Rush Limbaugh's "Nazi" Rhetoric: Where's the Outrage?
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The Houston Chronicle editorial page wanted to be absolutely clear: References to Adolf Hitler or Nazis in American politics had no place in the "discourse of the nation," and the crude analogies were "beyond the pale." The practice was "absurd and dangerous."
The editorial page was disgusted by the rhetoric and firmly believed that dredging up the Nazi comparisons desensitized people to the pain and violence that actual Nazis unleashed in the 20th century.
The condemnation was fitting, given the fact that the country's most-listened-to talk radio host, Rush Limbaugh, last week unfurled shocking rhetoric in which he compared the Obama White House to a Nazi organization and even likened Obama to Hitler. ("Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate.") The outlandish attacks seemed to be a case of Limbaugh playing catch-up to Fox News' Glenn Beck (Limbaugh = Beck Lite?), who had been pounding the noxious Nazi angle for weeks.
Of course it's depressing to watch Limbaugh drive politics into the gutter, but at least watchdogs at big-city dailies like the Houston Chronicle are calling out the really reprehensible stuff, right?
Because here's the catch: That Chronicle editorial I mentioned above wasn't in response to Limbaugh's latest misguided hate maneuver. The scathing editorial was published on January 7, 2004, and came in response to news that two videos submitted to a MoveOn.org advertisement contest had included Hitler imagery in their 30-second attacks on President Bush. (They were just two of the 1,500 clips submitted.) MoveOn never endorsed the efforts or promoted them; the clips simply appeared on MoveOn's crowded contest website. But when news spread about their mere existence, a controversy erupted, and the liberal netroots group quickly pulled the ads, apologized for their inclusion, and denounced the use of Nazi imagery.
Despite that swift action, the Hitler-MoveOn story, fueled by Fox News ( see Glenn Greenwald), became a very big deal and gobbled up days' worth of news coverage, coverage that often stressed how unrestrained and irresponsible the liberal blogosphere was (Hitler?!), to the point where the Chronicle weighed in with a stand-alone editorial on the topic.
But fast-forward to today. As Limbaugh envelops himself in Nazi rhetoric, for some reason, the Houston Chronicle's editorial page, along with so many other corporate news outlets, remains silent about the offensive Hitler comparisons. Despite the fact that Limbaugh has not apologized for his comments -- unlike MoveOn in 2004 -- and is continuing to compare the Obama White House and the Democratic Party with Nazis, many in the media don't consider it newsworthy and haven't condemned it. And more important, journalists don't show any signs of believing that the episode tells us anything about the radically unhinged nature of the right-wing media in this country today. That story's just a non-starter. Period.
It's just Rush being Rush, right?
Over the weekend, some welcome media voices did rise up to denounce Limbaugh's rhetoric in no uncertain terms. ( David Brooks: "What he's saying is insane.") But why did it take so long, and why isn't everyone making that blindingly obvious point? And why wasn't it considered big news that the de facto leader of the Republican Party went there (i.e. Nazi-ville)? He went to a place that previously was considered unconscionable and unpardonable by the press. Just ask MoveOn; it still has the scars to prove it.
Why isn't Limbaugh uniformly condemned for his words?
After all, if The New York Times is going to prop up Limbaugh as an all-powerful and deeply important figure in American politics, the way the newspaper did last summer with its worshipful Sunday magazine cover story, shouldn't it dutifully chronicle his radical and outrageous rhetoric, too?