Within minutes of wrapping up the tirade pillorying the president, "Much of what he is doing is unconstitutional, and I'm waiting for the lawsuits to be filed — how's that hope and change working out for ya folks?" the ranting talk show host learned the whole thesis thing was a hoax.
Okay — no big deal, that someone, anyone is taken in by something like that. None of us are immune. Whether fact or fiction, we recall the tale of the Trojan horse. And for centuries, much of Christendom was bamboozled by the Shroud of Turin. Examples are limited only by the stretch of history. So let's not jump down Limbaugh's throat simply because he's an odious sort.
In Spielberg's 2002 futuristic Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise as detective Chief John Anderton, the public policing mission was to sleuth out pre-crimes; maintain public order and safety by arresting the perpetrators of criminal activity for what they would do, unless checked — not for what they did do. It was an advance turn on the thought police of Orwell's epic 1984.
In other words, to compose conclusions about someone else's motivations, thoughts and likely behaviors that are based exclusively on one's own predispositions, prejudices, fears and bigotries, and not a whit on any actual evidence may be the most abhorrently dangerous of all human endeavors.
Now I want to include what the late conservative commentator Paul Harvey called "The Rest of the Story." Being fully apprized of the hoax and of his falling for it, Limbaugh acknowledges on the air that it was a hoax and one he'd been taken in by. But then he goes on to what at best can be described as both most dishonorable and dastardly, yet is moreover a pair of scissors to the thin thread by which all civilization precariously hangs. "But we know he [the president] thinks it!"
It's dangerous for a couple reasons. First, it's dangerous because — fortunately — it's completely untrue: that any of us ever really knows what another person is truly thinking, until they tell us. You might live with another for 50 or more years, and though you may think that you know what the other is thinking, you do not really know. Indeed, you may think you "know" who that other person is, what he or she is capable of doing and what he or she would never do, for example. But you don't. The reason you don't is because humans are dynamic; always changing to fit the ever changing context in which they live their lives and which mold their most fleeting thoughts and emotions. Humans are never in precisely the same place twice.
It's also dangerous because, based on the immediately preceding, the probability, as observers of another, we'll be wrong, perhaps very wrong, concerning any assumptions we might draw, and the behaviors we respond with, is extraordinarily high. It's not merely talk-show entertainment. It's unthinking animalistic mob mentality brought down to the individual level. Permit Rush Limbaugh, or anyone else, to get away with "we know he thinks it," and we voluntarily put ourselves and our neighbors and everyone we know or will meet at the edge of the horribly dark abyss.