About this Washington Times story regarding efforts by the left to silence Rush Limbaugh, I had some thoughts.
The first is that we know by now that the outrage on the left about Limbaugh’s comments about Sandra Fluke was largely false and feigned. We know this because if the fury were genuine, it would extend to vulgar comments leveled against all women, not just liberal ones. But the refusal of the Obama campaign team to return Bill Maher’s $1 million Super PAC contribution, combined with their silence in the wake of other attacks on conservative women, has given away the game. I’m reminded of how the feminist movement reacted to Anita Hill’s charges against Clarence Thomas v. the actions of Bill Clinton. Even if you believed everything Ms. Hill said (and I do not), Thomas’s actions paled in comparison to how Clinton has treated women. And yet the former was vilified and the latter was celebrated.
Second, liberals have failed to beat Limbaugh at his own game (talk radio) for almost three decades now. The left tried Air America and all sorts of other routes; none has worked. So they have settled on this one. What they are aiming to do is to delegitimize Limbaugh, to silence him because they hate him, his style, and his ideas.
I would think that even some of those who don’t cotton to Limbaugh might be a bit uneasy about the tactics the left is using. They’re not illegal, but they reveal a somewhat troubling cast of mind.
Limbaugh’s critics have every right to go after him on the merits and to their heart’s content; that’s what a robust, free, self-governing nation does. David Brooks of the New York Times argues that Limbaugh has hurt conservatism, and he’s articulated his case on several occasions. That’s all fine and good. But the impulse on the left is more authoritarian than that. Many liberals have long been disposed to use whatever means they can — including the power of government, if necessary (see the so-called Fairness Doctrine for more) — to silence the voices and views of those with whom they disagree.
My own sense is that the left scored some damaging blows against Limbaugh early on but has since overplayed its hand; and that the blinding hypocrisy of Limbaugh’s critics has undermined their cause. Their attacks aren’t really about morality or civil public discourse; they are about power and the will to power. That is what separates Brooks from, say, Media Matters.
I’ll even make a prediction: Rush Limbaugh will be sitting behind the Golden EIB microphone years from now, still with a large and loyal audience in place, still arguing with David Brooks about this and that issue. And that is, as it ought to be.