NewBlackMan: Bigger Than Rush: The Violence of Language and Language of Violence

Bigger Than Rush: The Violence of Language and Language of Violence

 

 

 

Bigger Than Rush: The Violence of Language and Language of Violence

 

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

 

 

Rush Limbaugh has once again demonstrated the entrenched misogyny of American culture.  Calling Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” among other things, is telling of both his own ideological foundation as well as society’s.  Unfortunately, the conversation and public outrage has often drifted away from the broader issues of violence, sexism, and misogyny, away from the broader attack on girls and women, instead focusing on “politics,” on removing Rush from the airwaves, on sponsors, and myriad other issues.  Increasingly, as Rush’s defenders cite double standards, whether in the form of societal acceptance of sexism within hip-hop or from liberal commentators, the debate is moving away from the issues of violence.  In focusing on only Rush (he is reprehensible), the politics, and in debating claims about hypocrisy, we are failing to see Rush and his comments as a symptom thereby obscuring the consequences of this language and its place within the broader war against young girls and women. 

 

 

Rush Limbaugh once again illustrated the reasons we need to “occupy” the airwaves.  As I wrote last month about Fox News and the soiling of already violent public discourse, the ubiquity of racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia within the public square represents a major threat:

 

 

Racism, homophobia, immigrant bashing, misogyny and a general tone of violent rhetoric is almost commonplace at Fox.  Their motto of “Fair and Balance” seems apt at this point where they are fairly balance with comments of racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia.  The saturation has produced an almost normalizing effect whereupon progressives and society at large don’t even notice at this point, simply dismissing as Fox being Fox.  Yet, the consequence, the pollution of the public discourse, the assault on the epistemology of truth, and an overall souring of the public airwaves with daily morsels of disgusting, vile, and reprehensible rhetoric, illustrates that “Fox being Fox” poses a serious threat to Democracy, not too mention justice and equality. 

 

 

Limbaugh’s recent comments are yet another example of “Rush being Rush” and the level of violence that “occupies” America’s airwaves.   The demonization of women, the criminalization of blacks and Latinos, and the overall climate of racial/gender pathologizing are as commonplace as the scapegoating of hip-hop within today’s media.  This is evident in the language of everyday life.   Violent rhetoric has consequences evident in ubiquity of sexual violence, racial profiling, and job and housing discrimination.  They matter not only because the words themselves are violent, but also because they provide a window into a larger structural reality; words matter because they hurt and because the sources of meaning, the history embedded in our language, and our sense of imagination all emanate from this place. 

 

In a recent Daily Beast column, Kirsten Powers, citing examples of misogyny from the likes of Bill Maher, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, among others (not surprisingly as a Fox contributor she doesn’t cite any examples from her employer despite the following examples), argues that, “It’s time for some equal-opportunity accountability. Without it, the fight against media misogyny will continue to be perceived as a proxy war for the Democratic Party, not a fight for fair treatment of women in the public square.”

 

While not buying the narrative that seeks to directly or indirectly excuse Rush’s comments by noting the sexism of the “left” as evidence of both a double standard and a selective denunciation of sexism from the right (see here for example and here and here and here and here and here), any effort to transform public discourse must account for all forms of violence and the ways that racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia pollute and define media culture.  Rush’s comments are not an isolated incident (for him or talk radio) given his consistent demonization of Michelle Obama (#1, #2).  Yet, Rush’s comments must also be understood in relationship to the disgusting comments from Michael Moore (among others), who responded to Limbaugh with the following tweets:

 

 

I guess Romney knew that Rush, who made the mistake of saying what most Republicans think (women as sluts), had cost him the Nov. election.

 

 

Or after losing 6 sponsors yesterday Rush decided he loved $ more than he loved calling women prostitutes. Musta been a tough call, eh Rush?

 

 

Some sponsors don’t care how much Limbaugh apologizes: mmflint.me/Awf562 (I know – what were they doing there in the 1st place?)

 

 

RT @pattonoswalt Ayn Rand would be very pleased with how the free market bitch-slapped Limbaugh today.

 

 

Dear Rush: Please don’t stop! You say what the R candidates don’t. Voters must hear every day til Nov what Republicans truly think of women.

 

 

Don’t give up, Rush! It’ s a WAR ON WOMEN & you’re the Supreme Leader. Keep reminding voters how hate & violence drives the Republican agenda

 

 

Rush – As soon as u started losing the big $$ from your hate speech, you caved & obeyed the men who pay u. Who’s the prostitute now, bitch?

 

 

And BTW Rush, your vile & vicious attacks on me over the years – I wear them as a badge of honor. You are sad & sick & I’ve always pitied u.

 

 

The use of “bitch,” “bitch-slapped” and prostitute here, just as the sexualization of women from the likes of Bill Maher, is not a cover for the likes of Limbaugh.  Sure, the ideological underpinnings and the larger visions of society are different, but that doesn’t sanction the language nor does it limit the consequences.  Limbaugh’s comment read inside of a larger context points to the necessity of not simply removing Rush Limbaugh from the airwaves but transforming a society that needs and props up the Rushes in our mix. 

Continue reading @ NewBlackMan: Bigger Than Rush: The Violence of Language and Language of Violence.

One thought on “NewBlackMan: Bigger Than Rush: The Violence of Language and Language of Violence

  1. It looks like Moore is using that language in the same way that comedians who believe themselves to be anti-homophobic tease homophobic right-wingers by implying that they are gay. It’s a failure to see the big picture – that they are still contributing to sexist, racist, xenophobic & homophobic attitudes.

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