Sandra Fluke testifying before Congressional Democrats
[Republicans refused to hear her testimony]
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission
As advertisers quit the Rush Limbaugh radio program — and as Republican politicians squirm uncomfortably — the broadcaster’s fans are complaining about double standards. Yes, they’ll concede, maybe Limbaugh went too far in denouncing a female law student as a “slut” and a “prostitute” and then demanding that she post a sex tape online for him to view.
But look (they continue) at all the liberal/lefty broadcasters who have also said obnoxious things! No one calls Democratic politicians to account for them. Why us?
It’s a question that will be aired often in the week ahead. Here’s the answer, in four points.
Point 1: Even by the rough standards of cable/talk radio/digital talk, Limbaugh’s verbal abuse of Sandra Fluke set a new kind of low. I can’t recall anything as brutal, ugly and deliberate ever being said by such a prominent person and so emphatically repeated. This was not a case of a bad “word choice.” It was a brutally sexualized accusation, against a specific person, prolonged over three days.
Point 2: The cases that conservatives cite as somehow equivalent to Limbaugh’s tirade against Fluke by and large did bring consequences for their authors…
The exception to the general rule is Bill Maher, who never apologized for calling Palin by a demeaning sexual epithet. But now see point 3:
Point 3: Limbaugh’s place in American public life is in no way comparable to that of David Letterman, Bill Maher or Ed Schultz…
Among TV and radio talkers and entertainers, there is none who commands anything like the deference that Limbaugh commands from Republicans: not Rachel Maddow, not Jon Stewart, not Michael Moore, not Keith Olbermann at his zenith. Democratic politicians may wish for favorable comment from their talkers, but they are not terrified of negative comment from them in the way that Republican politicians live in fear of a negative word from Limbaugh…
Point 4: Most fundamentally, why the impulse to counter one outrageous stunt by rummaging through the archives in search of some supposedly offsetting outrageous stunt? Why not respond to an indecent act on its own terms, and then — if there’s another indecency later — react to that too, and on its own terms?
Instead, public life is reduced to a revenge drama. Each offense is condoned by reference to some previous offense by some undefined “them” who supposedly once did something even worse, or anyway nearly as bad, at some point in the past.
And correctly so — this is how David Frum responds like a traditional American conservative to the defense of Limbaugh by Republicans ranging from party leaders to rank-and-file hacks.