Almost daily, Limbaugh raged against immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ persons, and especially, women. Those rants trafficked in standard xenophobia, racism, homophobia, and misogyny, drilling what should have been out-of-bounds ideas and language right into the center of his more than 15 million weekly listeners’ heads and hearts. To the straight-up bigotry, Limbaugh added a thin layer of political commentary. What he was calling out, Limbaugh argued, was liberals’ exaggerated “victimhood.” “There isn’t a non-conservative individual in this country, according to Democrats, who is not a victim…of this country,” Limbaugh yelled during a 2012 show.
Of course, as much as Limbaugh wanted to root out any talk by minorities or women of historic injustices and real grievances from American life and politics, his show’s most significant legacy may be in how he cultivated a sense of personal victimhood in his listeners, a group that was overwhelmingly white and male. Their outrage, stoked by Limbaugh’s daily diatribes, remade an entire political party and drove it to the outrageous outcome of Donald Trump’s rise to power.
Limbaugh’s enraged anger that white, heterosexual males were the most embattled and persecuted American demographic pulsed through his show and animated his cruel attacks on others. Even from the perspective of today’s degraded political culture that he helped bring about, Limbaugh’s cruelty remains shocking.
As HIV/AIDS killed thousands of gay men in the 1990s, for example, Limbaugh regularly featured an “AIDS Update” segment on his shows where he gleefully read aloud the names of recently-deceased men while playing Dionne Warwick’s “I’ll Never Love This Way Again.” He regularly mocked the mass extermination of Native Americans, one time wondering how many had died from the arrival of white men to North America versus from lung cancer because of smoking, perhaps, given his own eventual illness, the only insult he might have ever regretted. For the thousands who died from natural disasters around the world, including earthquakes or tsunamis in Haiti, Japan, and South Asia, Limbaugh unleashed a particular viciousness, often suggesting that death toll numbers had been inflated for political reasons — an ugly point that, in 2020, he directed stateside as COVID-19 ravaged the U.S. “We have to remember that people die every day in America, before the coronavirus came along,” Limbaugh blithely told his audience last year.
Read the entire piece at The Week.