Don’t Blame Me For Rush Limbaugh, I Won’t Blame You For Michael Moore

no_contemptParts of the rightosphere are in high dudgeon about the fact that President Obama, at the annual White House Correspondents Association yuck-fest dinner, laughed at “jokes” told by “comedian” Wanda Sykes about wanting Rush Limbaugh to die of kidney failure.  (Here’s a 78-second video.)

There have been days of arguments at “the Id of Conservatism” —  the Corner, NRO’s group blog — about whether Limbaugh brought it on himself.  And about whether Limbaugh is good or bad for conservatism, about whether or not he’s popular (polls say no, ratings say yes), and about whether he’s ever changed anybody’s mind about anything.

At Best of the Web Today, James Taranto says:

In Obama’s wide grin as Sykes was telling her joke, we saw the smug look of a man who enjoys seeing his critics dehumanized. The president of the United States should be better than this.

The conservative whom other conservatives love to hate, Kathleen Parker, thinks the whole thing is overblown, and sarcastically suggests that we’re “on the verge of appointing a Special Commission on Acceptable Humor.” She says:

Lost in the frenzy is the more important matter of our thin-skinned intolerance and our reflexive lurch to take offense. We might remind ourselves that it’s always the fanatics who can’t take a joke.

I think she’s on to something.  I get awfully tired of having the discussion framed by flame-throwing provocateurs.  When Limbaugh famously was quoted as saying about Obama, “I hope he fails,” a liberal friend asked me how I felt about having Limbaugh speak for the Republican Party.  That’s when I spoke the words from the headline above.

What do Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore have in common?  Well, they’re both much richer and better known than I will ever be, because they’ve each attracted vast followings.  Negativity sells.  Personal attacks work.  Would that it were otherwise.

I can’t get too exercised over Obama laughing at the idea of Limbaugh’s death.  Who among us hasn’t laughed at inappropriate jokes? And Limbaugh, coiner of “feminazis” and other evocative slurs, is an enthusiastic practitioner of the “dehumanization” tactics that Taranto criticizes.

I wish I knew where I’m going with all of this.  The post started as a vehicle for its headline and graphic, but beyond that, I’m not sure what my point is.  Maybe something about the importance of the clash of ideas in a democracy?  Sometimes when I write a blog post, the key conclusion that ties everything together emerges gradually as I think and type.  And sometimes, the only way I can think of to end a post is to drive it off a cliff.

9 thoughts on “Don’t Blame Me For Rush Limbaugh, I Won’t Blame You For Michael Moore

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  2. I know where you were going with it, Kirk – you wanted to use that line. :)

    I agree. I no more condemn the Republican Party for having Rush Limbaugh in its masses than I can condemn the Democratic Party for allowing Michael Moore carry its membership card. In fact, it’s more frightening to think that there’s a straight line drawn from either man to his respective political party than it is to hear him and ignore what you don’t like.

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  4. Next time, don’t bother with the article. The headline says it all.

    Let’s all work on growing thicker skin – I’ve heard that laughing helps. Moore and Limbaugh are both pretty funny.

  5. Chris, I think you’re on to something (with your first point). I tend to turn every blog post into an essay — I need to experiment with brevity. (As to your second point, I disagree — I don’t think either one of them is funny.)

    Lori, now I’ve gotta know the punchline to the Gandhi joke. You can email it to me if it’s too toxic to post :)

  6. Growing up on Dean Martin and Mel Brooks, I have a sense of humor that qualifies as a “hate crime” these days. But hoping that someone’s kidneys fail is not humor. Neither is hoping a president’s policies fail. The difference is, Limbaugh didn’t mean it as humor. It’s his parodies with Paul Shanklin that are intended as humor. Not unlike my favorite radio guy, Phil Valentine.

    As you know, Kirk, I’m active on a conservative forum, and regularly debate left-of-center individuals on forums from here to Japan. I don’t see conservatives finding humor in the deaths of liberals. The opposite, however…

    Yes, only the far end of the spectrum displays such behavior, but it is generally not condemned by the moderates.

    Thicker skin is needed all around. So is a refresher course in the difference between humor and real hate. Re-release Blazing Saddles, perhaps?

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