For People Who Think

March 30, 2012

Foot in Mouth Syndrome…by Dan Lynch

Filed under: Uncategorized — 4peoplewhothink @ 3:31 pm

It’s so easy to say something stupid.

You’re in front of a microphone and on the air for three hours a day, babbling on and on about public issues. You’re live and mostly unscripted – just winging it, day after day. You’re trying to get your point across in an interesting way. You want to entertain listeners as you do it.

And – inevitably, if you do talk radio long enough – you say something incredibly dopey. You blare out something so outrageous that it manages to offend just about everybody. How do I know this? Because I did talk radio for about a decade.

I can’t tell you how many times I thought to myself, “Damn, I shouldn’t have said that.” Luckily, I never said anything as dopey as Limbaugh did, but if you do talk radio long enough – and if you run a program that tries to make a point about serious issues – you’ll do it sooner or later. You’ll say something really, astonishingly, breathtakingly stupid.

Ask Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who did talk radio for 30 years. She went off the air two years ago after saying something extremely dopey. I don’t know Limbaugh, but I had dinner with her once. Nice woman. She just did something fairly tricky and dangerous for too many years.

That’s what Rush Limbaugh did. He apologized for what he said, but he did that only after advertisers began to bail on him, so nobody took the apology seriously — especially the young law student whom he’d described as a “slut” and a “prostitute” because she’d said something on a political issue that Limbaugh disagreed with.

It’s also worth noting that just about everybody who has jumped on the Bash Rush Bandwagon has pretty much had it with the guy. The Democrats find him infuriating and want desperately to shut him up. Conservatives tend to care not at all what liberals say on the air or in print, but liberals live for the chance to shut up people they disagree with. That’s just the truth.

The professional Republican leadership isn’t that fond of Limbaugh, either. They’re annoyed at the influence Limbaugh has over a big portion of their party membership. Until this incident, the GOP pros kissed his butt every chance they got, but many of them found this incident positively heartwarming. Now, they figure, he’ll have less sway over their party faithful.

Limbaugh has been doing talk radio for 28 years. He began working in that format on a station in Sacramento and went national four years later. I first caught his program during the Gulf War in 1991. He was clever and amusing. Over the past 20 years, though, he has become less fun to listen to as he has begun to take himself more and more seriously.

Now? Well, who knows? He has no immediate plans to leave the air, but he’s in his 60s now, and his bosses had to have been thinking already of how they were going to replace him down the road. This incident is likely to prompt more immediate consideration of that question.

I dislike rather strongly Limbaugh’s kind of show. Extremists, right or left, give me the willies, and he just works to make the crazies crazier. He does the same show, hour after hour, day after day. That’s one of the things talk show hosts have to do – repeat themselves, over and over again in different words. Nobody has ever been better at that than Limbaugh.

Limbaugh has been perfect for his medium. The talk radio audience tends to be white, male, middle-aged and older. That’s who the conservatives in this society are. They love to hear somebody express veneration for their beliefs and to castigate their enemies. So, Limbaugh, who comes from a family of Republican lawyers in Missouri, has been Mr. Conservative on talk radio, totally comfortable in that role.

Too comfortable in recent years, as it turned out, and not nearly as clever or entertaining as he used to be once he began to believe that he’d become the very fount of political wisdom. His success made him way too arrogant.

I spent most of my career in print journalism. I always used my show to give listeners fair, accurate information and to encourage them to think about the issues. Limbaugh was better at what he did on the radio than I was at what I did. Conservatives were much more attuned to his messianic message than they were to my more balanced, fact-based approach.

But I never got the idea that the world was hanging on my every word. I made my share of boneheaded remarks, but I never believed that I could get away with saying absolutely anything. After all those years on the air, Limbaugh did.

And that arrogance caught up with him.

Be sure to visit my Web site at forpeoplewhothink.com.

Advertisements

1 Comment »

  1. This is my first encounter with 4peoplewhothink, and I am struck by the dreadful connotation that there may be only 4 people who think.

    Comment by Nancy Johnsen Curran — March 31, 2012 @ 3:16 pm | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: