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BlackCommentator.com: Of Gutter Politics and Mainstream Commentary - Solidarity America - By John Funiciello - BlackCommentator.com Columnist

   
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Anyone who has listened to Rush Limbaugh for five minutes in the past 20 years or so knows who he is and what he is: a bloviating bully who is fond of making racist and sexist commentary and insisting, now and then, that he is just having fun and that he is mostly an entertainer.

After all these years of pretending to make cogent political commentary, he finally has enraged enough people to make his advertisers take notice. This time, he has enraged women and not just women, but women in the party that is most closely aligned with his daily diatribes, the Republicans.

Recently, he attacked a young woman who finally was able to testify before a congressional committee (headed by a Republican) about the right of women to have birth control included in their package of health insurance benefits.

Sandra Fluke testified before a congressional committee on the importance of providing birth control in health insurance coverage, citing her own and other women’s situation at Georgetown Law Center. Limbaugh, on his daily show, inveighed against Fluke and her position on contraceptives, calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute” for asking for coverage.

The response was immediate. The shock jock apparently was shocked himself at the response that his comments generated. He might have expected that women, in general, would be offended, but this was a subject that hit home with everyone to the left of himself, which is just about most Americans. As he found, contraception is not an issue of left or right, but an issue of grave concern to all women, regardless of politics. A few days later, he made an “apology” worthy of a bully who was caught and forced to admit wrongdoing by the principal in front of the rest of the kids in the schoolyard.

That didn’t cut it. Women are still enraged and have organized boycotts against any advertisers who still support Limbaugh’s program. No matter the outcome during this short period of time, the boycotts probably will have a long-lasting effect, and it may be enough to move him in the direction of the late, unlamented Glenn Beck, who is now serving time in a backwater of broadcast anonymity. They all have had their time in the spotlight (much more than their allotted 15 minutes of fame), and they have been enriched beyond their wildest dreams by their toxic presence on the air.

And, the people seem to be more enraged at his pseudo-apology, in which he, like so many others before him who have been forced into an apology for one thing or another, appear to be sorrier for the response to his comments and epithets than for the content of his low remarks.

But, to put what the Oxycontin-abusing, endless talker does for three hours, five days a week, in context, we should look at the descent of what passes as civil discourse in the country, in general. It’s hard to say whether he is a causative factor or just a symptom of a sick discourse that casts a pall over the land. It is in everything, however, from politics, to entertainment, to newspapers (what’s left of them), to sports, and especially, to what is on both radio and television.

How Limbaugh treated Fluke is typical of how the establishment keeps women in line, how it keeps minorities in line, how it keeps the working class and most of the middle class in line…a daily pounding in the public sphere and on the floor of the congressional houses and in the state houses. Republicans have made an art of this and the Democrats have yet to find their spine to counter the all-out assault on what has come to be known as the “99 percent.”

In recent years, however, politics has been used as the jumping off point for the likes of Limbaugh, Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage (he was born Michael Alan Weiner), and others like them. The country is full of them.

Political campaigns and politics as practiced in Congress and in the state legislatures have descended to the depths of the discourse of these people. In the current era, there was Lee Atwater, a young, brash, and some have said, ruthless political operative. He worked for Republican candidates, including Senator Strom Thurmond, and was described by someone he worked with, Ed Rollins, a GOP consultant and advisor, as “Ollie North in civilian clothes,” in that he would do anything to achieve his ends.

There was little that Atwater would not do to win for his candidates and he operated on the same “principles” when he was chairman of the Republican National Committee. And there was Karl Rove, who also would stop at nothing to achieve his political goals, topping off his public career by being top advisor to George W. Bush, during his presidency (“Bush’s Brain,” he was nicknamed). He was among the Bush Administration’s top people involved in the outing of a CIA operative, Valerie Plame, a serious crime, if it had ever been prosecuted.

We have the example also of the election of Saxby Chambliss, a Republican, who won the U.S. Senate seat of Max Cleland, a Democrat, after a campaign in which Chambliss ran an ad that depicted Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, declaring that Cleland was not tough enough on war and national security. Cleland had lost both legs and one arm in Vietnam, while Chambliss received a draft deferment for a knee problem that he received playing football.

The near total absence of civility among lawmakers at every level of government has left the American people and their environment virtually without anyone to speak for them. In the recent Republican debates, there has been nothing of substance to solve the real and profound problems of American society uttered among all of the competitors for the GOP presidential nomination.

In effect, they deny there are problems by ignoring them and deal in nothing but generalities. Most of the “debate” involves cutting taxes for the rich, eliminating most social programs, and getting rid of “entitlements,” such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (they already have eliminated “welfare as we know it,” during the administration of Bill Clinton). Schools, from kindergarten to university, are on the block. Apparently, we can do without them, as has been intimated by Rick Santorum, the candidate in second place for the GOP nomination. And, forget dealing with climate change and manmade causes of global warming. To Republicans and some Democrats, it’s not happening. That way, they don’t have to deal with it.

To say that the nation’s lawmakers are gridlocked on all of the important issues of the day is the grossest of understatements. Republicans are there to oppose the Democrats and, when they do speak, it is just to say, “Cut taxes and cut services and programs, and cut the budget.” Democrats just don’t seem to know how to break through the impasse.

Theories are out there about the lack of cooperation or collegiality. One of them is that, in a time of constant campaign mode, the lawmakers are back in their home districts raising money or campaigning. They don’t even know each other, much less socialize with each other, even minimally.

Out of the lack of any social relationships among these privileged, it is easy to refuse to work with the opposition at any level and it is easy to be hostile to them, in public, at least. The deep pockets of corporations and the wealthy have a strong part to play in the dysfunction of our legislators, at most levels of government, and we will see more of that in the presidential campaign, the first in which unlimited money from Corporate America and the rich can flow to the (mostly Republican) candidates.

The mean-spirited mouthings of a Limbaugh, pounded into the minds of gullible Americans for three hours every day, are to be expected in a political atmosphere like this one. He is doing the bidding of his masters in the GOP and those farther to the right and he does his part to keep women, minorities, and workers in their places (amazingly, many workers believe everything he says). That’s why they pay him scores of millions of dollars each year. He keeps the fires of hate burning brightly and his “apology” to Fluke should not make a difference to those who are fighting back with the only weapon they have, an advertiser boycott.

Despite what some of Atwater’s GOP colleagues said about his end-of-life recanting of what he had done to so many people over the years, we’ll just take him at his word. Here is an excerpt of what he wrote in a 1991 Life magazine article about it: “The ‘80s were about acquiring - acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty.

“What power wouldn’t I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn’t I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don’t know who will lead us through the ‘90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.”

Do not expect the same out of Limbaugh or Rove, Mitt Romney or Senator Mitch McConnell, or any like them, in politics or entertainment or any other sphere of American life. It doesn’t matter. Rather, Atwater’s “tumor of the soul” of American society will have to be excised by the people, in a massive display of intelligence and good will.

BlackCommentator.com Columnist, John Funiciello, is a labor organizer and former union organizer. His union work started when he became a local president of The Newspaper Guild in the early 1970s. He was a reporter for 14 years for newspapers in New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Click here to contact Mr. Funiciello.

 
 
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Mar 8, 2012 - Issue 462
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