Rape and Reason

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 comment” 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!

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.

31 thoughts on “Rape and Reason

  1. Ah, Barbara! You hit so many marks with this, this morning! A masterpiece. I truly enjoyed reading this.

  2. What Rush did, was verbal rape.
    Pure, and simple.
    He went on a 4+ day verbal raping spree.

    And the only reason he called her a “slut,” is that you still can’t use the word “cunt” over the airwaves, or he would have been screaming that, over and over.

    But, you know, I half-believe him when he says, “I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.”
    No – he meant to personally attack ALL women – or at least the non-Conservative ones.
    Hillary, to Rush, is a slut and a cunt.
    Barbara Bush is a paragon of virtue.

    Ms. Fluke, to him, is a slut and a cunt.
    Dana Loesch, is a fine, lovely, young lady.

    And Sully, just because you were rational enough, and backed away from the cliffs of insanity (though you do still like to dangle a few toes over, every once in awhile), doesn’t mean ration will work with Rush.
    Rush is a fully developed sociopathic raptor.
    You, Andy, in their world, were a rank amateur. An appeasing appetizer.

    And what’s NOT illiberal, Sully?
    That we sit and take abuse? AGAIN?
    That we turn the other cheek? AGAIN?
    You turn the other cheek in front of Rush, and he wants to stick his tiny dick in there.

    The only thing that means anything to a sociopath like Rush, is his wallet. THAT’S the only way you hurt him, and/or have any chance of getting him to tone it down.

    I’ll tell you what, Sully – in the world of Conservative sociopathy, you’ve been both an enabler AND a carrier.
    So, with no respect intended – just sit down, and STFU!

    My apologies for using the word “cunt” – I’m only doing that to make a point.

  3. sociopaths still have human DNA – I don’t think Limbaugh quite comes up to that level…

  4. What the hell is wrong with silencing someone through economic pressure? In fact, economic pressure is precisely the liberal way to silence someone. An illiberal way to silence someone would be, for instance, to tell a bunch of lies about her to your millions of loyal minions and call her names like slut and prostitute.

    At any rate, it seems fairly obvious to me that a boycott is in fact a way to counter speech with speech. Rush Limbaugh exercises his First Amendment rights by spewing hate and fear on the radio. I exercise my First Amendment rights by informing his advertisers that I no longer have need of their products and services. It’s up to the advertisers to decide whether they want to keep paying for time with which to exercise their First Amendment rights during Rush Limbaugh’s broadcast.

  5. LOL!
    State Senator Nina Turner has introduced legislation to protect men, “the greatest gender.”


    I don’t think it’s quite as good as my idea of what to do if a man wants to take some V*agra – which is to stick a catheter-camera up his johnson until it shows him his ball-sack, with all of those potential babies swimming around in them, and asking if he’s prepared to pay for them to be raised and educated if they “get lucky” like he’s hoping to – but it’s pretty damn good!

  6. Re: update.. Like Kitty Genovese..If you don’t want to hear it, just shut your ears, it will eventually die down.

  7. “No one is involuntarily exposed to his poison.” (A. Sullivan)

    Oh, but we ARE exposed to it. That’s the whole point of broadcasting this drivel, to help push the Overton Window even further to the right. It poisons political discourse, it poisons ALL discourse– and ultimately has an effect on society as a whole. And the poison is not only in terms of the content of this specific issue, but poisons it in terms of HOW discourse is done– in other words, what Rush and his ilk do isn’t even REASONED discourse but just a shouting match (think also of Bill “Shut Up!” O’Reilly).

    You don’t reason with Rush anymore than Tsutsis might reason with Hutu Power Radio.

    Any responsible society would not tolerate this sort of thing to pass for public discourse (note that I don’t mean the government should silence Rush, but the people should). When I look at developed countries abroad, those populations DON’T tolerate this sort of thing, because they know what a negative effect it has on society and political discourse. If you have a case to make, state your case– and that’s the problem– they have no case to make– only shouting down everyone else. Its the only real weapon they have– and its the only weapon they’ve ever really had.

