Rush: "I got an email here. "(Uh) Rush, (uh) now that two of our own have been tortured and murdered by the terrorists in Iraq, will the Left say that they deserved it? I'm so sick of our cut-and-run liberals. Keep up your great work." Bob C. from Roanoke, Virginia. "PS, I love the way you do the program on the Little Kim (?)" (laughs) I read...no I added that! He didn't, he didn't put that in there. (laughs) You know, it-it's-I-uh...I gotta tell ya, I-I-I perused the liberal, kook blogs today, and they are happy that these two soldiers got tortured. They're saying, "Good riddance. Hope Rumsfeld and whoever sleep well tonight."
Audio available here. Of course, Limbaugh failed to cite any sources, and a quick Technorati search produced no such assertions. Moreover, anyone crass enough to utter something so truly idiotic would be immediately shunned from the party for being no better than, well " Rush!
So to my fellow colleagues I inquire - are you seriously surprised? I mean, I appreciate the value of calling Rush out on his truthiness, but don't you ever grow weary with stating the obvious? I admit that when I lived in Austin (this is before the days of Air America) I would listen to Rush on the way to work. For a few weeks, I enjoyed the mentally 'light' exercise of ripping his outlandish arguments to tattered shreds. But I swiftly grew bored with the dearth of stimulation.
The bottom line is that argumentation methods between the intellectual elite in the blogosphere and the muddy waters of Limbaugh's drug-addled cranium are fundamentally dichotomous. True intellectuals (regardless of their political slant) are generally trained to follow the scientific method in forming an opinion. You begin with a hypothesis (something you think may be true) and then you gather evidence. Based on the accumulation of this material, you make a judgment on the veracity of your argument and, if necessary, revise your hypothesis. And test again. And again. And again.
Limbaugh's ilk don't approach social issues in this fashion. They begin with a premise - something they hope is true and intend to prove - and then cherry-pick information to support it, rejecting anything that runs contrary. Lacking supportive information, they will always fall back on simply making stuff up. This is the hallmark of the modern radical right and it's not going to change.
So if you want to continue preaching to the choir, by all means, call Rush out on his lies. But understand that you are simply p*ssing into the wind. If we want to make a real dent on his considerable influence, we must begin formulating a counter-strategy that seeks to engage his followers on a level they can understand. Attacks - ad hominem or otherwise - will only make people defensive. Moreover, their trust in Rush is so implicit, they will be unaffected by protestations that he is being disingenuous.
Since vociferous defensiveness only makes us appear guilty of his accusations, perhaps a far better strategy would be to refuse to play by his rules. Chipping away at Limbaugh will require a far more proactive and sincerely welcoming outreach to his audience. Considering that most of them identify as Christians, it should not be difficult (though perhaps time-consuming) to persuade them that the left is far more in tune with their values than a drug-addict womanizer who spews venomous lies for cheap sensationalism.
Try this for a week: Keep tabs on his topic du jour and engage your fellow Rush enthusiast on the issues. Don't attack them or Rush personally. Acknowledge the 'value' in the oppositions' argument (in other words, lie a little). For example, call your grandparents and say "I think that Rush has a good point that we need to support our troops." Then tell them how you think our troops should be supported - proper equipment, adequate funding, VA benefits for the mental and physical damage the war is causing them, a concrete plan for victory, and accountability for poor decisions at the top. When you locate the points in which you agree, you become an ambassador for the left and will be much more effective in countering Rush's influence than simply casting aspersions and trying to 'out' him as an imbecile.
Rush has spent years cultivating an army of intellectually befuddled masses. Don't assume there is a magic bullet to countering his influence. You will not point out the lies and have people suddenly say 'ah-ha' and vote Democrat. If we want lasting change in time for 2006 and 2008, we need to begin planting the seeds today.
The Hindsight Factor