Thursday, February 10, 2011

Why Limbaugh Continually Triumphs Over the Leftist Liberal Establishment

Commentary has a great article by Wilfred M. Maclay on why Rush has completely flummoxed the chattering classes. First, a comment by Victor Davis Hanson which alerted me to the Commentary article:
Did I read the current Commentary article on Rush Limbaugh? Yes, and I am on record as impressed with Limbaugh, always have been. Great article by Wilfred McClay. I wouldn’t last 1 hour on the air. How does one for 20 years comment three hours per day on current events, earn an audience of 20 million, have no insider contacts with the D.C.-NY ruling class, come out of the Midwest, fend off rivals and emulators yearly, and combine voice imitations, bombast, astute and incisive analysis, parody — all ad hoc? No one else can do it; those that have tried, from O’Reilly to Air America, proved that well enough. It would require a Don Rickles, Charles Krauthammer, Rich Little, William F. Buckley, George Will, etc. all in one. The ignorant write off Limbaugh as a overweight demagogue; the not so ignorant conclude that he is a genius of sorts that figured out the myriad of hypocrisies of the liberal cultural elite and created an entire industry ex nihilo at their expense.

McClay has another version of Limbaugh's effortless ascendancy over smarmy snarky moonbats like Maher, MessNBC unmentionables, and almost EVERY nitwit silly poseur on network and cable TV, including BOR and a few other icons of the "right."
Limbaugh’s vocal opposition to the stimulus package, which he dubbed “Porkulus,” helped galvanize a unanimous Republican vote in opposition—an astonishing achievement of partisan unity that would be repeated in subsequent lopsided votes on health care and other issues—and would lay the blame for these failed policies entirely on the Democrats’ doorstep, culminating in a huge and decisive electoral pushback against the Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections. The question of whether Limbaugh was or is the “real leader” of the Republican Party suddenly became far less interesting to the White House and its friends in the media, perhaps because the answer was turning out to be something different from what they had expected. Limbaugh had goaded them into elevating his own importance; and in focusing on him and other putative “leaders,” they blinded themselves to the spontaneous and broad-based popular revolt that was rising against them.

In retrospect, the amazing part of the story is how thoroughly the White House misunderstood Limbaugh’s appeal, his staying power, and his approach to issues. It also points to a curious fact about Limbaugh’s standing in the mind of much of the American media and the American left. Even though they talk about him all the time, he’s the man who isn’t quite there. By which I mean that there is a stubborn unwillingness, both wishful and self-defeating, to recognize Limbaugh for what he is, take him seriously, and grant him his legitimate due. Many of his detractors have never even listened to his show, for example. Some of his critics regularly refer to him as Rush “Lim-bough” (like a tree limb), as if his name is so obscure to them that they cannot even remember how to pronounce it.

In short, he is never quite acknowledged as the formidable figure he clearly is. Instead, he is dismissed in one of two ways—either as a comic buffoon, a passing phenomenon in the hit parade of American pop culture, or as a mean-spirited apostle of hate who appeals to a tiny lunatic fringe. These two views are not quite compatible, but they have one thing in common: they both aim to push him to the margins and render him illegitimate, unworthy of respectful attention. This shunning actually works in Limbaugh’s favor because it creates the very conditions that cause him to be chronically underestimated and keeps his opposition chronically off-balance. Indeed, Limbaugh’s use of comedy and irony and showmanship are integral to his modus operandi, the judo by which he draws in his opponents and then uses their own force to up-end them. And unless you make an effort to hear voices outside the echo chamber of the mainstream media, you won’t have any inkling of what Limbaugh is all about or of how widely his reach and appeal extend.

McClay is simply brilliant in summarizing the myriad issues that Rush has to handle on a daily basis for three hours always laying himself open to whomever might have an agenda trying to pimp him on the phone banks. The uniformly narrow shallow canned liberal nutjobs phoning in always slip on their tongues or are aided to do so by Rush's inimitable mental ju-jitsu.
[His] influence is real and pervasive. Like it or not, Rush Limbaugh is unarguably one of the most important figures in the political and cultural life of the United States in the past three decades. His national radio show has been on the air steadily for nearly 23 years and continues to command a huge following, upward of 20 million listeners a week on 600 stations. The only reason it is not even bigger is that his success has spawned so many imitators, a small army of talkers such as Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, and so on, who inevitably siphon off some of his market share. He has been doing this show for three hours a day, five days a week, without guests (except on rare occasions), using only the dramatic ebb and flow of his monologues, his always inventive patter with callers, his “updates,” song parodies, mimicry, and various other elements in his DJ’s bag of tricks.

