Rush Limbaugh is under attack again for his unseemly extended verbal assault on Sandra Fluke. This time Rushbo is being attacked by radio ads purchased by the liberal watchdog group Media Matters in eight major markets. The attack began March 23, 2012.
The justification for the attack given by Media Matters’ Angelo Carusone is that Rushbo should not be free to use the strength of his multi-hundred markets show to assault private citizens for testimony they give that he doesn’t like, without consequence. Since the First Amendment guarantees that he can, in fact, say pretty much anything he likes, within the ever-stretching bounds of decency, the step-down is to persuade people to not pay him for it (i.e. advertise on his show).
The debate in the national press is mostly about whether this will divert the discussion to a field of battle in which Rush Limbaugh himself is the expert. Can Rush, in other words, take advantage of the airwaves attack, as opposed to the social media efforts to date, and fight back effectively on his own turf? His ability to spend a solid three hours vilifying and ridiculing an opponent certainly exceeds any amount of criticism Media Matters can bring about in a short series of one minute or shorter radio spots.
On the other hand, Limbaugh tends to go overboard on any topic he chooses for a given day, and that might just work against him. To have a few radio spots in a day dominate the bulk of one of his shows might come across as just a bit beyond the pale. After all, campaigns like this have eventually carried enough weight to get other people pulled from enough markets to lose their national radio presence.
Rachel Nelson, a spokeswoman for Premier Radio Networks, Limbaugh’s syndicator, said, “This is not about women. It’s not about ethics and it’s not about the nature of our public discourse. It’s a direct attack on America’s guaranteed First Amendment right to free speech. It’s essentially a call for censorship masquerading as high-minded indignation.” Rush himself said, ignoring entirely that his much more recent words triggered all the noise, “They’re not even really offended by what happened. This is just an opportunity to execute a plan they’ve had in their drawer since 2009.” From a sidewalk listener’s perspective, both statements seem disingenuous at best. People really are outraged by his vicious, three-day attack on this young woman.
So far, this response to Limbaugh has lasted four weeks, much to the surprise of many, and seems to have moved into a new phase. Will it accomplish anything in the end? Well, if it lasts long enough, it may distract Ol’ Rushbo from the election a bit… and that would be a good thing in itself.