The counterattack from the defenders of porcine junkie sex-tourist Rush Limbaugh seems to be occurring on two fronts at once. The first is that Sandra Fluke deserved everything he said about her, hardy-har-har. By and large, this is coming from the mouthbreathing fauna of the wingnut blogosphere. However, the other front has opened up recently in more respectable quarters, and that is the argument that our whole national dialogue is too corrosive these days, andeverybody does this sort of thing, and what about Bill Maher, huh? Huh?
After spending two decades enabling Limbaugh's excesses, and telling us that he wielded political influence and powers far beyond those of mortal men, it's a little late to start telling me that he's really just the same as Bill Maher or Keith Olbermann or Matt Taibbi. (Remember, it was St. Tim Of Buffalo who put Limbaugh on Meet The Press back in 2004, and even joked that he might want Limbaugh to take over.) When, pray tell, did a sitting liberal congressman feel compelled to apologize to Bill Maher for simply having told him to "back off"? When, pray tell, did any chairman of the Democratic National Committee feel compelled to beg Matt Taibbi for forgiveness simply because he had referred to him as an "entertainer," which, by the way, was exactly the word Rick Santorum used in his effort to chicken out of the whole controversy? Somehow, Limbaugh did not compel an apology from Santorum the way he compelled one from Michael Steele.
(And, not for nothing, but Maher once lost an entire show over what he said about 9/11.)
No, after two decades, y'all convinced me. Rush is sui generis, a titan of conservative thought, a giant of recent political history. Which makes all the difference in what he did. He brought all of that power and grandeur and historical importance down on a private citizen and called her a "slut" for three days running on 600 radio stations, slandering her 53 times by one count over that period of time, and said he wanted to see her sex tapes, and now he's sweating from the balls like the coward he's always been, and people are running away from him. It's too late now for y'all to decide he's just another intemperate voice howling in the night.
And then there is Michael Kinsley, a man who has dedicated his life to bringing Olympian insufferability to an art form. Kinsley is what you'd get if you infused David Brooks with the madcap humor you find around the doughnut cart at The New Republic. You see, says Michael, everybody involved in this is just a big fake because nobody really believes anything anyway, and oxen are always being gored, and it's all a silly stupid game, so suck it up, Sandra. Tell your folks about the marketplace of ideas:
Nevertheless, the self-righteous parade out the door by Limbaugh's advertisers is hard to stomach. Had they never listened to Rush before, in all the years they had been paying for commercials on his show? His sliming of a barely known law student may be a new low — even after what he's said about Nancy Pelosi and Michelle Obama — but it's not a huge gap.
This is Kinsley being deliberately stupid, probably because he figures that's the only thing the lesser orders out here understand. We can't do the right thing now because we didn't do the right thing then? We couldn't criticize George Wallace for being a racist in 1963 because we didn't criticize James Vardaman for being one in 1918? Murrow's broadcast on Joe McCarthy was somehow illegitimate because he hadn't been doing one a week for the previous three years? Watergate doesn't count because LBJ bugged Nixon's plane? The concept of critical mass is just another "insincere" function of our politics? And, I am sorry, but what he did to "a barely known law student" is the whole goddamn point. Kinsley's imperial disdain has led him into a cul de sac of glibly arrogant misanthropy.
(You will note also that not once in his whole column does Kinsley mention Fluke by name. Apparently, she functions for him only as a prop with which to help him make his point about how we are all insincere clods who can't think beyond our limited political categories to see the infinite comic universe that is man. This omission also makes Kinsley something of a snob.)
They're closing ranks now. Limbaugh will lose a few more sponsors but the tipping point, I fear, has passed.