
Klavan may resort to petty name-calling, but he has the right (no pun intended) idea here. Limbaugh’s show is merely a reflection of what our culture has set up as the structure for grabbing the attention of today’s audience. He packages the conservative agenda in the same way Carl’s Jr. markets its burgers, with an excessive amount of what sells. Just imagine a “South Park” episode without Cartmen’s crude remarks. It’s neither possible nor appealing.
While the agenda Limbaugh promotes might not appeal to your personal views, if you never listen to his show, how can you really criticize him? By doing so, you are feeding into the propaganda created from the sound bites delivered by the so-called “liberal media’s” spin factory. I consider myself to be a free-thinking individual and open-minded. In fact, my closest friend has entirely contradictory religious and political views to mine, but I have an enormous amount of respect for him. Having someone around to challenge my views and question me only strengthens what I believe and forces me to really find reasons and facts before forming an opinion.
If listening to Limbaugh doesn’t persuade you to join the conservative cause, at the very least you will hear what a significant amount of Americans tune in to every week. Liberals will only be strengthening their beliefs by hearing the opposition’s views and the type of message they are sending. While I do not always support Limbaugh’s comments, as a free thinker I see no danger in listening to this man’s show. If you are unable to weed out the comments made for entertainment or shock value from the honest political message, then I hope you don’t watch “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
However, if you are a liberal who is secure enough in your beliefs to take the Limbaugh Challenge, then remember that cliché: There is no better way to know a person than to walk in their shoes. Why else would I have a copy of Al Franken’s “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them?”
Erica Bourdon is a third-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.