One would be hard-pressed to find as enduring and prevalent a Republican representative as Rush Limbaugh. Regardless of the political debate, event, controversy or climate, one can reliably turn on the radio to hear the loud, brash Limbaugh delivering some polemic or other against the liberal tyranny that is America.
I think it’s safe to assume that most people take Limbaugh’s rant with a heavy grain of salt, just as most people differentiate between the humor and the politics in “The Colbert Report.” I do think that Limbaugh has a point, and that he brings a voice to the political arena that should be taken seriously. However, while I think many people have no problem digging through Limbaugh’s outlandish rhetoric to the underlying political point, the problem is that an equal number of people just don’t get it and actually take him seriously.
The result? There are several: OBAMA as an acronym (Oppressive Bloodsucking Arrogant Muslim Alien), slogans such as “The Anti-Christ is living in the White House” and even children as young as 10 years proudly flaunting t-shirts with slogans such as “The cure for Obama communism is a new era of McCarthyism.” The most disturbing part, as I found out personally while driving through Kentucky over the weekend, is that these people actually believe what they are saying.
Of course, this isn’t to say that only Republicans partake in this kind of extremism without actually knowing what they’re talking about. I’m positive that depending on the state, one could find all sorts of similar examples. The point I’m making is not to demonize the Republican Party or any aspects thereof, but rather to raise the question: who are we to blame? Do we blame the polemical pundits, who use hyperbole to make a point but are taken at face value? Or, do we blame the people for being idiotic enough to use those slogans and wear those T-shirts? After all, I am positive that a 10-year-old who was born after the Gulf War—let alone the Vietnam War—has no idea what McCarthyism was really like, and it’s just as unlikely that his parents appreciated the impact of the McCarthy era.
Ultimately, I think that the blame lies with all of us—we value entertainment more than we value factual accuracy. After all, it’s much more entertaining to watch an angry conservative rant and insult the Left, or a liberal comedian making fun of the Right, than it is to listen to the encyclopedic facts.
The problem, however, is that regardless of how hard it is to stomach, what we actually need is simply that: just the facts. Sure, facts can be manipulated; we need to be aware of the biases within any statistics, and at times we need to question their presentation and challenge their authority. As it stands, however, almost anything is an improvement from the butchered set of political commentaries that we have today. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to look back at extreme acts like Limbaugh’s and take them for what they are: jokes.
AJ is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.