Friday, June 14, 2019


In a monologue on the radio yesterday, Rush Limbaugh hinted at a few aspects of the conservative psyche that I don't think he was intending to reveal. He was responding to a statement by George Will, who's a #NeverTrumper. Will said, in part:
What Mr. Trump is doing that is damaging to the country is public and constant.... He is putting into our civic discourse a level of conversation and of name-calling and of abuse that will now seem perfectly normal in the future. I mean, our children, if they were 10 years old, we’d send them to their room without supper if they talked like that.
Limbaugh replied:
You know, George Will is of that universe of Never Trumpers that’s just appalled by the way Trump speaks. Just appalled by the name calling. Just appalled by the constant tweeting. Just appalled by the lack of sophistication. Just appalled by the fact that he probably drinks coffee out of a Styrofoam cup instead of a legitimate Chinese bone crystal cup. That kind of stuff. You know what I mean?

They probably hate Trump because he eats potato chips. Sophisticated people and real presidents don’t eat potato chips. They eat baked or boiled potatoes seasoned properly by the chef. They don’t drink coffee out of a Styrofoam cup.
I don't think that's what upsets people about Trump, but Limbaugh's just warming up.
Trump isn’t breaking the law. Trump is not engaged in corruption. He has not violated the law. He’s just offending these people’s sensibilities. This idea that if your 10-year-old talked like Trump that you would send ’em to the room without supper? No, no. I’m not denying that. I’m just telling you, I don’t think it’s true. I think 10-, 12-, 15-year-olds today reach the bottom of the gutter in normal, everyday conversation — and we’ve been chronicling it here since long before Donald Trump came along.

This culture rot, societal deprecation, it’s been going on for who knows how long — and most of it has been brought to us by the radical American left.
So what Limbaugh seems to be saying is that Trump does coarsen the national discourse ("I'm not denying that") -- but it doesn't matter because "the radical American left" had already done most of the coarsening.

Limbaugh goes on to complain about "political correctness," but if he's talking about "culture rot" that's "been going on for who knows how long," I think I know what he's trying to say. Even though Limbaugh was once a rock DJ, he's part of a political movement that's been complaining for years about popular music and other forms of mass culture. They thought Elvis and the Beatles were anti-Christian. They thought satanic messages were embedded backwards in heavy metal songs. They've railed for years against hip-hop.

They think the music industry and the movie and TV business have eaten away at the fabric of society. But do they resent the power of pop culture -- or are they just envious? Most rock, metal, and rap songs aren't political, but they generally have a cultural message of resistance to authority and propriety. Conservatives don't like that -- but maybe what they wanted all along was to turn that power back on the people who were wielding it.

Trump is their guy because he's harnessed that power on behalf of the already powerful. He's Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha chanting "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me" at the powerless.

See also Megan Garber in The Atlantic writing about Sarah Huckabee Sanders on the occasion of her resignation as White House press secretary:
Sanders ... had all but stopped giving televised press briefings by the end of her 23-month tenure. When she did provide briefings, however, she conducted those events as spectacles of partisanship and wearying demonstrations of gladiatorial ennui.

I know it’s hard for you to understand even short sentences, Sanders told [a] reporter, on [a] heated day last June, and it wasn’t an attack on his intelligence so much as an attack on the intelligence of the whole system he is part of. It was a comment that made the entire exercise—the exchange of information, the performance of democracy that is played out in the White House briefing room—seem silly and pointless and sad....

To watch a Sanders press conference, or to watch her representing the White House on cable news, was to be confronted with a vision of America that is guided by political Darwinism—an environment in which everything is a competition, with the winner determined by who can shout the loudest, who can distract the most effectively, who can get in the best insult before the time for questioning is over.
Reporters sometimes asked tough, challenging questions of previous White House press secretaries. What Sanders brought to the job was the notion that it was her job to be the aggressor, on behalf of the most powerful man in the world. It was now the press's job to take the blows. Reporters represent the governed, and in our system they're supposed to be able to confront those who govern us. But Sanders reversed that. Her job was to attack. The job of reporters was to take it.

That's what conservatism wants: rulers attacking the ruled. We thought free speech gave us the power to make their lives uncomfortable. But in this system, they get to use that power against us. They're the ones who are rudely challenging what they portray as our hegemony, even though they're in charge.

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