Why isn't Rush happy?: Limbaugh inadvertently illustrates democracy in action

America’s democratic ideal doesn’t work perfectly. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all, and in these cases it feeds our cynicism to the point where we’re tempted to conclude that the very possibility of true freedom is a sham. I know whereof I speak, because there are few people out there more soaked in bile than I am.

Still, this whole “marketplace of ideas” is a marvelous concept. Perhaps the most marvelous concept in history. Drawing on the Miltonian belief that if people are allowed to enter the agora and freely state their cases, then “the truth will out” (that is, an educated and informed citizenry will unerringly perceive the truth and that weaker ideas will be disregarded in favor of stronger ones), our nation’s founders crafted a Constitution that assured people the right to voice their opinions, free from government intrusion. Yes, the formula has its problem spots – Americans have religiously rejected the “educated and informed” part, for instance, and there have been embarrassing questions reagrding who, precisely, got to be a “citizen.” Also, the framers seemed not to foresee that we’d get to a point where governmental threats to the exercise of speech paled next to those posed by private institutions. Still, all that said, it’s hard to argue that Americans have made a lot of hay with our 1st Amendment guarantees since they were enacted, and even an imperfect marketplace of ideas beats none at all.

This week presented us with a sparkling case study of the marketplace of ideas at its best. A few days back it was announced that conservative pundit and noiser-without-peer Rush Limbaugh was part of a group seeking to buy the NFL’s St. Louis Rams. The agora fairly exploded in conversation. A number of players and the head of the NFL Players Association wanted no part of a man who’s established a reputation for … racial insensitivity? The owner of the Indianapolis Colts (a Bush/Cheney spporter, as it turns out) promised to block any bid involving Limbaugh. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell finally got around to offering that “Limbaugh’s divisiveness is not what the league needs.” Columnists, pundits and bloggers (including S&R’s own uber-cynic, Dr. Sid Bonesparkle) weighed in with a broad range of takes (mostly anti-Rush, it seems). Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton had things to say, and we’d have felt cheated if they hadn’t.

Many of these voices were informed and credible. Others were driven by prefabricated ideologies instead of facts and reason. And a boisterous debate was had by all. In the end, the brazillionaire heading the investment group, St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts, put two and two together. Realizing that Limbaugh was an 800-lb albatross hanging around the neck of his NFL aspirations, Checketts unceremoniously kicked him to the curb.

The wonderful thing about the whole episode? This is precisely how our nation’s founders envisioned our democracy working. An idea was presented. Interested parties, informed or otherwise, had their say. (Remember, the framers knew there would be irresponsible voices in the public debate – that was part of the equation.) Marvelously, it was all enabled immeasurably by the Internet, which Al Gore, love him or hate him, saw as the ultimate tool of Jeffersonian democracy. From a 1994 address:

“And the distributed intelligence of the [Global Information Infrastructure] will spread participatory democracy… I see a new Athenian Age of democracy forged in the fora the GII will create.

The entire public debate was conducted free of coercion from the government. And in the end, the marketplace decided, governed by its collective conscience, that Limbaugh’s participation was not in the best interest of the league, the ownership group or the free market. An idea was tested and found wanting. Dave Checketts made an informed decision.

In theory, we should now be able to tune in and listen as Rush, disappointed though he may be, extols the virtues of the marketplace. After all, that is his core ideological concern – that free enterprise and the marketplace of ideas be allowed to determine the value of products and propositions, right?

13 replies »

  1. “Miltonian”? It’s “Miltonic.”

    How can I agree with you – even though you are completely, totally, 100% right – when you don’t know the proper adjectival ending for Milton?

    Marketplace of ideas – and bad use of obscure grammatical constructions, it seems….

    Now I have to go deal with my grief at being a failed educator….

  2. It seems to me that all the negative vibes this blowhard (Rush Hudson Limbaugh A.KA. Jeff Christie) has been spewing over these many years has come back to blow back on his face (A classic “Blow Back”). He always tries to give off the airs that he can have anything he wants but as we all witness those with more money and influence tossed him aside like sack of potatoes and the ultimate insult was that it was done in public (money don’t buy you everything butterball).

    Now of course he blames everyone else (Michael J. Fox, Perez Hilton, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sotomayor, Hillary Clinton, Olympia Snowe, ESPN, NFL, the media, basically people of color, women and gays) when of course all you have to do is listen to his show and plainly hear his daily prejudices filled sermons. So NFL, I salute you decision, job well done. And to the whaling cry baby perched on his self made pedestal, quit your whining it was your own fault. Don’t we all feel better?

