Skip to comments.Angry White Male (Rush Limbaugh)
Posted on 01/06/2003 4:26:48 PM PST by blam
Angry white male
Why is Rush Limbaugh - the Right-wing radio presenter - considered 'the most dangerous man in America'? Toby Harnden finds out
"The most dangerous man in America" takes a contented puff on his Fuente Fuente Opus X cigar, shuffles the papers on his desk and leans into the microphone. "Testing, testing," he purrs, like a racing car revving up. "Yep, there we go. Greetings, my good friends and welcome.
Rush Limbaugh: he has 20 million listeners and is routinely portrayed as racist, ignorant and hateful
"I'm your host - the all-knowing, all-caring, all-sensing, all-feeling, all-important, all-concerned Maha Rushie, firmly ensconced here in the prestigious Attila the Hun chair at the Limbaugh Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies."
Rush Limbaugh III is broadcasting to more than 600 talk radio stations across "the fruited plain" - his term for the United States. It's midday and time to settle down to three riotous, Right-wing hours of funny voices, parody and trenchant political analysis as he baits, mocks and smites bleeding hearts everywhere.
With an audience of nearly 20 million a week, Limbaugh is an American institution. He may be reviled as much as he is revered, but he has never once been ignored since his syndicated show went national in 1988.
In 2001, he signed an eight-year syndication contract worth £180 million - with a £25 million signing bonus - and it is no exaggeration to say that one cannot properly comprehend George W Bush's America without listening to Limbaugh in full flow.
His "35 Undeniable Truths" include the observations, "the most beautiful thing about a tree is what you do with it after you cut it down" and "feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society". Another is, "I am not arrogant", though he delights in boasting that he performs "with half my brain tied behind my back, just to make it fair because I have talent on loan from God". He has described himself - with a degree of accuracy as well as irony - as "a man, a legend, a way of life".
He broadcasts from a skyscraper above Penn Station in New York, and his studio is decorated with a large oil portrait of himself sent in by an avid Dittohead (the term for a Rush fan), a neon replica of his signature and blown-up magazine covers with his image on the front.
Having slimmed down to 15.5 stone (he once weighed more than 23), Limbaugh, with his slicked back hair and devilish grin, now bears a passing resemblance to Jack Nicholson rather than being the Benny Hill lookalike of old.
He is supposedly the prototypical angry white man, but there is no pick-up truck, gun rack or red neck in sight. Dressed in a grey suit, white shirt and yellow tie, he conducts our interview from behind a desk in his office, which is stuffed with books and political memorabilia.
So how does he feel about being routinely portrayed as racist, ignorant and full of hate? "What, not sexist and homophobic as well?" he says, feigning disappointment. "Those are all the stereotypes. I will lay you 10 to one that the people who have said those things have never listened to my programme.
"I'll tell you, I am hated by more people for what I think than I would have the capacity to even dislike. Nobody that's filled with the kind of hate that I'm described as having can prosper in the American media like this.
"Hate does not attract and grow an audience and maintain it. When I started, 14 years ago, this stuff bothered me because throughout my life nobody ever hated me and nobody thought I hated anybody. I get on the radio and I start telling people what I think, and all of a sudden I'm a hatemonger."
Limbaugh, 52 this month, is certainly not short of detractors on the Left. Linking Right-wing talk radio with the Oklahoma bombing in 1995, Bill Clinton urged Americans to speak out against "purveyors of hatred and division" and "loud and angry voices" who "leave the impression, by their words, that violence is acceptable".
Clinton once complained, during an interview: "After I get off the phone with you, Rush Limbaugh will have three hours to say whatever he wants and there's no truth detector." Al Franken, a Left-wing polemicist, published a book called Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.
Al Gore, the former vice-president, recently named Limbaugh as part of a "fifth column" in the media, "financed by ultra-conservative billionaires". Tom Daschle, Democratic leader in the US Senate, complained that "when Rush Limbaugh attacks those of us in public", threats "go up dramatically, on our families and on us".
Limbaugh, whose audience increases every time he is attacked by a senior Democrat, laughs out loud at the charges. "The genuine hate and the phobia are on the Left." And it is the Right, he insists, which provides solutions, rather than just lofty sentiment.
"It's the most gutless choice you can make in the world, to be liberal," he says. "It's the easiest thing in the world to do, because all you have to do is feel. All you have to do is say you care and express sorrow for somebody's plight. You don't have to do a damn thing to fix it."
Mention of the "angry white male" label starts him almost spitting with derision. "It's meaningless pap," he barks directly into my tape recorder. "It is liberal drivel and I learnt long ago that I've got to look at these things as badges of honour.
"And since the liberals cannot counter the substance of what they hear on my programme, or choose not to, they say: 'Oh, he's angry, he's full of hate, he's inciting this or that'."