He is equipped with a resonant and instantly recognizable baritone voice and an unusually quick and creative mind, a keen and independent grasp of political issues and political personalities, and—what is perhaps his greatest talent—an astonishing ability to reformulate complex ideas in direct, vivid, and often eloquent ways, always delivering his thoughts live and unscripted, out there on the high wire. He conducts his show in an air of high-spiritedness and relaxed good humor, clearly enjoying himself, always willing to be spontaneous and unpredictable, even though he is aware that every word he utters on the air is being recorded and tracked by his political enemies in the hope that he will slip up and say something career-destroying. Limbaugh the judo master is delighted to make note of this surveillance, with the same delight he expresses when one of his “outrageous” sound bites makes the rounds of the mainstream media, and he can then play back all the sputtering but eerily uniform reactions from the mainstream commentators, turning it back on them with a well-placed witticism.

There are countless examples of his judo skills at work, but perhaps the most spectacular was the one in the fall of 2007, in which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sought to humiliate Limbaugh only to have the humiliation returned to him threefold. Limbaugh had a caller who complained that the mainstream media would not interview “real soldiers” in Iraq but instead sought out the disgruntled. Limbaugh, in agreement, cited the case of Jesse MacBeth, an Army enlistee who had failed to make it through boot camp but lied about his lack of real military service in order to speak credibly at anti-war rallies. Limbaugh called MacBeth, accurately, a “phony soldier.” But his statement was quickly pulled out of context by Media Matters, one of the Democratic groups that monitors Limbaugh’s every word, and was reframed as a swipe at all soldiers who had misgivings about the war. Limbaugh was denounced in the House for “sliming” the “brave men and women.” Reid used the occasion to address the Senate and deplore Limbaugh’s “unpatriotic comments” for going “beyond the pale of decency” and then wrote a letter to Limbaugh’s syndicator demanding that the talk-show host be repudiated.

But Reid overplayed his hand. Far from running from the controversy, Limbaugh embraced it. He read Reid’s letter on the air, revealing it for the dishonest and bullying document it was, and then, in a stroke of pure genius, announced that he would auction it on eBay and give the proceeds to a military charitable foundation. The letter was sold for $2.1 million, and Rush matched the contribution with his own $2.1 million. Reid could only express his pleasure that the letter had done so much good. He had been flipped onto his back.

The loathsome sclerotic "Dingy Harry" was certainly a great subject for pillorying, after his pathetic bleating that "the war is lost" just as brave men contradicted this physical coward and moral leper by going into Iraq with the Surge and finally wrenching victory out of the jaws of defeat---defeat in Reid's and the loathsome left's twittering loser mentality. McClay goes on to point out an object lesson, or in the words of our ridiculous remander-in-chief: a teachable moment, about the left's utter delusionary self-isolation from reality:
Given Limbaugh’s talents and achievements, one would have thought that even his detractors would have an interest in knowing more about him: who he is, where he came from, and why he has acquired and kept such a large and devoted following. But in fact, there has been a remarkable lack of curiosity on that score and little incentive to go beyond the sort of routine demonization that only strengthens him. It was not until 2010 that a reasonably fair-minded account of Limbaugh’s life and work, by the journalist Zev Chafets, appeared in print.1 As Chafets reports in the book’s acknowledgments, it was not easy finding a publisher willing to take on such a book, unless it had the words “idiot” or “liar” in the title, since, as one friend explained it to him, “I have to go out for lunch in this city every day.” So call it a politically correct lack of curiosity, then; but whatever the reason, it has meant our missing out on a fascinating story of a very American life.

But not missing out entirely, since much of the story comes across in Limbaugh’s own account of himself on his show. Anyone can figure out from listening to the show that he was and is a quintessential radio guy, a product of that fluid, wide-open, insecure, enterprising, somewhat hardscrabble, somewhat gonzo world of the AM radio disc jockey, in which salesmanship and showmanship were two names for the same thing and in which incessant changes of name and employer were the most predictable element of life: “packing and unpacking, town to town, up and down the dial” in the words of the theme song of WKRP in Cincinnati, the 1970s TV sitcom that captured some of the knockout zaniness of that world. Limbaugh was smitten early and permanently with the romance of radio and never really wanted to do anything else with his life, including bothering to go to college, let alone taking on his birthright, the leadership of the family law firm.

It was a business one could learn only in the doing. While still in high school, he started working at KMGO-AM in his hometown of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, spinning discs in the afternoons under the name “Rusty Sharpe.” Later, he was “Jeff Christie,” morning-drive DJ on WIXZ-AM in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, where he hosted “The Solid Rockin’ Gold Show.” There was a move to Kansas City, where he would eventually begin dabbling in political discussion, and then finally KFBK in Sacramento, where he followed in the footsteps of the unpleasantly provocative Morton Downey Jr. and was able to do politically oriented talk as a solo act without guests and using his own name, finally developing the bombastic Limbaugh persona (“El Rushbo” with “talent on loan from Gawww-duh”) and the familiar epithets (“Feminazis” and “Environmentalist Wackos”) applied to his designated opponents. In Sacramento, he perfected his formula and proved a great success, tripling Downey’s already sizable audience and attracting the attention of syndicator Ed McLaughlin, who in 1988 brought him to WABC in New York to do The Rush Limbaugh Program, 21 years after those first broadcasts back at KMGO.

