Sombre regret for passing of Limbaugh not warranted: Thatcher

by Dr. Richard Thatcher

Invective inspired by late talk radio host of same ilk as Saskatchewan’s worst

If any of your readers who soak up American opinion commentary experienced a sombre moment of regret for the passing of U.S. radio broadcaster, Rush Limbaugh, they should move passed that sentiment immediately, for it is not warranted. If you have ever heard the angry barking, repetitive rhetoric of this radio “commentator,” you could test the strength of your better self by measuring your capacity to suffer his rancor.

Many Canadians, including acquaintances in the Regina area, found ways to tune in to Limbaugh, but his insulting invective against so many things Canadian should have jolted them into recognizing that he was certainly no friend of our country.

People of this province should not feel secure in their belief that there is not a frightening, homegrown mindset similar to the right wing populism that has raised its ugly head south of the border. I have heard strands of similar thinking from neighbours, distant family members, and on-line comments from locals.

Such ill-informed chatter is not the only evidence at hand. Consider the shameless critiques, ridicule and harassment of our impressive Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab at his family home on Saturday. I’m sure you have driven by the “anti-maskers” on Regina streets and, of course, the “anti-vaxxers” have been emboldened of late.

The troubling antics of Travis Patron, also come immediately to mind. Hailing from Redvers, in southeast Saskatchewan, Patron has been charged with wilfully promoting hate against Jewish people. Patron had his name on the ballot of the Souris-Moose Mountain constituency in the 2019 federal election, representing the registered “Nationalist Party”—a party whose principal mandate was stated as”. . . keeping a European-descended demographic majority” in Canada. This idiotic yet troubling statement ignores the fact that most Jews in Canada themselves came from Europe, of course.

Patron had apparently posted an anti-semitic video on YouTube that contained an explicitly hateful anti-Semitic video posting that included Patron.

And for those of you with memories to dust off, you might consider the 1993 tragedy in which Carney Nerland was charged with the killing of a 43 year old Cree man from the Big River Reserve northwest of Prince Albert. He received only a 4 year sentence for manslaughter, partly because he defended himself with a claim that he was actually working for the RCMP in an undercover arrangement. Aboriginal organizations and concerned sympathizers were outraged by the brevity of the sentence, especially after a public inquiry made it clear that Nerland was a committed white supremacist who led the Ku Klux Klan in Saskatchewan. This was interpreted as not only a hate crime but grounds for a murder conviction..

Back to old “Rush.”

I had listened to Rush Limbaugh several times on visits to the United States. His brash commentaries both sympathized with and encourage the type of thinking that has apparently sprouted in all regions of North America—and many in Europe. Each time I heard Limbaugh I was repulsed by both the content and vocal style of his scathing utterances. It was clearly a significant mix in the verbal debris that paved the noxious path that led to the astonishing rearguard presidency of Donald Trump.

Limbaugh began his “career” (for lack of a better word) as a deejay and then sportscaster. While it is rumoured that he had once been a registered Democrat, he was always heavily influenced by his family, which was dominated by lawyers of a conservative bent—and his background was one of privilege. Seeking a radio audience to launch his career success, he found one among persistent malcontents, mostly of “White” ethnicity, who felt threatened by social change and those committed ideologically to one or several aspects of extremist, right wing thinking. His core audience was comprised of those experiencing a quiet, pent up rage–and that rage had not been fully exploited for the purposes of shock commentary. Limbaugh did much to stoke that hypogenous fire of rage, fuelling it with a steady stream of vitriol. The strategy quickly made him a multi-millionaire and spawned dozens of imitators on smaller radio and later on-line platforms across the United States.

In his ideational prospecting, Rush Limbaugh found a motherlode of traditional belligerence to the “welfare poor,” as he called them, Blacks, Asians, gays, women who wanted careers outside the home and/or to control their own reproductive means (the more assertive of whom he called the “feminazis” (n.b., overall, a sweet guy, eh!). He ranted endlessly about any further step forward on the road to social progress, meanwhile symbolically and intimately associating himself with the U.S. flag, and repeatedly stating his devotion to the country’s military.

In the most obscene of alliances, Limbaugh struck gold when he attracted the support of intellectually vestigial denominations of evangelical Christianity. I was amazed by this. While I am no longer “of the faith” (i.e., I was an Anglican in my youth), my fondest memories of the spirit of Christianity were diametrically opposed to the beliefs and verbal frothings of that weird strain of a supposedly loving religion.

Former President Donald Trump ran into this reveller in sadistic undermining of the disadvantaged and was so pleased to have such an outspoken ally that he eventually honoured him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Ecch!!! Such a travesty, given Limbaugh’s basic mission was to constrain the march to freedom from prejudice and poverty of so many citizens of his own country.

Together, Trump, Limbaugh and a small army of fellow-travellers reprised U.S. national zealotry, which began with the concept of “American exceptionalism” and the settlers’ dream of “Manifest Destiny.” That same vein of nationalism served to justify a series of ugly strategies with disastrous international outcomes, from nuclear bomb tests which irradiated the Marshall Islands, the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and crippling intrusions into the governance or several central and south American countries.

Thankfully, there have been other competing narratives in modern U.S. history that have resisted the spirt of the ugly discourse and policy framework advanced by the likes of Trump and Limbaugh. The first major one was the abolitionist movement destined to end slavery, soon followed by the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, Aboriginal resistance and rights’ reclamation efforts, women’s and LGBTQ liberation, and environmental protection. Several of these narratives sit in in direct organizational and ideational antithesis to the reductive extremes of U.S. conservatism that Limbaugh championed.

With all this in mind, it could only be the most saccharine of sentimentality that could authentically purge a teardrop from any eye for the ending of the life of Rush Limbaugh. One’s sadness in the matter should only be drawn from for his toxic legacy, not from his passing. And the local drawn to its messaging should stop, take a breath, and start to carefully examine the toxic mindset they are being drawn into.

Dr. Richard Thatcher is a retired sociologist who spends his summers in Candle Lake