Indiana Daily Student

OPINION: Romanticizing Rush Limbaugh in death enables white supremacist politics

<p>Then-First Lady Melania Trump delivers the Medal of Freedom to radio personality Rush Limbaugh on Feb. 4, 2020, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Limbaugh, 70, died Wednesday. </p>

Then-First Lady Melania Trump delivers the Medal of Freedom to radio personality Rush Limbaugh on Feb. 4, 2020, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Limbaugh, 70, died Wednesday.

A fellow Indiana Daily Student opinion writer published a column Thursday singing the praises of recently deceased radio host Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh was a pariah according to some and a conservative icon to others. 

Throughout his career he made disgusting, racist, sexist and homophobic comments against those he deemed a threat to his values. Limbaugh was a gross human being, not a “joyful warrior” for the United States. 

People such as Limbaugh should not be revered or romanticized in death. An honest appraisal of his legacy can only be an ugly, scathing review of a reactionary white supremacist. 

Death cannot protect an individual from criticism. In fact, it is absolutely necessary to shine a light on the terrible legacy of Limbaugh. If we allow his image to be scrubbed of the appalling, we only enable far-right ideology to fester.

It is deeply harmful to insist on the rehabilitation of a man who wouldn’t have offered the same to someone he ideologically opposed. During a lecture in 1990, Limbaugh joked about the suicide of Mitch Snyder, a homeless rights activist. 

“Mitch assumed room-temperature recently,” Limbaugh said to a cheering audience. 

This is the same man who, in 1989, said the best way to prevent AIDS was for men to not ask another man “to bend over and make love at the exit point.” In the same bit, he described a person experiencing homelessness as a “wandering shred of human debris.” 

Limbaugh repeatedly aired a song calling former President Barack Obama a slur in 2007. He promoted the insane Obama birther conspiracy. He called former First Lady Michelle Obama “uppity.” He said all composite pictures of wanted criminals looked like civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. 

The list of all of the vile garbage that spewed out of Limbaugh’s mouth could go on. 

It is not dramatic to call Rush Limbaugh a reactionary or a white supremacist. Limbaugh thrived on division and encouraged further marginalization of minorities through his rhetoric. He employed racist, anti-Black dog whistles consistently throughout his career and played into the belief the heterosexual majority was somehow marginalized by the LGBTQ+ community. 

He even believed the white race should feel the least guilty for slavery. He defended this claim saying no other race had ever fought a war for the abolition of slavery except for white people. This rhetoric is extremely harmful and completely ignores this country’s ongoing racism. 

Those who praise Limbaugh send a message to the oppressed that they do not matter. If these are the values we are to uphold and see as “quintessentially American,” then you’re suggesting we should live in a backwards, racist society. 

The only way forward is to condemn Limbaugh and his beliefs. He does not need to be remembered fondly, but rather as a reminder of how prevalent far-right ideology still is within America. 

Limbaugh was not an average American. He had a platform and was responsible for what he used his position for. His racist, sexist and homophobic beliefs cannot be excused with the platitude used by the IDS columnist — “We must be careful to remember the flaws inherent in every person.”

If someone feels more offended about memes surrounding Limbaugh’s death on social media than by what Limbaugh actually stood for, they need to reevaluate their own beliefs. 

The saddest part about Limbaugh’s death is his rhetoric will likely long outlast him. There will likely be another far-right ideologue who will take his place, peddling harmful ideas, ignorant conspiracy theories and abusive rhetoric.

We must do all we can to prevent that from happening. So, good riddance, Rush Limbaugh!

Evan Shaw (he/they) is a sophomore studying journalism. He also minors in Arabic and Spanish and hopes to one day become a polyglot.

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