Liberal Rush Limbaugh?
In a rather weird exchange on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Salon editor Joan Walsh was stumped when asked to call out extremists on her side of the aisle:
P.J. Gladnick has the transcript:
JOE SCARBOROUGH: …I think it helps us all to say there are extreme voices on the left, there are extreme voices on the right, and it’s our responsibility to call out people, I believe, on our side.
JOAN WALSH: Who would you have me call out? I mean who would you say on the left is comparable to Rush and…
SCARBOROUGH: Don’t do it.
MIKA BREZEZINSKI: Mmm-mmm! No thanks, Joan. We’re good. We’re good.
SCARBOROUGH: Can we talk about the Chinese now?
MIKA: I think it’s all very obvious.
WALSH: Is it obvious? Who on the left is comparable to Rush and Glenn on the right?
MIKA: Okay, Joan, if it’s not obvious to you I’ll talk to you off-set. I mean, my God!
Brezezinski’s bizarre reaction, presumably, stems from the fact that she had Keith Olbermann in mind and, well, one doesn’t directly criticize the network’s cash cow. Ask Donny Deutsch.
Walsh was subjected to lampoonery from some on the right, who compared her cluelessness to Sarah Palin’s inability to name a newspaper that she read. She responded with a piece titled “There is no liberal Rush Limbaugh.”
I don’t think there’s anyone on the left as consistently cruel, divisive and wrong as Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck. But my question wasn’t merely about media: The problem on the right includes extremists who’ve made death threats against Democrats like Patty Murray, Bart Stupak, Nancy Pelosi and, of course, President Obama. There’s no one on the left posing the same threat to leaders on the right — or if there is, I’d like to know about it. (The whack job who threatened the folks who made the movie “Babe,” along with Obama and GOP whip Eric Cantor, doesn’t count.)
Of course, that’s stupid. I didn’t name anyone not because I was stumped; it was because in my opinion, the violent rhetoric is coming from the right, not the left. It’s not Nancy Pelosi who’s telling her San Francisco constituents they need to be “armed and dangerous” to fight their political enemies; that’s Michele Bachmann. There isn’t anyone in liberal media as consistently vicious as Beck or Limbaugh. Now, the lads at Newsbusters are providing their own names, but I wouldn’t compare anyone they mention to the two right-wing titans of hate.
The names Gladnick provided were: Rosie O’Donnell, Mike Malloy, Bill “The Bomber” Ayers, Mrs. Bill “The Bomber” Ayers , Van Jones , Dylan Ratigan, Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Keith Olbermann, and KEITH OLBERMANN.
The problem with that list is that most of those people are very obscure figures and three of them are Keith Olbermann. O’Donnell and Olbermann are the only ones on the list worth mentioning in the same breath as Limbaugh and Beck, since they’re at least well known. I’ve never seen Maddow’s show but I gather she’s popular with a small subset of the young left wonkish types and that her style is more academic than polemic; but I could be mistaken.
Limbaugh has gotten meaner of late and Beck strikes me as someone who needs medication and lots of it. But Walsh doesn’t help her case when she lumps them in with “extremists who’ve made death threats against Democrats.” Free speech may be annoying but it’s seldom dangerous. Further, to say that the threats are coming from the Right rather than the Left is just silly. There’s a long history of violence and seditious speech on both sides of the aisle, with the Left predominating on that score when Republicans wield the levers of power and vice-versa.
And, while there isn’t a figure on the Left with the cultural significance and audience of Limbaugh, it’s because he’s sui generis. He essentially invented a format and remains the dominant voice. There’s no other show host on the Right with his power. But one doesn’t have to look too far for Rush imitators on the Left who are angry and hateful. Anyone calling the Tea Party protestors “tea baggers” should probably shut up about incivil discourse.
Interestingly, the two most successful political media figures on the Left, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, have managed to do it by essentially inventing their own show formats and taking a different approach. They’re sometimes mean and frequently scornful of the other side but they do it with charm and humor. Which, ironically, was Limbaugh’s shtick back in the day.