I’m going to talk about Rush Limbaugh’s comments on Sandra Fluke here, but first, a reading from Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West:
The abundant proliferation of primitive people is a natural phenomenon, which is not even thought about, still less judged as to its utility or the reverse. When reasons have to be put forward at all in a question of life, life itself has become questionable. At that point begins prudent limitation of the number of births. The primary woman, the peasant woman, is mother. The whole vocation towards which she has yearned from childhood is included in that one word. But now emerges the Ibsen woman, the comrade, the heroine of a whole megalopolitan literature… Instead of children, she has soul conflicts; marriage is a craft-art for the achievement of “mutual understanding.” [Chapter 13, p. 245]
That part is from the chapter wherein Spengler is contrasting city people and rural people. It is kind of like “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse“, as written by a pessimistic, nationalistic German philosopher. Reading Spengler is very disturbing to a cosmopolitan liberal such as myself, since I can’t help but sense a hostility on his part towards that type of person. And yet, the other types he liked so much are also those least likely to ever read the works of an obscure philosopher, so there it is.
But you are no doubt wondering: why did I drag a long-dead and half-forgotten German nationalist writer in today? Well, first I wanted to note that he is noting a difference in attitudes towards birth control between city people and rural people. This difference matches up nicely with the broader differences between cosmopolitan city-dwellers and nationalist farmers that we often see. (I talked about this a little in this post about why Sarah Palin likes “small town America” so much.)
Alright, enough of that. What are the nationalists in our own day and age up to? Well, as you all have heard, Rush Limbaugh has been calling Sandra Fluke various insults and making disgusting insinuations and suggestions. That is quite a reprehensible and loathsome thing to do–not to mention unchivalrous, if we use the language of Limbaugh’s longed-for days before feminism. His full comments are these:
Well, what would you call someone who wants us to pay for her to have sex? What would you call that woman? You’d call ’em a slut, a prostitute or whatever.
He is, in addition to being rude, completely wrong. These terms do not apply, and moreover this is not even what Ms. Fluke is asking for. She is actually asking for insurance companies to cover contraceptives. At best, Limbaugh could argue that people are paying indirectly by causing these companies to raise rates, but then one can just as easily argue that those who refuse to take steps to ameliorate the disastrous effects of changes in the climate are forcing me to pay for their reckless behavior, since increased storms mean increased insurance costs.
In any event, part of Limbaugh’s job is to shock people, and this he has certainly done, yet again. I am not optimistic about attempts to make companies pull advertising–though it’s certainly worth a try–because I fear that there are a great many people who agree with him. Whether they have come by their opinions honestly, or simply by dint of listening to Limbaugh is hard to say, but as long as he has a fanbase, he will continue to have advertisers.
On being accused of misogyny, Limbaugh quoted H.L. Mencken’s definition of a misogynist as “a man who hates women as much as women hate one another.” I am not sure why he mentioned this, or what it means, or how it is relevant, but there you have it. And then Limbaugh said the following amazing statement to explain why he is not “a Danger to the Women of America”:
They want to blame me as being the person they should fear, when in fact the people doing all these things I just said I have no power to do, the Democrat Party is doing. That’s who everybody’s afraid of in this country… They’re afraid of Democrat Party. They’re afraid of the Obama administration. The Obama administration will take away your birth control, and if you let ’em do that, they’ll tell you when you can and can’t take it. And then they’ll tell you when you can and can’t have sex, and then they will tell you when you can or cannot have an abortion!
You give them this power, that’s what they want.
Now, I think I kind of understand what he’s trying–and failing–to say here. It’s similar to the idea that Gerald Ford was expressing when he said “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”
Except that has no relevance here. Fluke was asking for the government to make contraceptives cheaper. Now, it is certainly true that the power of the State is such that it could take this away, also. However, they would only take it away if the control of the state were handed to people who want to do so–the Rush Limbaughs of the world, in other words.
So, this last statement is a brilliant exercise in what Orwell called doublethink, but we have come to expect that from Limbaugh. But what’s worse is that I suspect he must have a sizeable number of listeners who agree with him. As Ferrerman mentioned, there are many others who think like Limbaugh. It would be a fine thing if he were punished for his remarks, but the truth is that the real problem with Limbaugh and his odious sentiments is not that he says them, but that when he says them, he is, alas, speaking for many others.
UPDATE 3/3/2012 7:41 PM: Limbaugh apologizes to Fluke. I have to say, I’m surprised. I would have expected his show to end before he would do that.