  8. Limbaugh may be exercising his First Amendment rights, just as I may be exercising my right to own a gun; however, there are responsibilities attached to those rights. I cannot arbitrarily shoot some innocent with my gun and claim I had a Constitutional right to do so. Nor does Limbaugh have a Constitutional right to destroy Ms. Fluke’s reputation with his “free speech.”

    He might have had a leg to stand on had he promptly apologized the second day, claiming that he had been misinformed. But no, instead he doubled down and increased the invective. At which point Geller and Fox crawled out of the woodwork to repeat his lies. Thus, effectively blowing away his defense that everyone knew it was hyperbole and –heh–consequently, no harm no foul.

    On the third day, Limbaugh keeps up the attack by repeating same lies over and over again. Now he can no longer claim that he was misinformed. He’s had plenty of time to do a little research on the subject and make corrections. According to the “reasonable man test”, at this point he could reasonably be expected to have learned the facts about Ms.’ Fluke’s testimony. That he persisted in repeating complete falsehoods, would strongly indicate that he knew he was lying in order to defame and slander her.

    There has been some debate over whether or not Ms. Fluke can be considered a private citizen or a public figure. In Limbaugh’s case, he went so far over the line that probably doesn’t matter. Carol Brunette is a public figure, but when an article appeared in the National Inquirer claiming that she had been drunk in public, she sued and was awarded a large chunk of change.

  9. What the hell is wrong with silencing someone through economic pressure?

    A-freaking-men. Sullivan argues that “no one is voluntarily exposed” to Limbaugh’s poison, but he seems to forget that sponsors voluntarily pay Limbaugh to disseminate that poison. The alternatives to economic boycott are 1) the sponsors are forced to continue sponsoring Rush even when they have second thoughts, and 2) the public is forced to patronize Rush’s sponsors. Neither scenario represents any kind of “free” enterprise.

    After all, an economic boycott is just free choice, well organized. It is neither “liberal” nor “conservative”; it just works or it doesn’t. This one is working, which apparently upsets Sullivan… and makes me question his weak, pearl-clutching protests over Rush’s poison.

  10. I added a like button, but I’m not sure what it does.

    I clicked it, and a “JotLinks” sign-up screen popped up. I know not this “JotLinks,” so I ignored it.

  11. @Stephen Stralka, “silencing” someone through economic pressure is also a favorite technique to conservatives–at least the free market kind!

    • The thing is, if we were talking about using economic pressure to “silence” someone who is poor, so that his lost income would create a genuine hardship, you could argue that’s not a nice thing to do. But Rush is very wealthy, I’m told. He ought to be able to live quite well on the money he already has. And even if he lost his radio show, which I don’t expect to happen, I’m sure lots of other media outlets will step forward to give him a megaphone. Or else he can start a blog like the rest of us.

  12. At his flagship station, WABC, Limbaugh closed the first hour of his show today with a minute of silence in lieu of ads.

  13. I don’t think he’s making any statement with the silence, at least not intentionally. I just think he doesn’t have the advertisers. Nearly every ad that has run during his show on WABC today has been an unpaid PSA. And there was also another 2:38 of dead air at the beginning of his show. Media Matters is keeping track.

  14. Iosue – Hate groups in America topped 1,000 in 2011 – and counting – the highest number since counting them began. To think that Rush and his ilk bear no responsibility for this alarming fact, is to not think at all.

    And now we have the disturbing fact that the slate of possible Republican candidates this year are picking up their message, supporting their message, playing to their message. So hate has entered into the standard public discourse, even to the point of leading it. We should all be very alarmed at this development.

    I’m old enough to remember seeing and hearing a ranting Adolph Hitler spewing hatred in every one of his speeches. The German people eventually ‘got’ it and we know what happened to not only 6 million Jews but many other ethnic/religious factions in Germany and her conquered countries. Rush is extremely dangerous.

  15. you counter and expose arguments that don’t work, or lies that can be debunked, or smears that are disgusting.

    That would require opponents who actually can feel shame about lying, who care about reason and logic, and weren’t already digusting enough to make a goat puke.

