Sunday, January 21, 2007

Rush and the New Racism

by Dave

Atrios notes the latest atrocity from Rush Limbaugh:
Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.

Yep, he said it. That is, he put his bad racist self out there for everyone to see, finally.

The remark has so far cost him a single radio station's support. The astonishing thing, really, is that more of them haven't taken flight as well.

Limbaugh has been fascinated by the whole "gangsta" scene for awhile; he likes to call the mainstream press the "drive-by media" -- that is, he's identifying them with drive-by shooters. It's typical of the wink-and-nudge racism game that Limbaugh has played for years:
Conservatives always sputter when you bring this stuff up. It's not naked racism, they say. Perhaps not, if you live in a cocoon. But out in the real world, those of us who have spent any time around bona fide racists (and I'm not just talking about neo-Nazis, but the working-class and white-collar racists we all know about) know exactly how this kind of talk is perceived. It is an unofficial -- but high-profile -- endorsement of their own private views.

Most of the examples MWO cites fall into this category. As does one of the more egregious instances I witnessed (there are no links, BTW, because no one archives Limbaugh's material, which is one of the main ways Limbaugh insulates himself from being called to account for his words).

It came on Limbaugh's thankfully short-lived TV program. Limbaugh promised to show his audience footage of everyday life among welfare recipients. He then ran video of the antics of a variety of great apes -- mostly orangutans, gorillas and apes -- hanging about zoos.

The audience, of course, applauded and laughed.

He's only paid a price for it once -- when he tried the schtick on ABC's Monday Night Football over three years ago:
"I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn’t deserve. The defense carried this team."

Limbaugh was canned from the show, and he whined afterward that he must have said something right since it got people so worked up. But as I observed at the time:
Above all, Limbaugh revealed himself on Sunday night to be an utter and profound ignoramus on something as basic as race in sports -- little better than that moronic loudmouth who offers the same level of profound judgment over his beer at the bar. And that ignorance, as much as the racial insensitivity that accompanies it, was the clearest reason Limbaugh did not belong on a national sports broadcast. ...

This ... suggests what is, at root, wrong with Limbaugh, not merely as a sportscaster, but providing commentary on any aspect of our national discourse: He is an ignoramus. He is not merely ignorant about the realities of sports, he is ignorant about the state of race and culture in America. Like the buffoon at the bar, his opinions on politics are as profound as those about sports.

One has to be amused, however, at the way Republicans who keep insisting that Democrats represent the "real racist" party in America keep guys like Limbaugh up on stage as their chief national spokesmen. And then they wonder why 90 percent of blacks vote Democratic.

My guess is that Limbaugh, his ratings now in steady decline, decided it was time to drop the conservative-but-not-racist pretext and step up the rhetoric. This is, after all, the next logical step in the arc of his career as a right-wing demagogue anyway. His schtick has always been about "pushing the envelope," and the social envelope already has been pushed about as far as it can be without descending into overt fascism these part 10 years or more -- thanks to Limbaugh.

Maybe we can call this the New Racism: emerging from behind a mask of genteel conservatism, it openly calls for a revival of ole-time white supremacism, having found that the "liberal social experiment" with racial equality has failed. Already, we've seen Patrick Buchanan drop all pretense and adopt a position that shifts from simple white nationalism to outright supremacism. Michael Savage airs denunciations of the Civil Rights movement. TV talkers like Glenn Beck pretend that blind bigotry toward Muslims is a "normal" perspective.

It's not exactly a heartening trend.

Or maybe there's a simpler explanation. Earlier this year, Limbaugh accused Michael Fox of being "off his meds". It's possible, I suppose, that this outbreak means that Limbaugh is back on his meds.

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