Smart v. Stupid
Democracy lost: Unraveling Limbaugh from his boycott
To be fair, Rush Limbaugh and his legion of “ditto heads” have a point. Whenever I think of him, my mind automatically adds the honorific “that asshole” to his name as in “that asshole Rush Limbaugh.”Back when I used to care what he said, I frequently called Limbaugh that asshole – pretty much every time I spoke his name.
So it is not about the words themselves. When I think of Limbaugh as that asshole, it is not because I believe he is the body part. He is that asshole simply because he is an enemy of public intelligence. Getting the point?
Limbaugh knew nothing about Sandra Fluke when he called the Georgetown law student a "slut" after she voiced her support of mandated birth control for women before Congress. He just picked the words he thought would most damage her. Then he delivered them with that hissing sneer familiar to the families of narcotic users. His crime wasn’t foul words; it was attempting to damage a person of differing views. So you might imagine that boycotting Limbaugh’s advertisers is the same kind of bad act.
But that’s where ditto logic goes off the rails. There is no moral equivalency. Picking one brand over another is not the same as slapping someone — rhetorically or not. Making buying choices based on conscience is a perfectly ordinary way to shop. How many flyers in your mailbox say “Christian owned?” How many times has that influenced you?
Voting with your wallet is even more important today, at a time when Democracy plays second fiddle to Capitalism. Formerly just an economic theory, Capitalism is now our organizing form of government. We are a Corporatocracy. Now your most influential vote is in your purse or back pocket.
From the 1920s to the 1940s Italy tried something similar called fascism. Their leader Benito Mussolini famously said, “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”
Today, the Corporatocracy exerts a near universal veto power over the will of the people. An entire political party is devoted to promoting the idea that every decision should be made on the sole criteria of how it benefits business. And the other party is largely infected by it as well.
In this new environment, the only way you can reduce the influence of dirty oil companies, mountain-killing coal companies, anti-choice chicken sellers, or even asshole talk radio jocks is to boycott their products. The more loudly you can do it, the more people will join you and – as in the case of Limbaugh – the more dramatic the effect will be.
To some people, the idea that capitalism has replaced democracy is unimaginable. But listen carefully to how Republicans frame their policy positions – the only deciding factor is profit. Coal and oil are preferable, they argue, because they cost less. Clean energy is bad simply because it costs more. Yes, I realize this is oversimplifying and doesn’t account for the corrosive nature of campaign contributions. But those are the arguments they make. Seriously.
Still not convinced? This is America:
How much more does it take to put the pieces together? The three branches of government – legislative, judicial and executive – are all on board to one degree or another.
Luckily, as the Limbaugh boycott shows, wallet-voting (particularly by women) turns out to be very powerful. You should probably think about boycotting my advertisers if you feel so inclined (sorry editors.) As you can imagine, that’s not my choice for how society should work – but it is the best choice for how our society does work. I’ll take my chances. Until we can re-establish democracy in the United States, it’s the only way you have to register a vote that you know will count.
Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”