  3. Don’t think this is over. Anyone want to take a gentleman’s wager that Rush will use this as an example of his persecution by the vast left-wing conspiracy?

  4. How come you posted that old picture of Rush. He;s lost about 90 pounds since that was taken,’

    And, Lex, what’s with the gentleman’s wager. How about cold hard cash in large amounts with odds to male things interesting. If you’re going to bet, a negative outcome has to hurt badly otherwise you'[re just playing Chutes and Ladders. Gentleman’s wagers fall in the category of feminine hygiene products. They give a temporary fix, but don’t address the problem.

  5. Because if i bet actual money i would have to listen to Rush regularly to track the bet and, frankly, i have better things to do. That and i don’t gamble beyond betting that there won’t be a cop on the stretch of road i decide to double the speed limit of….

    Though i probably should make a real bet, as it would likely net me enough cash to buy a Caterham Seven kit and maybe even the engine/transmission to go in it. I’d give out free rides to anyone willing to gamble the contents of his/her stomach (and maybe his/her life) in a car that weighs 500 kg, has 200(ish) hp, and doesn’t have ABS, bumpers or even a roof.

    I’d even give Rush a ride, but he’d have to lose a lot more than 90 pounds to A. fit and B. not totally throw off the cornering weight.

  6. God dammit! And i would have won too….

    As I explained on my radio show, this spectacle is bigger than I am on several levels. There is a contempt in the news business, including the sportswriter community, for conservatives that reflects the blind hatred espoused by Messrs. Sharpton and Jackson. “Racism” is too often their sledgehammer. And it is being used to try to keep citizens who don’t share the left’s agenda from participating in the full array of opportunities this nation otherwise affords each of us. It was on display many years ago in an effort to smear Clarence Thomas with racist stereotypes and keep him off the Supreme Court. More recently, it was employed against patriotic citizens who attended town-hall meetings and tea-party protests.

  7. Rush Limbaugh: Transcript of radio broadcast from Oct. 14, 2008
    By Keith Vance

    Editor’s note: This is a verbatim transcript of Limbaugh explaining how ACORN, Barack Obama, Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright are all involved in a radical leftwing conspiracy to teach black kids to hate America.

    From the time of my birth 57 years ago to today, this country has grown and expanded, prosperity has opened its doors for more and more people around the world, not just people born in this country.

    We know the stories of asians immigrating and running rings around people born in this country academically in California. We know all about the immigration, legal and illegal, to get into the country. We know that the standard of living has risen. We know that technological advancement is going along at light speed.

    And yet, during this period of time, whether it be the last 57 years, or the last 20 years, it seems that the majority of the black population has remained angry, frustrated and behind – they’ve been left behind. They’re acting like they’ve been left behind, and of course we’ve heard that this is because of racism, natural systemic institutional racism in America. We’re unfair. That this country is just horrible and rotten.

    Do you ever ask yourself how it is that people not even born here can come here and in a few short years begin prospering in school, they’re own business, and yet people who are born in this country somehow have been raised to hate it – to still think they’re back in the days of slavery.

    I actually think, after studying all this ACORN stuff, and reading what Stanley Kurtz has written about this, I actually believe that what has taken place here, in addition to liberal Democrat legislation – such as the great society and the war on poverty, which a lot of people would now acknowledge really busted up the black family by the government taking the place of a husband and father – he’s free to roam around and bear no responsibility. The mother remained the mother, she got the financial assistance from this legislation from the federal government. The federal government became the father. The father didn’t have to hang around in order for the kids to be OK – depending on how you define OK.

    And as you study more and more of this ACORN stuff you find that it has been part of an entire movement that has been going for two maybe three decades right under our noses. We thought that it was just liberal welfare policies and all that that kept blacks from progressing while other minorities grew and prospered but no. It is these wackos from Bill Ayers to Jeremiah Wright to other anti-american afro-centric black liberation theologists, working with ACORN, and Barack Obama is smack dab in the middle of it. They have been training young black kids to hate hate hate this country. And they trained their parents before that to hate hate hate this country. It was a movement. It was a Bill Ayers anti-capitalist anti-american educational movement. ACORN is how it was implemented right under our noses.

    They’re doing far more folks than just cheating when it comes to elections and registration. They’re in deep in this mortgage crisis. ACORN and Obama, and Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, the Democrat Party have their fingerprints the sub-prime mortgage crisis. The whole concept of affordable housing was people who can’t afford a mortgage are going to get one, because America is unfair.

    It has been a movement. It has been a religion. And Obama and Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers were all up to their big ears in it.