Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

A Common Theme as Limbaugh, Murdoch and Beck Self Destruct

For anyone following the #hackgate FOTHOM diaries, you’ll know that that the slow motion crash of Murdoch’s UK Empire is still developing. But it wasn’t until Rush Limbaugh’s  recent implosion that I began to think this isn’t just about News Corp, even though it is the world’s 3rd biggest media group and run as a one-man-band. It was in Meteor Blade’s Nopology diary early this week, that this thought came to me:

I think there’s a connection… (40+ / 0-)

between the slow rejection in the UK of the tabloid style of reasoning (basically trollery and personal insult) and the sudden turning on Rush L.

The British Tabloids and the American Shock Jocks basically thrived on the backlash against the civil liberties victories of the 60s: legislation against racial discrimination, homophobia, the rise of women in the work place and reproductive rights. For 40 years they thrived on right wing white male resentment. They had nothing to offer but trollery because they sought to to interfere with communication about race, gender and sexuality, but without an alternative agenda or real ideology, except that of opposition, reduction ad absurdum (looney left fictions about banning nursery rhymes etc) and the shock value of mockery.

This was never anything but a reactionary tribute to all the victories of the 60s. The candidacy of Sarah Palin was the ne plus ultra of this political style. Rebarbative, provocative, posited on antagonism alone, it never could offer much more than a macho guffaw and muttering of unfocused dissent.  

Forty years on, the people who find this stuff amusing are diminishing. Shock Jocks have run out of positions. They can only flame out or die down.  

The other connection is the rise of social media and blogs like DKos. They can organise dissent. Avaaz and 38degrees focused on the advertisers during the News of the World scandal, and when the public summoned enough outrage through twitter and email, the advertisers withdrew from the paper. That’s what killed News of the World.

Thanks to new media, we really aren’t passive consumers anymore, but can communicate directly with those to attempt to appease us. I guess this is what has happened to Limbaugh.

Actually this Kos comment was just a combination of two comments I’d made on the Moose in Strummerson’s Diary – so that just shows where my real thinking happens.  

Well, great minds and all that, but there’s much more on this in a great new article by Media Matters: The Self-Destruction Of Limbaugh, Murdoch and Beck

What’s fascinating about their startling falls from grace is that each one represented a clear case of self-destruction. Limbaugh hand Murdoch and Beck weren’t cut down by their political foes or by partisan dirty tricks. They were cut down by their own moral and ethical failings.

Meaning, Limbaugh’s opponents didn’t make him call Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute, and liberal didn’t force him to spend days smearing the women in the most humiliating ways possible, painting her as a greedy nymphomaniac whose parents ought to be deeply ashamed. Nobody egged him on into doing that. In fact, after the initial “slut” and “prostitute” insults, liberals demanded Limbaugh stop using that kind of ugly language. If anything, Limbaugh’s foes tried to save him from himself. (By contrast, many of his partisan fans immediately cheered his Fluke attacks.)

The same is true with Beck and Murdoch. Who on the left would have even dreamt up a plot to somehow to get Beck call the president a racist, or to later ramble for weeks about how pro-democracy demonstrators in Egypt represented a spear tip to a looming American left-backed Caliphate uprising in the Middle East. Who even thinks like that, other than Beck?

As for Murdoch, he’s cultivated a culture of corruption that’s so firmly entrenched that one of his newspaper executives allegedly tried to secure a vote in parliament from a conservative politician in exchange for offering favorable coverage in a Murdoch newspaper. Again, who does that? Who works for a newspaper and doubles as a vote whip for a political party?

All of this behavior is reprehensible and of course falls completely outside the purview of journalism, as even loosely defined to include cable and AM talk shows. For the conservative media, there are no checks in place anymore. Instead, all the introspection has been eliminated and replaced by robotic, partisan defense regardless of the circumstances.

The only part where I disagree is that – while all three are guilty of hubris and over-reach – that was always true in their careers. As I’ve discovered while writing my book (see my sig) Murdoch has been involved in the dark arts of intelligencing and intrigue since the 60s – his father since World War I.  I bet Beck has always spouted gibberish. And Limbaugh has said offensive things ever since I was unfortunate enough to hear of his existence.

What has changed to my mind is the interactive nature of new media: the fact we can all publish on blogs, can drill down through data, and redistribute information peer to peer. This is making the shock jocks and tabloid merchants look old, slow moving and dinosaur like. Their lies can be countered. Our outrage can finally be heard. It’s no longer a monologue of the mainstream media, but a dialogue across many platforms.

(On that score, my diary earlier today about A Chancellor, a Dominatrix, Cocaine and a Spoiler is getting quite a bit of traction on the #Leveson strand. Expect to hear more).


  1. Shaun Appleby

    Whether gentle suggestions that many Republican narratives are now borderline treason and much of the Evangelical agenda is arguably New Testament apostasy is worth considering.  I would be willing to make both cases and it would drive them nuts.  And the apoplectic refutations and denials would be entertaining.  It certainly is my preferred personal approach with individuals; sure they walk away shaking their heads and muttering but you can tell it stings a bit.  Not many of these ditto-heads really have any grasp of scripture, not to mention history or patriotism.  These are just shiny things they think they have acquired and never really questioned in any meaningful way.

    Rush Limbaugh would seem to be a sensible starting point but by no means anything more than the tip of the iceberg.

  2. I’ve been watching documentaries in my spare time recently, a trend in recent days being pieces on the history of man.

    Every evolutionary step is triggered by calamity. It is therefore important not to identify every calamity as a Bad Thing.

    War, examples of corrupt memes – all these things in their own way cause us to evolve. Murdoch, Beck and Limbaugh have acted as an evolutionary crux by pushing an available resource beyond its limits.

    Well done, sirs, well done.

  3. HappyinVT

    thoughts zooming through my head in some vague order.

    I am curious why what Rush said about Ms. Fluke was (finally) enough to draw some serious attention to his words.  The guy’s been offensive for years and the general reaction has been, “heh, that’s just Rush.”  Now I’m seeing the argument that this time Limbaugh went after a private citizen.  But while it is certainly clear that Fluke isn’t a politicians or paid actor in the birth control farce does one lose their “private citizen” label when one testifies before a Congressional hearing, unofficial though it was?  And let me clear, I’m not blaming Ms. Fluke for any of this … what Limbaugh said was beyond the pale.  I’m honestly trying to figure out what confluence of events may end up bringing Rush down.

    And I’m likely to think that had the whole birth control/Darrell Issa hearing mess not been preceded by the Komen disaster and be simultaneous with efforts by a number of states to enact various intrusive healthcare laws we may still be at the “heh, that’s just Rush” stage.  But people are pissed that we’re again fighting the issue of birth control and a woman’s right to control her body and life.


Comments are closed.