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Like him or loathe him, Rush Limbaugh changed our lives forever

By: Keith Kappes
Columnist
Carter County Times

When Rush Limbaugh died recently, a veteran reporter wrote that the people who loved him were mourning and those who disliked him were rejoicing but that Limbaugh himself would love all of the attention.

I agree that, as one of the original “shock jocks”, he was the father of conservative talk radio and that Fox News and high-profile right-wing candidates like Donald Trump may not have emerged if ole Rush hadn’t been out there 20 years earlier shouting against big government, about the loss of white identity, and declining American influence in the world. 

Former Vice President Mike Pence said Limbaugh inspired him to go into talk radio which, in turn, led him into politics. 

Those who liked to poke liberal politicians were drawn to Limbaugh by his political incorrectness such as creating and promoting the term “femi-Nazis” to describe feminists.

By the time he died of lung cancer at the age of 70, the former disc jockey from Missouri had amassed a personal fortune, established a national audience of more than 15 million persons, and created a media movement that has spawned hundreds, if not thousands, of talk radio stations.

Political commentary dominated his on-air schedule for more than half of his career but he initially was more interested in entertaining than explaining or informing.

He shocked the media world in 1991 with his statement on “60 Minutes” that he was trying to attract the largest audience possible and hold it for as long as he could so that advertisers would be charged “confiscatory” rates for their messages. “This is a business,” he said.

His success in the business world gave way to his role as an unofficial leader of the Republican Party, effectively transforming the media landscape and the GOP at the same time. 

Eulogized as a “tremendous patriot”, Limbaugh was adamantly opposed to ideological changes in the U. S. He frequently criticized social change as being un-American. He was condemned as a “race baiter” during the Obama years and as being anti-Semitic. 

His critics at the HuffPost wrote in their online obituary that “Limbaugh saturated America’s airwaves with cruel bigotries, lies and conspiracy theories.” Another outlet, The Root, called him a “spouter of racist, hate-filled garbage.”

But on Fox News, Limbaugh’s obituary’s headline said he was the “Greatest of All Time.” 

One political scientist said the rise of former President Trump in politics resulted from the fact that many of his strongest supporters believe he fits the description of the ideal candidate Rush Limbaugh had been talking about for 20 years.

I didn’t agree with most of what he said but there is no doubt about his historic impact on American politics and the role of talk media in a nation which protects free speech.

Keith Kappes can be reached at keithkappes@gmail.com 

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