Rush Limbaugh died at the age of 70 today on February 17th, 2021. For those not familiar with him or those reading this at a later date where he’s not very well known, he was a radio commentator who discussed politics from a nominally conservative position. His main appeal, at least to me and the people who liked him, was that he was an interesting communicator, had a good voice, and also had a very enjoyable although understated sense of humor. I’m sure there were people who hung on his every word for political analysis, but my main enjoyment of his work was that he would talk about things going on in an enjoyable manner.
I haven’t listened to him regularly ever since I graduated from Hollywood, a little less than a decade ago at this point, because he was mainly something to listen to while driving with your parents or on a commute. He was essentially the best mainstream right wing radio entertainment option for the lower middle class and middle class white people across America with nominally conservative views. I say nominally conservative, because at this point it is quite clear that very little conservatives have ever done or stood for have conserved anything in America. His fairly lukewarm and non-extreme views of reality are not really worth demonizing or praising him for, but as he kind of existed and established himself prior to the internet and more extreme or pure versions of right wing thought were able to flourish, Limbaugh got quite a reputation as a sort of extremist or horrible person in the mainstream. As such, which should not surprise anybody who has seen the lack of bipartisan empathy that exists in humanity, Limbaugh’s death has resulted in jeering and mean-spirited jokes by those on the left. This is not really upsetting to me, as I’m not particularly upset he is dead even though I did not wish death on him, but this mean-spiritedness should be mentioned as a matter of record.
This essay is not really meant as a biographical or reminiscent piece, although Limbaugh was culturally relevant and successful enough that he does merit remembrance in some form. The focus of this essay relates more to thinking about what Rush accomplished, what he did not accomplish, and what his death is a sign of, which is the ending of a comfortable lie that most white people and conservatives as well as liberals have had the blessing and curse to live ever since the end of World War 2.
What did Limbaugh accomplish? Objectively speaking, he did not accomplish all that much on the macro scale. On an individual level however, Limbaugh made a name for himself and did his job extremely well for a impressively long time. He certainly lucked into having a voice extremely suited for radio, but a voice is not all it takes to maintain popularity and relevance for decades. Limbaugh had a work ethic and grounded sense of self which were admirable. This was evident not only in his staying power, but also his ability to take and make jokes as previously mentioned. In terms of longevity, the only two people who matched him were Larry King and Howard Stern, and both of those people were largely “on the side” of the dominant forces of humanity at large. Limbaugh managed to preserve his career and legacy in a manner that cannot be lucked into. He had a few scandals and mishaps, but for the most part Limbaugh displayed extreme competency and consistency that are worth trying to emulate. As a result, Limbaugh became insanely wealthy and successful. Now he’s dead, so that doesn’t really matter, but it is worth noting.
What didn’t Limbaugh accomplish? He didn’t change anything. Limbaugh didn’t really help anything. He served as a pressure release valve. He was a sort of anesthetic for the lower middle class and middle class that were and continue to be squeezed. It was enjoyable to turn on the radio and listen to somebody who seemed like the voice of sanity, but what did this really do besides provide some sort of temporary relief from the mainstream media and the government and the financial institutions exploiting and abusing people who listened to Rush? There was no real action that came from Limbaugh, there was no fundamental change that came from Limbaugh, the people who loved Rush and the people who hated Rush were essentially wasting their time paying attention to Rush. Limbaugh was not the devil, but he was also not an angel, he was an entertainer who did not change the course of the country in any meaningful manner.
What does Rush Limbaugh’s death mean for anything? It is the end of an era of sorts. There is really nobody who can replace Rush Limbaugh, and what’s more the context in which people are growing up is not really amenable to the content that Rush Limbaugh made. All the things that used to be funny jokes are now realities. There are very few people who believe that anything can be solved through discussion, even fewer that believe that America is headed in some positive direction and simply needs a little commentary and nudges here or there to stay on the right course, and both of those groups of people are shrinking as every year passes. Monoculture of any sort has been shattered by the internet its democratized distribution mechanisms, and radio, television, and movies are dying industries. With Rush Limbaugh’s death the last illusions that we are headed anywhere comfortable or familiar are also dying. Soon, it won’t just be Rush who is dead. Soon, all the well-known TV and radio hosts who made their careers in a much nicer, much cleaner, much more prosperous first world will be dead. Nominally left and nominally right alike, the well-meaning but deluded milquetoast media figures and spokespeople will soon be dying.
We are in a transitionary period of humanity, where the psychic is gaining dominance over the physical, but we are now entering another, more familiar and predictable transition, a generational transition. The institutions and industries which have been clogged up and are currently run by greedy geriatrics that refuse to step down will soon see a lot of their “leadership” dying off or becoming disabled to the point of being forced out of their positions. Positions will be vacated, not in the honorable way like a torch being passed down as was done in prior generations -- that opportunity for honorable transition of power has been completely rejected by the rotting walking corpses currently in power – but rather in a chaotic and unstable manner. Millennials and Gen X and Gen Z people have not been mentored or taught how behave properly, they have watched as those who came before them abused their birthrights, and they are understandably upset and desperate. Although their negative feelings are justified -- they have been abused and mistreated by those who had a responsibility to look after and help them -- the people who will soon be getting power and influence through attrition also don’t know how to make things run or how to be judicious.
We are looking at a derailed train which hasn’t derailed yet. Rush has died, and along with him the convenient, comforting lies that white and middle class boomers have told themselves and their kids and grandkids are also dying. The old guard is disappearing, and the old guard neglected their responsibilities, they squandered their opportunities, and they spent the wealth that should have invested and handed down to what will soon be the new guard. The new guard is going to be abusive, malevolent, and malicious, and why shouldn’t they be? They were raised with lies and abuses which robbed them of any healthy or happy future. Race relations and income inequality have only gotten worse. There is no happy humanistic future that anybody who is paying attention believes in. The only people who believe in turning the other cheek are old people, the only people who never had to turn their other cheek. With Rush dies old America and the 1950s era white picket fence advertisements used to sell grills.