Yesterday some pundits/media personalities — I’m not sure what else to call them — came out in defense of Rush. Steve M already took apart Michael Kinsley; see also this comment at Balloon Juice. I want instead to address something Andrew Sullivan wrote:
I am not saying that boycotts are somehow illegal or always disturbing. It simply remains a guiding principle of mine that you argue your case, you counter and expose arguments that don’t work, or lies that can be debunked, or smears that are disgusting. But I don’t like the desire to silence someone through economic pressure. It comes from an illiberal place.
So we’re supposed to simply “debunk” what Rush says and discuss the flaws in his arguments? Um, do you not understand that people have been doing that for years, and Rush is impervious to it?
IMO Rush is a sociopath. His public persona surely is a sociopath, and I doubt very much he is play-acting. His “radio program” is not so much speech as it is a manifestation of his sociopathy. And his spewing of lies and venom has infected others and thereby contributed to the poisoning of our political discourse and the increasing dysfunction of our nation.
If you’ve ever had to deal with a sociopath or psychopath on a regular basis, you know that the usual rules of human interaction do not apply. This includes using reason and appealing to their genuine best interests. If you’ve never had to deal with a sociopath, then you have no idea how impossible it is. Just refer to the scorpion and frog story. No amount of debunking, fact checking or counter-arguing will ever so much as put a dent in Rush.
One of the best things I’ve read about the whole shoddy Limbaugh-Fluke episode is by Gene Weingarten —
“Chatological Humor: Why ‘fair comment’ is not a defense for Rush Limbaugh.” Do read the whole piece, but for now I just want to point to the last part —
In short — though Limbaugh doesn’t address this in his mealy-mouthed, backhanded “apology” — Limbaugh just made it all up, then went hog-wild, oinker-frenzy-wild, elaborating on it so he could call her names. Calling people names is bad, but calling people names based on your own invented calumny is the textbook definition of slander. The First Amendment does not protect you from that, nor should it. Even on an issue of public debate, and even if the victim is a public figure, as Ms. Fluke was here, “fair commentâ€ is not a defense if you made up the central fact, and the central fact is wrong and is damaging and if your intent was to injure.
The rightie blogosphere is pretending Rush is being punished just for calling Fluke a bad name. And as I believe I already said, if that’s all he did we wouldn’t be talking about this now, because that’s par for Rush’s course. What Rush did this time was much, much worse.
Listen, Sullivan, can you honestly say this rampage can be adequately answered with a little fact checking and some reasoned rhetoric? This is as close as you can come to sexual assault without physical touching:
And his “apology” is “I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke”? This is like John Wilkes Booth saying “I didn’t mean to assassinate President Lincoln.” Yeah, right.
Again, this is a form of sexual assault, and its purpose is dominance and control. This is not expressing an opinion or offering an argument. It’s closer to being rape. It’s using sexual assault as a tool of war, or as a means of intimidation.
And most women recognize this, because most of us — well, most of us over the age of 40 or so, anyway; I can’t speak for younger women — have experienced this in our personal lives — men using language to intimidate us and keep us in our place. It’s too familiar.
As others have pointed out, Rush’s diatribe was ill-considered even from the Republican point of view. They’ve been trying to pretend the pushback against the contraception mandate was about religious freedom, not contraception. But I don’t believe Rush said squat about religion; he’s making it about contraception. Obviously something about Fluke pushed Rush’s misogyny button, big time, and he could not control his compulsion to assault her.
I very much hope that Fluke brings suit against Rush and takes him to the cleaners. But that’s going to take some time. Meanwhile, a sexual predator is loose in the streets, and if it takes a citizen posse to stop him — or at least, put him on notice that there are consequences to his actions — so be it.
Also, too — the original Toolie gets another Toolie!
Update: One other point I had intended to make and forgot — Sully wrote, “No one is involuntarily exposed to his poison.” In other words, if you find Rush offensive, just don’t listen to him. In other words, if you find sexual assault offensive, just don’t watch it.
Nope; doesn’t work for me.