Blog, Media + Politics

The War of Words: Are Certain People and Words So Reprehensible Such That They Should Be Ostracized?

Originally published on The Huffington Post, March 9, 2012

The recent “reprehensible outburst” — if that’s what it really deserves to be called — by Rush Limbaugh towards Sandra Fluke has predictably set off a War of Words between conservatives and liberals.

Liberals, among whom I enthusiastically count myself, are completely — and in my view, rightly — disgusted not only by Rush Limbaugh’s choice of words, but his general behavior and demeanor.

Limbaugh’s latest flap is merely the latest in a long line of sickening attacks. Though I am somewhat shocked by Limbaugh’s reprehensible and unjustified assault on Sandra Fluke, I am not really surprised by it. Coming from someone who has made his entire career by continually being way over the top, there is virtually nothing he won’t say to get attention. He has certainly gotten it this time.

In the last few days, I have heard my liberal friends say on more than one occasion: “Limbaugh has shown himself to be just plain ‘evil.'” I couldn’t agree more. Certain actions are so far beyond the pale of normal decency that they and the person who committed them deserve to be labeled “evil.”

Limbaugh’s so-called apologies have just made things worse. It’s not just the case that his initial choice of words was “poor” — which they were of course — but he totally misses the point. His whole argument and demeanor with regard to contraception and sex are so terribly flawed that he is beyond redemption.

In response to the “liberal” attacks on their hero, conservatives have gone wild. They have dredged up the times when comedian Bill Maher has uttered equally disgusting words, in this case towards Sarah Palin. Maher not only called Palin a “tw%t,” but even worse a “c$nt.” And, Maher has fared no better in his defense saying that he doesn’t have sponsors to worry about because he is on HBO. As though this makes his case totally different from and better than Limbaugh’s.

While I certainly have no love or respect for Sarah Palin — I find her so ignorant of human affairs that I question her basic intelligence — for once I find myself agreeing with conservatives, something that surprises and pains me to no end.

While I do not believe in banning words and speech of any kind, I find myself just as offended by Bill Maher. Maher is no less arrogant, narcissistic and self-righteous than Limbaugh. Because he is a comedian, he believes that it somehow gives him the right to use contemptible language. After all, “Can’t you take a joke?” is the typical justification for such behavior. When it’s not vicious and truly funny, yes I can take a joke.

If it’s completely unacceptable for Limbaugh to use words like “prostitute” and “slut” in referring to someone he doesn’t agree with, then why is it not just as unacceptable for Maher? Why shouldn’t liberals be just as outraged?

It’s not that I believe in a simple-minded consistency in politics and human affairs, but that anyone who uses the most reprehensible language towards women need to be roundly condemned no matter what their political affiliation. Not to do so is hypocrisy of the highest order.

What I wrote previously with respect to Rush Limbaugh applies equally to Bill Maher. “In the end, Rush is his own worse enemy. His is also one of our culture’s worst enemies as well. As much as Rush assaulted Sandra Fluke — the innocent woman he so wrongly and viciously attacked — and women in general, the real tragedy is the continual assault of what is left of decency.”

Originally published on The Huffington Post, March 9, 2012

Blog, Media + Politics

Is This the Time Bomb From Which Rush Limbaugh Cannot Finally Escape?

Originally publish on The Huffington Post, March, 7, 2012

I have been researching and consulting with regard to major crises of all kinds (criminal, natural disasters, financial, reputational, etc.) for 30 years. During this time, I have seen individuals and organizations of all types become trapped in the same disastrous pattern from which they rarely escape, or at least not completely unharmed.

First of all, the fact that they have gotten away with over-the-top, outrageous behavior repeatedly only makes them believe they can do it indefinitely. In fact, the more times they have gotten away with it, the greater their belief in their invulnerability and righteousness.

Second, coupled with an over abundant amount of unhealthy narcissism and the fact that they have been supremely rewarded over the course of their entire career for what for anyone else is gross and despicable behavior, they believe that ordinary rules don’t apply to them. (Recall Eliot Spitzer and Tiger Woods.) Thus, they cannot only get away indefinitely with their shameful behavior, but they can continually up the ante over time with no harm whatsoever.

Third, they believe that they don’t have anything to learn from others who have suffered similar types of crises, e.g., Don Imus, Rupert Murdoch. Thus, even though Rupert Murdoch’s empire still exists, his influence is so diminished that UK politicians no longer fear him as they once did.

Fourth, the fact that they failed to prepare adequately beforehand for a series of crises generally keeps them from responding appropriately and timely once a crisis has occurred. To put it mildly, it’s not sufficient to say that one chose one’s initial words wrongly. This only makes the original crisis worse.

In other words, crises don’t “just happen.” Long before they erupt, there are clear early warning signs of trouble. Unfortunately, because of all the above, they are generally dismissed.

Still, given our culture’s insatiable fascination with and need for celebrities — how one becomes a celebrity is almost completely irrelevant — one would be wrong to bet against Rush’s demise. Given his proven ability to bring in the “numbers,” one would not be wise to bet against his returning. After all, the typical damage control is to lie low and let it “all blow over.” And, in many cases, it does.

Nonetheless, one never knows when one has reached the “tipping point,” i.e., when the sponsors and public finally say, “Enough!”

I predict when Rush does come back, he will only escalate his behavior. He will have really learned nothing at all.

The philosopher Santayana said it best: “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

In the end, Rush is his own worse enemy. His is also one of our culture’s worst enemies as well. As much as Rush assaulted Sandra Fluke — the innocent woman he so wrongly and viciously attacked — and women in general, the real tragedy is the continual assault of what is left of decency.

Originally publish on The Huffington Post, March, 7, 2012