On arriving in New York, Limbaugh immediately set to work building his affiliate network and his general visibility, charging forward indefatigably on all fronts at once. He wasted no time plunging the show into the 1988 presidential campaign, branding Michael Dukakis “The Loser” and assigning him update theme music drawn from the Beatles’ “I’m a Loser,” emphasizing the refrain: “ . . . and I’m not what I appear to be,” a dig at the Massachusetts governor’s futile effort to disguise or downplay his liberalism. He began giving one-man “Rush to Excellence” tours around the country. These efforts paid off very quickly. By 1990, the radio-show audience had hit 20 million; his first book, The Way Things Ought to Be, was released in 1992 and sold 2 million copies in six weeks, making it at that point the fastest-selling volume in publishing history.

Then his program hit a mid-life slump of sorts, with a trumped-up drug charge and catastrophic hearing loss, plus the demoralizing lack of leadership [except cheerleadership] from George W. Bush pushed him onto a railroad siding, though his immense audience persisted. Even a successful TV show Nielsen-wise failed to attract advertisers, a very interesting apercu on the prevalence of an elite mentality over a basically conservative American demographic. If anything, the military-industrial-petroleum complex tries to outdo itself in showing compassionate "soft" values as its major selling strategy. But Obama's election proved a wondrous boon, to Rush's career, at any event:
....Limbaugh clearly has the wind at his back again with a newly growing audience. Like the radio guy he is and always will be, he is a survivor. He has wisely chosen to avoid television for the most part after a syndicated television show successful with audiences (and produced by Roger Ailes in the early 1990s in a warm-up for Ailes’s unprecedented triumph as the creator of the Fox News Channel) proved less so with advertisers. Events, too, have moved his way. The abject failure of the John McCain campaign vindicated many of Limbaugh’s longstanding complaints about the more moderate wing of the Republican Party. And the rise of Obama has proved nothing less than a godsend for him—though only because he had the boldness to seize the opportunity it presented.

Occasionally, Limbaugh will talk on his show about radio, past, present, and future, and you understand that his great success is no accident. Able to draw with minuteness on more than four decades of work experience, he has achieved a comprehensive and detailed grasp of the technical, performing, and business dimensions of the industry, all of which give him an unmatched understanding of the medium and its possibilities. But it is more than a wonk’s understanding. He has a deep-in-the-bones feeling for what is magical about radio at its best—its immediacy, its simplicity, its ability to create the richness of imagined places and moments with just a few well-placed elements of sound, its incomparable advantages as a medium for storytelling with the pride of place that it gives to the spoken word and the individual human voice, abstracted from all other considerations. He probably also understands why he himself is not nearly so good on TV, faced as he is with the classic McLuhanesque problem of a hot personality in a cool medium.

He also understood why predictions of radio’s demise have repeatedly been proved wrong, why AM radio has lent itself particularly well to the kind of simple and easy interactivity on which talk thrives, and why the movement of talk radio into the AM band would have the same revitalizing effect there as an urban homesteader turning a decrepit old townhouse into a place of elegance and commodity. AM radio was supposed to have died off years ago due to its weak and tinny sound. But the takeover by talk in the early 1990s, primarily due to Limbaugh, managed to transform a decaying and outdated infrastructure into the perfect vehicle for the medium’s own aspirations.

Rush took a stunted and underused format and changed it utterly when the Fairness Doctrine was revoked in 1987 because the original reason that there was a limited amount of band-width had become ridiculous with the advent of cable and new networks on TV:
Talk radio is, implicitly, talk-back radio—a medium tuned into during times of frustration, exasperation, even desperation, by people who do not find that their thoughts, sentiments, values, and loyalties are fairly or even minimally represented in the “official” media. Such feelings may be justified or unjustified, wholesome or noxious; but in any event they are likely to fester and curdle in the absence of some outlet in which they can be expressed. Talk radio is a place where people can go to hear opinions freely expressed that they will not hear elsewhere, and where they can come away with a sense of confirmation that they are not alone, are not crazy, and are not wrong to think and feel such things. The existence of such frustrations and fears are the sine qua non of talk radio; it would not exist without them.

