The Limbaugh Controversy and Deflection

In the wake of Rush Limbaugh’s comments about Sandra Fluke, those trying to defend Limbaugh are pointing fingers all over the place to allege that liberal pundits have exhibited misogyny too. Republican operative David Frum has an excellent piece explaining why this is a ridiculous practice, pointing out that Limbaugh’s comments far exceed any example from an opposing pundit. For example, calling Ann Coulter dumb is a genuine and accurate response to her writing, not an attempt to use sexualized language to denigrate her.

Frum calls this a “revenge drama,” but the problem is not just a general culture of trying to justify wrongs, but a byproduct of the forced dichotomy between the GOP and Democrats. It’s the dichotomy that Jon Stewart attacked on his classic CNN Crossfire appearance (if you haven’t seen it before, do it now! — this appearance directly led to the cancellation of Crossfire a few weeks later), the replacement of genuine conversation with plastic examples of “Right” and “Left,” where debate is defined solely as the ground between those poles and everything else is irrelevant. This constrains political discourse by suppressing any ideas outside the mainstream GOP-Dem discourse and taking off the table potential celebrations of reasoned compromise because any idea that fails to generate sensationalistic political theater is pushed off the air.

In this culture, proving that some liberal equivalent of Limbaugh (as Frum points out, there is none) is also a misogynist removes the topic from the debate. Phony theater is bad enough when applied to policy, but this episode proves that many will attempt to expand this enforced dichotomy even to personal statements and behavior as an excuse. In response we should follow Stewart’s lead and recognize that these tactics are hurting America.

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