But he fights fire with fire. When his enemies compare him to Hitler, or accuse him of being a mean-spirited zealot, he hits back by calling them "feminazis" or tree-hugging wackos.
With President Bush, whom Limbaugh supports staunchly, under fire from many in Britain as he limbers up for war with Iraq, the talk show host is happy to launch a broadside or two against the Euroweenies.
"I have the luxury of not really caring what the Europeans say about American policy," he says cheerfully. "All I know is that Europe, as it exists, wouldn't if it weren't for the United States."
As well as failing to win the Second World War on our own, he avers, we have substandard lavatory facilities. "You go to European countries that have been around for thousands of years and you will find just basic human services that are centuries behind, such as bathrooms and toilets and automobiles and roads."
Anti-Americanism or antipathy to Mr Bush is based on little more than envy, he says. "There's anger that we are the superpower. There's anger at our economic prosperity." Jealousy and resentment are "just normal human emotions" that nations have, just like people.
"A lot of Europe looks at America and says, 'Well, yeah, but they used their muscle and they run around the world and they steal other nations' resources and they use it up for themselves and deny everyone else; they're irresponsible and they're profligate'.
"I look at America as just the opposite. I think we feed the world, we lead the world technologically, we improve living standards and conditions for our own people and people around the world.
"And in places that are underdeveloped economically, it's not the unequal distribution of resources that's the problem, it's the unequal distribution of capitalism. America is still the land of opportunity and the number of people trying to get into this country proves it. I just wish more people in Europe and around the world understood it, instead of being resentful of it."
He exempts us Brits from much of this criticism and suggests that ordinary people don't necessarily believe all they read in the Left-wing press. "When I'm in London, I read the papers and see all this hatred for America and see all this criticism, but I get in a cab or I talk to people in a pub and I don't hear it.
"I'm sure it's there, but I go to my favourite cigar shop, Desmond Sautter's in Mayfair, and I don't hear any criticism of America. In the hotels where I stay, I don't hear much. France is different. Last time I was in France, it was scary."
Limbaugh's success in life did not come quickly or easily. He dropped out of university, has twice been virtually bankrupt and has been fired six times by radio stations and other employers. He once said that "when I hear women are interested in me, I don't believe it". He met his third and current wife, Marta, in 1994, four years after she e-mailed him, asking how to stand up to a Reagan-bashing history lecturer at the University of North Florida, where she was a student.
About 18 months ago, an autoimmune attack left Limbaugh deaf for three months. Following a cochlear implant - an electronic device which stimulates nerves in the inner ear - his hearing is much improved, though still impaired. Now, during each show, a stenographer types out what every caller says so that he can read their words on a computer if his ears fail him.
"A one-on-one conversation like this is easy," he says. "But this air-conditioning unit - you can probably barely hear it - sounds like a jet engine to me. I don't hear enough of the high frequency spectrum to be able to detect a melody any more. I thought my career might be over and I wasn't ready to quit. I had been taking for granted that I could get up every day and do this, and now it was about to be taken away. It rejuvenated me, gave me a 16-year-old's type of energy and enthusiasm."
Despite all the bravado about "serving humanity simply by opening my mouth", in person, Limbaugh is affable and seems almost bewildered by his popularity. The setbacks and struggles have left him with a streak of vulnerability that is endearing and also gives his shows an edge.
Although arguably one of the leading conservative thinkers of his generation, he still cannot quite believe the company he finds himself in. "Lady Thatcher is a historical figure and it's a thrill for me to be able to count her as a friend. She's still the Iron Lady and I am just this little kid from Missouri talking to her about world events."
Part of him still has an almost childlike desire to be liked. "When my mother was alive, I'd call her every week, sometimes every day, and she'd say: 'How was your day?' And I'd say: 'Oh Mom, it was great - half the people who heard me hate my guts'. That's a tough measure of success.
"They call me 'the most dangerous man in America' [a term he rejoices in], because I'm able to make people agree with me. Very few people ever take issue with the substance of what I say. They call me a big fat idiot or they say I didn't go to college or whatever."
In America, conservatism is currently king and the desperation of his foes is as great an accolade as Limbaugh could hope for. "When you're in this arena and you're telling people what you think and being honest about who you are in the process, you're going to be a threat. And I like being a threat."
Give him six months and they would be smoking ring fiftys and drinking coffee instead of tea lol
They have absolutely nothing to compare with him.
Would that some right-thinking Brit could overcome the regulation of the airwaves over there to attempt something similar. The same well of common-sense that made Limbaugh successful here exists in the UK.
But the right in England is apparently voiceless.
Probably wouldn't even have to be a Brit. They're much more accustomed to American accents over there than we are to British accents here.
Hmmm, I nominate Mark Steyn.
Best line of the whole piece.
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