  16. I think Sullivan is being foolish. Or rather, I think he’s being logical.

    See, if some random person says something mean spirited, that doesn’t mean you should try to shut them down. So, logically, because Limbaugh said something mean spirited, you shouldn’t try to shut him down. There? See? Perfectly logical.

    Stone stupid in the real world, but perfectly logical, once you take assumptions and never examine them.

  17. First of all, I love this site. I like your writing style. I agree with almost all of points, particularly in regards to economic pressure on Limbaugh and Maher and Sully’s defense of him.

    But, saying this as a man who has had family members and friends sexually assaulted, I disagree with calling Limbaugh’s behavior “verbal rape.” I disagree with that vehemently.

    Character assassination? Yes. Misogynistic? Definitely. But rape? Uh, no.

    My family members don’t have flashbacks of mean words men have said about them. They have flashbacks of men violently inserting their penises into their vaginas without consent. They have flashbacks of being attacked. Physically.

    I feel like it’s disrespectful to the women I know who have been terrorized by these flashbacks to compare what Rush did to that. It is certainly is frightening. His actions were slanderous. They were an attempt to intimidate her and demean her certainly.

    But even the equivocation “verbal rape” doesn’t do it for me. There is a distinct difference between making millions of people harass a private woman because of her testimony in front of Congress and someone being sodomized at the age of 9 (sorry for the vivid example but it’s a true story unfortunately in my family). And to blur the line between that, I believe, is an affront to someone who has lived through that. Frankly speaking, I would take withering criticisms on Rush Limbaugh’s show daily, twitter attacks from Dana Loesch and public shaming from Fox News talking heads over being actually raped even ONCE. It is that damaging. It is that terrible. It is that life-changing.

    Again, I don’t write this to cause a flame war. I just write this because it’s a topic that hits close to home. I hope I didn’t offend you. That was not my intention. I hope I didn’t come off like I’m lecturing you. That’s not my intention either. If you disagree, I’m more than willing to accept that even though I obviously have reservations with the use of the word. I am also willing to accept that my take on this may be wrong.

    I just don’t think it’s a proper analogy. I hated it when Jon Voight says “Obama is raping the nation” with his policies. I hated it when people compared Bush to a sexual predator when he inappropriately gave Merkel a back rub. I just hate the term. Period.

    • Polar Bear — it’s a difference in degree, not in kind. I appreciate that verbal assault is less traumatizing than physical assault, but let me also say this hits close to home for a lot of us. The fact remains that what Rush did to Fluke IS a form of sexual assault. It’s not an analogy; that’s what it IS. End of discussion.

  18. Sullivan’s qualms about boycotts over libelous misogynist speech would be logical if humans were entirely logical beings; but alas, we are not entirely logical. Brain centers lower than the frontal lobes are often activated when passions rise, especially in matters of sex and power. The radio demagogue’s words were intended to wound, not persuade.

    I was wondering, maha, what you thought of Obama’s calling Sandra Fluke to give encouragement and praise. I thought it was the act of a true gentleman; reasonable, caring, and strong; in marked contrast to the radio cad.

  19. I don’t think he’s making any statement with the silence, at least not intentionally.

    Sure he is.. He’s using the silence to rub it in the noses of those who oppose him..” You can’t get to me, ha ,ha ,ha, I’m the mighty limbaugh, I’m still here without the sponsors I don’t need”. Limbaugh has said that he has about 1600 sponsors nation wide through the many afilliate stations that carry his show..so therefore, the opposition to his hate speech will never be able to get to him in a significant way?.. althought, I see his even addressing that issue of secure sponorship as a sign of him being a wounded animal and he’s throwing up defenses to try to discourage those that come against his hate.

  20. Perhaps the phrase ‘gentleman’ isn’t strong enough to distinguish Obama from the radio jerk. Will ‘mensch’ do? Or ‘quality human being’? Or ‘person of virtue’? These sound so old-fashioned! Do you know any more modern-sounding, forceful terms for a stand-up guy?

