Rush Limbaugh

"Why yes, I'll gladly take a million to pimp a nicotene patch...why no, I don't see anything wrong with that, why do you ask?"

So, it’s come to light that nearly all the big names in conservative talk radio take huge amounts of money from the Heritage Foundation to exclusively push their ideas. As someone who basically thinks the entire think tank model is irreparably compromised and corrupt, I must admit that even I was taken aback by that. I previously saw think tanks as sort of being to academia what for-profit colleges were to, well, actual universities. Turns out that was an overly generous assessment.

The only reasonable conclusion here is that Heritage is not a disinterested academic group devoted to seeking the truth and promoting sound policy, but rather a propaganda outfit intent on crowding out opposing viewpoints (both from the right and left) and using unsavory methods to do so. Yeah, what else is new, but this is a startlingly clear example. In a rational world, this would end the careers of Limbaugh, Hannity, and the rest of the hosts that took cash from Heritage. It should also mark the end of Heritage as well. Alas, we do not live in a rational world, we live in a world where Ralph Reed can pick up where he left off a few years after getting caught up in the Abramoff scandal, where Andrew Breitbart is still courted by mainstream outlets. I don’t doubt that right-wing equilibrium will barely be broken by this revelation. The best we can hope for is that a few of the remaining intelligent and thoughtful Republicans will take note of this and demand better from their party and their movement. After all, why would an allegedly academic institution be throwing so much money at popular pundits? There’s no narrative that makes that not sketchy as hell.

I rather enjoyed David Frum’s article on the matter, as well as his theories on why conservative news is shoddy:

1) Conservative media outlets don’t see themselves as part of “the media.” They are comfortable demanding standards from “the media” that they defiantly reject for themselves, whether standards of objectivity or standards of ethics.

2) Conservative media outlets believe that non-conservative media outlets engage in all manner of deeply hidden bias, corruption, and general wrongdoing — and that these practices not only justify but virtually require conservatives to match their non-conservative adversaries bias for bias, payoff for payoff.

3) Conservative media outlets are harbingers of an emerging American media culture defined by the collapse of traditional revenue sources. In this new world, revenue will be scarcer, competition for revenue more ferocious —and standards will be everywhere pushed downward by competitive pressure.

Let’s adopt shorter versions of these theories: (1) is hypocrisy, (2) is relativism, and (3) is corruption. He, like myself, is most scared of number three. Given CNN’s recent history, it might well be the correct answer. But theory number four could be that it’s simply a huge money-maker to operate the way Rush does, and the way FOX does, and there’s no real incentive for right-of-center people to go against FOX except for doing the right thing for its own sake. Which is to say, don’t bet on it happening soon.

If you’re looking for a positive lining here, I guess you can go with the fact that right-wing media ultimately isn’t going to be able to sustain the popularity it has now for many more years, and that they sincerely believe so much bullshit is an acute political weakness and not a strength. I’m quite convinced that FOX’s bullshit over how the Iraq War was secretly going great, the violence was overstated and the people loved us and so on was to a large extent responsible for GOP losses in 2006 and to some extent in 2008, and while things changed in 2010 I wouldn’t bet on it staying that way.

  1. Metavirus says:

    absolutely right on.

  2. Jeff says:

    “Conservative media outlets don’t see themselves as part of “the media.” They are comfortable demanding standards from “the media” that they defiantly reject for themselves, whether standards of objectivity or standards of ethics.”

    Limbaugh, Hanity , Beck..etc do *opinion* shows. They never claimed they were being ‘balanced’. They simply express a point of view. Mainstream media liberals on the other hand always claim to be ‘fair’ and ‘objective’ in reporting the ‘news’, when they are anything but. They are always out there promoting a leftwing agenda and attacking conservatives and defending liberals…all under the guise of objectivity. If they just came out and admitted they were full fledged liberals and that they made no pretense of hiding their liberal bias in their reporting, conservatives would have absolutely no problem with that.

    • Metavirus says:

      Not much to argue with there. You’ve gotten the script down pretty well. A useful factoid to ponder, if you’re so inclined, is that bias based on facts really isn’t all that bad. It’s bias based on lies that really screws things up.

      • 0whole1 says:

        Actually, I would say they don’t even do “opinion” shows, because “opinion” implies they actually believe the stuff they say. Running a con does not equal having an opinion.

        • Metavirus says:

          Yeah, good point. There aren’t too many of the vocal nut jobs who I think really believe their own BS. There are way more people out there who’ve realized that thar be gold on that wingnut gravy train.

    • Lev says:


      Honestly, if you have any example of this other than Dan Rather and Bush’s National Guard records from seven years ago, we’ll talk. Other than that, this argument is just so played out.

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