And Rush did another wonderful metamorphosis in talk-radio by freeing it from its inner demons, the tendency of some DJ's and dudes like Howard Stern to fly off the handle or devolve into regurgitation-worthy monologues of degraded patter and outright nonstop obscenities.
....Without Limbaugh’s influence, talk radio might well have become a dreary medium of loud voices, relentless anger, and seething resentment, the sort of thing that the New York screamer Joe Pyne had pioneered in the 50s and 60s—“go gargle with razor blades,” he liked to tell his callers as he hung up on them—and that one can still see pop up in some of Limbaugh’s lesser epigones. Or it might have descended to the sometimes amusing but corrosive nonstop vulgarity of a Howard Stern. Limbaugh himself can be edgy, though almost always within PG-rated boundaries. But what he gave talk radio was a sense of sheer fun, of lightness, humor, and wit, whether indulging in his self-parodying Muhammad Ali–like braggadocio, drawing on his vast array of American pop-cultural reference points, or, in moving impromptu mini-sermons, reminding his listeners of the need to stay hopeful, work hard, and count their blessings as Americans. In such moments, and in many other moments besides, he reminds one of the affirmative spirit of Ronald Reagan and, like Reagan, reminds his listeners of the better angels of their nature. He transmutes the anger and frustration of millions of Americans into something more constructive.

Mark Lavin is an example of a person of great brilliance who seems to be unable to channel his constructive energy into insightful analysis such as the stuff in his great best-selling book, and degenerates into occasional tirades before hanging up on a hapless dupe of the communist/socialist conspiracy to destroy our democracy, or at least our Constitution, which Mark dearly loves. And McClay then shifts to a much broader perspective in his final paragraph, painting with brilliant strokes a picture of deluded elite cultural institutions imposing their will on an electorate and populace completely disgusted with their overweening arrogance and duplicity.
The critics may be correct that the flourishing of talk radio is a sign of something wrong in our culture. But they mistake the effect for the cause. Talk radio is not the cause, but the corrective. In our own time, and in the person of Rush Limbaugh, along with others of his talk-radio brethren, a problem of long-standing in our culture has reached a critical stage: the growing loss of confidence in our elite cultural institutions, including the media, universities, and the agencies of government. The posture and policies of the Obama presidency, using temporary majorities and legislative trickery to shove through massive unread bills that will likely damage the nation and may subvert the Constitution, have brought this distrust to a higher level. The medium of talk radio has played a critical role in giving articulate shape and force to the resistance. If it is at times a crude and bumptious medium, it sometimes has to be, to disarm the false pieties and self-righteous gravitas in which our current elites too often clothe themselves. Genuinely democratic speech tends to be just that way, in case we have forgotten.

Ann Althouse perceptively noted that Rush's take is very inclusive when he takes on his enemies on the left. After a dodo ditz named Sarah Spitz from publically-funded NPR said she wanted to watch Rush die slowly, Jeffrey Toobin defended Rush: Toobin's private musings on JournoList which he thought would never reach the public, Toobin hit the undeniable truth:
Rush cannot be replaced. What people miss about Rush is that he is just astonishingly good as a broadcaster. He is compelling, funny, entertaining. I haven’t heard Thompson often, but he’s probably pretty lame. Ingraham is ok. I never listen to Hannity on the radio. But Rush is the man.

Rush however, as always, will have the very last word: When Rush said this, word had yet to leak out that Toobin was a secret admirer:
Friend sends me a note, "Rush what do you mean? What do you mean here this 'small time, crazy, left-wing bloggers'? Jeffrey Toobin, Eric Alterman, Paul Krugman Joe Klein are crazy left-wing bloggers? They're treated as giants." Let's take 'em individually. Eric Alterman. Do you know who Eric Alterman is? The left may treat him as a giant. I know that they do. He's a kook! He's a far-left fringe kook. But do you know who he is? Do you? Jeffrey Toobin. You might know who he is. He works for the least-watched cable news network in history, CNN. He also worked there when they had viewers. I know he's considered a giant. He's a "legal correspondent." He's considered to be above reproach.

There is no journalism. These people are not journalists. They're propagandists, whether it's Jeffrey Toobin or Eric Alterman or Krugman. Yeah, he's a New York Times columnist; he's a propagandist. He is a giant because he's in the New York Times. But my point is whether it's people you've never heard of on this list writing for blogs you've never heard of or whether it is names you never heard of, it's the entire Washington media -- and it's pervasive. I really do think that the take here is there is no media. This is the big myth. You know, the German historian Carl von Clausewitz once stated "War is diplomacy by another means." Well, journalism is just propaganda now: The government putting out its agenda by another means. There are no reporters. There is no journalism. It's just liberalism....

I do think that if Rush had taken over his family law firm [two relatives are judges, one a Federal Court Judge and one on the MO State Supreme Court, I believe], he would have been one helluva lawyer...!
UPDATE:Rush is right on the money with his take on the stupidity demonstrated by Washington & the Obamaniacs yesterday. Joe Biden should throw in the towel, because he's getting everything WRONG! And with Obama, it's who's on First...?!


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