I’ve noticed, throughout my political lifetime, something interesting that tends to happen. Just at the times when I am most disgusted with politics and ready to despair at the seeming hopelessness of it all, something happens that renews my sense of hope. When Rush Limbaugh’s gross and hateful remarks about Sandra Fluke were first reported, I was disgusted and outraged, but I also felt impotent. He’s the most popular radio talk show host in America and perhaps the country’s most important, and powerful, conservative. This will be just one more thing he gets away with, one more step towards defining deviancy down, turning the most virulent misogyny into acceptable discourse, and facilitating the idea that a practice as mainstream and practically universal as birth control is degraded, contemptible, and whore-ish.
Or so I thought. But amazingly, and contrary to my worst fears, Limbaugh may finally have gone too far. Media Matters reports that 98 major advertisers have dumped him and other right-wing radio hosts. At this point, it’s difficult to predict how big a blow this will turn out to be to Limbaugh personally, or to right-wing talk in general. But Media Matters notes:
The advertising flight is reminiscent of Glenn Beck’s Fox News program. After major companies refused to advertise on Beck’s show in light of racially insensitive comments, he was left with just fringe businesses like survival seed banks and gold sellers. Not long thereafter, he left Fox, reportedly under pressure.
That is certainly an encouraging precedent. There is, I believe, a strong public interest in drawing a line in the sand and marking certain kinds of political speech as beyond the bounds of acceptability. Limbaugh and the other right-wing talk show hosts have crossed that line countless times, and our political discourse, and ultimately our democracy, has suffered gravely for it. I for one think their removal from the public airwaves would be an excellent thing indeed.