    And as for the radio sociopath… it would not be scientifically accurate to call him a ‘pig’, or a ‘worm’, or a ‘sack of excrement’; so instead I prefer ‘cad’ and ‘demagogue’ and ‘sociopath’, which I do think fit him literally. Do you know other factually-correct descriptors for the radio creepazoid? Note that I refuse to dirty my fingertips by typing his name.

  21. So lets get real about what is happening here. Rush didnt think this up on his own.. this isnt something new to any of us who have been paying attention. The thing about living in “polite society” is no one really says what they are really thinking or planning on doing..we all dance around the reality but we all know whats up..We all know how the right feels about birth control..but their REAL point of view is bat shit insane and its gonna be a tough sale to talk women into giving up the right to plan their family and going back to living in a damn cave..for years little by little they have been chipping away taking small pieces at a time and thus as we lose progress it becomes accepted as the norm until , from their point of view, we dont even recognize we lost anything. Folks(as limpbo would say) it’s time, I think your ready..the time has come for you to start seeing these women who want insurance to pay for their birthcontrol as “sluts” and soon that will change to single women who want birth control at all..maybe the morality police should have a panel to decide your marital status before you can get them or maybe it will be like abortion which is only for medical purpose and then that will become looked down upon until birth control is equal to what abortion is considered now .. thats the goal.. but how are people moved there? well it has to start someplace folks this is just the next step..first we plant the idea that birth control = sluts= torches/angry mobs..but sluts are not enough to bother some.. some even are grateful for sluts lest they never get laid so how do we get the rest to get on the anti birth control wagon? Play the welfare card! Folks YOU have to pay for this bunch of sluts immoral behaviors!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT?????Oh hell no!Did you say MY money??Cause we all know limpbo is the patron saint of protecting his listeners money from the wicked , sinful feminazis who want us to pay their way.
    The “whats next” seed has been planted. Folks you cant put that back in the tube..it already squirted every where. Birth control for women = wicked= MY MONEY. Its out there..he just got a little bit closer to the truth of the matter. He said just a little of what they have all been saying in cigar smoke filled back rooms forever. limpbo is selling the product.His listeners already would believe the same thing about this Lady. Notice no one speaking out against his actions on the right? No outrage there.. but had anyone on the left spewed the slut word? What do we tell the kids???gasp!
    Some one finally started to shine a light on what the right really feels about women and their reproductive rights. The chance came and he took it. It didnt matter who . When any woman dare to stand up for herself the right has two moves in their play book to deal with them..It has long been known as “NUTS OR SLUTS”..if the sluts route doesnt eventually pan out look for some bogus research group to come out with information birth control use is linked with mental illness and can be cured at some clinic michelle bachman starts.Snark all you want at that but its not as out there as you might think. It is the only “working” tools they have in their tool boxes to deal with women..look at their history thats how it is.

    You know NONE of this is limpbos fault. Look whats happening to poor poor limpbo as a result of these sluts? Do you need any more proof how evil the left is and how damaging reproductive rights are? Just look what they are doing to poor limpbo..

    Word to whomever doesnt want to pay for medicine of other people whos morality you may question..cancel your policy and STFU.

  22. There could always be extenuating circumstances that we are not aware of.. Who’s to say that Rush wasn’t experiencing one of those dreaded 4 hour plus erections, and was stressed out to the max when he viciously lashed out at that young lady.

  23. Not to worry, dear Maha friends;
    Rush has stepped on a land mine he planted, now he’s running around with his hair on fire saying “it’s just a flesh wound!”.
    A hay maker has been landed, and Rush (along with his promoter) is wounded pretty badly.
    Felicity is right.Although Rush is no Hitler, his rants indeed cause the deep rooted cancer of hatred, a cancer that is loved by his promoters. Someone signs that contract, that someone is the one to get to.
    I heard Chris Rock explain Rich Vs. Wealthy once. He said you may think Shaq is rich, but the guy signing his check is the wealthy one.
    Someone behind the scenes pulls the strings that makes the pig turd wrapped in a tobacco leaf dance and sing.
    Break him, and it’s over.

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