Thursday, April 28, 2005

Mind Games with Rush, Part 3

After yesterday's post, I thought a lot about how I can evaluate the rest of this transcript fairly without going back and reading original articles about the Churchill thing. Also, the original Churchill article itself. So I spent quite a bit of time doing that.

Then I read this transcript again. And I had some general thoughts on this experience and what it is turning into.

It strikes me, at least twenty times a day, that my long residence outside the US has made me very unaware of how the discourse is progressing there. Most of the things Rush says seem to be code phrases that he and his listeners have internalized that I don't share. At times it seems that he is speaking a different language, the language of oversimplification.

Many times I get upset by American pundits who try to write about things I have some knowledge of; for example, Middle Eastern culture, history, religion, whatever. They simplify everything to the point that I feel it is not only too simplified, it becomes incorrect.

The last time I was in the US and I tried to watch network news I had this reaction to everything they said. I wanted more detail. I wanted to know upon what they were basing all the glib phrases, all the catchwords. It seemed that the entire process was in a shorthand code and that there was an active avoidance of giving people too much information. It seems Americans would rather be told things that are wrong than to be told too much and get confused.

But the real world is confusing and very, very complicated. And I think Americans need to realize this.

When Rush reads a sentence about this Churchill professor and then says to his listeners, "That's the Left for you!" he is drastically simplifying everything to the point that it is no longer even coherent.

First of all, he is defining the guy himself (Churchill) by a single sentence taken out of context.

Second, he is defining the metaphor that Churhill used (comparing World Trade Center financial analysts and other employees to "little Eichmanns") as outrageous, presumably because Eichmann was a Nazi. There's no attempt to even understand why Churchill chose Eichmann as a metaphor (if he were just trying to call the financial people in the World Trade Center Nazis, surely he would have picked someone less obscure? Does it not matter to Rush what he actually meant or was trying to say?).

Third, having identified Churchill's term as outrageous and Churchill as equatable with the term, he identifies a group called the "left" as being completely equatable with Churchill just as he has already simplified him.

I have an idea that it would be fairly unfair for me to equate a huge group of people with Rush - even if they listen to his radio show and like it, I would still accept the fact that they are complicated human beings, and so is he, and he is not an emblem of them or vice versa.

I also can't dismiss Rush based on a single dumb thing he said. I have heard that Rush created the term "Feminazi". I could feign outrage with that term and categorize Rush Limbaugh as 100% outrageous because of that term, but I think this is kind of intellectually dishonest, in spite of the fact that the term is very annoying to me - because Rush is more than the sum of some silly things he may or may not have said - as is Churchill, I would assume.

But Rush himself practices this type of supercompression throughout this particular transcript. I have to admit it does not leave me breathless to read more of them. Perhaps I will try to listen to his show once or twice while I am back there this summer so that I can be positive that I am not being unfair or biased here.

I'll continue with the transcript next week. I feel very tired, for some reason.


WitNit said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
WitNit said...

It's interesting to follow this "annalysis". Your view is restricted to text of one portion of one program, and thus you are in the position of the person holding onto the tail of the elephant trying to describe the elephant.

Rush says that a listener needs to invest a full 30 hours of listening to properly get his context, and in my experience that is true. So much of his satire is missed until you get his range.

Also, it's easy to take a small thing, like "Feminazis" and not understand the context. Rush has constantly reminded his audience that his use of the term always specifically targeted a dozen far-left activist feminists, who he would name. He never generalized the term to include any larger group, especially not feminists generally.

Another example is the people who call and say, "Dittos, Rush." People who he calls "Dittoheads." This has been popularly misconstrued by Rush's critics as meaning people who blindly agree with him, who parrot his thinking and don't think for themselves.

Again, Rush continually has to remind his audience that the meaning of Dittos and Megadittos and Dittoheads has nothing to do with mirroring Rush's thinking. As a radio entertainer, Rush understands the value of radio time, and the boredom that can set in when callers constantly praise the host with thanks and appreciation and such stuff. So he has specifically requested fans who call and want to praise him and his show to simply say, "Dittos, Rush" and then get right to their point, whether agreeing or disagreeing. That way his listeners do not have to listen to a continuing parade of Gee Rush I really love your show and...

As always, Rush can be simplified as much as anyone else when a narrow scope is applied to his words.

I suspect that if you spend more time with Mr. Churchill and more time with Mr. Limbaugh, you will find that you like Rush more, and Churchill less with each hour of acquiantance.

But of course I could be wrong. I should add that I probably agree with about 80% of Rush's political opinions. (For example, I disagree with him on abortion.)

Zwack said...

I agree entirely that the US media is dumbed down to the lowest common denominator.

Everything is presented in black and white with lots of "groups" bandied about.

Stories about "latino gangs" "Evangelical christians" "Enviromentalists"... as if these terms explained everything you might want to know.

Usually we're left to fill in the blanks in order to work out what the news really meant.

But that's o.k. because a six year old (who doesn't CARE about the news) can udnerstand the comments.

Leila M. said...

I dont agree with what's happening with him, but Churchill still sucks for lying his ass off and dividing the AIM in Colorado. Full stop!

Anna in Portland (was Cairo) said...

Mark, this is not a full transcript? I thought it was. I suppose then it is a bit of an unfair exercise. If he continues on and gives more in-depth background about the Churchill case, it would be a different story. It is interesting to read the etymological background to the term "dittoheads" which I had heard once or twice but had no real preconception of what the exact meaning was. Likewise "Feminazi" - although it would be interesting to see who are these 7 women he is so scared of. Not having access to his show I have to rely on transcripts.

Triga said...

This is a very interesting debate you have going on here. Maybe this discussion should be extended onto other commentators of political activity, especially in the UK, as we have a growning number of "spin doctors" like those prevelent in your establishment...
I must also comment on the news programme oppinion you've voiced. I have watched a few US news shows broadcast in amongst our news reels, and have found almost all of the totally distasteful. Whereas in the UK our reporters are under constant flak to present the news in an unbiased way, your news reports are shown in a very different way. Inflections are constantly used (extenuated in films from your counrty), where surprise and anger and litterally hundreds of emotions are conveyed which should be exised from the shows.
In the UK, many children hate the news, as I did, because it is boring and too complicated. It took me many years to even start watching the shows, let alone pick up a news paper. The news is supposed to be factual, unemotional (unless a cute story comes up, awwwe), and you are left to make your own feelings about the stories.
Dumbing down of the news leads to factionation, idiocracy of the viewers, and many other problems. In the UK there is a definite way to show that this is the case. We have a great distinction in our newspapers between the two types of news broadcasting. Newspapers like "the sun" and "the mirror" are focused on selling stories, making sensational headlines, and basically being like american news shows - flashy, dumbed down, more like a comic. Others like "the gardian" and "the mail" are purely factual, and are what a lot of people consider boring. There are others which are in the middle, like the independent, which although gets flashy with jargon, explains it where apropriate, and provides facts. You can see by the people who read these 3 genres of spin, facts, and media. Sun readers either don't care about the news, and just want something fun to read, and generally are under achievers, antisocialites, or quite gulliable. Readers of the gardian tend to be older conservative types, and those who read the independent are a mixture of both. America needs this distinction in it's news to allow it's people to decide. a spin tv news channel, a wholey conservative channel, and one in the middle. At present, I see there only being one way or the other (and conservative more for the buisiness orientated persons....)
Yeah, think I've rambled enough now, peace out, come chat at myspace - triga3

Media Spin said...

Here's a website if you wish to augment some of your research with a variety of other opinion: