As social habits go, listening to talk radio rates somewhere between shopping at Wal-Mart in your pajamas and tossing litter out of your car window.
Especially if your afternoon fix is Rush Limbaugh. I’ve eaten dinner with friends who dismissed the “dittoheads” they know as crazy sheep-like paranoids who take their marching orders from a bombastic liar.
But I like the guy. I’ll gladly listen. If I happen to be my car. If I can find him on the dial, which is hard to do, since I’m always driving around far from home, where I don’t know what’s where on the radio.
What do you make of a guy like Limbaugh? Ze’ev Chafets, a Detroit-born writer, set out, notebook in hand, to take the measure of this man who invented talk radio, who spawned imitators, swayed elections, and now enjoys the fruits of it all on a five-house compound in Palm Beach.
The result was Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One.
Traveling from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, the hometown where Rush endured his father’s thundering pressure to join the family law firm, to the studio where Rush sits behind “the golden EIB microphone,” dressed in sockless loafers, to the restaurant where the waitstaff hovers, eager to attend to every one of Mr. Limbaugh’s wishes.
Chafets praises Rush for his self-education, for his smarts about the realities of radio. He calls out Rush for his drug problems and his gone-too-far pranks. His book is balanced enough that Wikipedia calls him a conservative writer while ordinary readers declare him “obviously not a conservative.”
So what about Rush? What about his daily broadcasts where he utters everything from unfiltered opinion to outright exaggeration?
Don’t we like that kind of show? Isn’t every drive-time radio dial full of in-your-face humor and utterly free speech? Isn’t it cool to love your local shock jock?
Yes, it is, unless he mixes his shock-jock formula with unabashed conservatism.
“Rush, like any satirist, engages in hyperbole, sarcasm, and ridicule, none of which is meant to be taken literally. Only the most oblivious or humorless critic would confuse it with lying,” writes Chafets.
“’The liberals’ favorite argument is that there is no argument,’ Thomas Sowell has written. ‘Nothing uttered in opposition to liberal beliefs exists, in their minds, at least nothing worthy of their intellectual engagement.’”
Decades of this kind of disdain left half the country brewing in an inarticulate dismay until Rush came along. People stumbled across his show and heard their own thoughts coming out of his mouth, just more clarified. And funny. Nobody had made it funny before.
As Chafets writes, he hit nerves. He swayed elections. He “provide
Critics may characterize everything Rush says as “spewing out,” or as telling his “dittoheads” what to think. But if Rush wasn’t on the scene, all we’d have is liberals telling us what to think. So it’s a wash, really. People get to pick between the two, and 13 million listeners have chosen Rush.
Which makes his advertisers happy.
Which keeps him on the radio.
Here’s a meal you can start in the afternoon while you listen to your favorite radio show:
This meal needs a little early cooking, like making the bars in time for them too cool and cut. While they bake, you toss the broccoli in the salad’s tangy-sweet dressing, then let it sit for the recommended hours.
The final meal prep — mixing and grilling the burgers, adding the final ingredients to the salad — shouldn’t take more than a half hour.
Here’s the shopping list.