The Rush To Hate

Rush Limbaugh died. Many people twitted about it, as people do. I was no fan, so I said nothing. I usually do a “RIP” for a notable death, but this time I didn’t. Many had some very hateful things to say, like “thank got” and “I didn’t celebrate his life, but I’ll celebrate his death.” People hated Rush Limbaugh. and saw this as the opportunity to say so.

“Not proud of this,” a friend wrote to me in a text message mere minutes after the news broke on Wednesday, “but feeling really good about Rush Limbaugh dying.”

There is a difference between hating what Rush said and did, and “feeling really good” that someone died. This text message, shared by Frank Bruni, was relatively benign compared to much of what I saw, and it did, after all, begin with “not proud of this.”

But it’s the “not proud” part of my friend’s message that compels me to share it. It’s the “not proud” part that makes him one of my nearest and dearest. He’s a humanist, he’s decent, and he was acknowledging that death isn’t a moment for rejoicing or gloating — that the only thing served by that is our own debasement. He was making clear that what he was confiding to me he wouldn’t be stitching on a throw pillow, posting on Facebook or putting in a headline.

Bruni might be a bit too forgiving here, as there was no particular need to say anything at all. Rush was dead, whether you loved or hated him. He wasn’t coming back if people failed to express their hatred to others. Whatever he did during his life was done, and his death wasn’t going to make it go away.

What Bruni calls humanism, decency is what others might call Gertruding: I know that what I’m about to do is wrong, but I want to do it anyway and I don’t want to be considered an asshole for being an asshole. But Bruni may be forgiven his confusion in light of far worse expressions of mourning.

“BIGOT, MISOGYNIST, HOMOPHOBE, CRANK: RUSH LIMBAUGH DEAD.” Those were the words, capitalized and adrenalized, that HuffPost splashed across its home page. Several other left-leaning sites took the same tack and tone.

In his early years, I listened a few times to Rush Limbaugh. It was like a broadcast from another dimension, where facts didn’t exist and reality twisted into something horrible and unrecognizable. So I didn’t listen to Rush anymore and was critical of him and things he said over the years while he was alive.

Bruni raised the question of speaking ill of the dead, and argued that the reason not to do so in this instance was that it might strengthen the resolve of those who favored Rush’s views.

I’m not saying that if we all just talked prettier, we’d find common ground, or that ugly language about bigots is nearly the problem that their bigotry is. I’m not saying that we owe Limbaugh and his listeners a gentle touch and, without it, are doing them some unwarranted disservice.

But our roughness certainly isn’t going to lead anyone to the light, and it may well encourage its targets to hunker down in their resentment, double down on their rage and stray less frequently onto terrain where they might mingle with people who hold at least slightly divergent views.

Is an argument needed to persuade his readers that taking a person’s death as an opportunity to express hatred toward him isn’t the right way to behave?

And the crudeness wasn’t some moral imperative, though some Limbaugh denouncers presented it as such. “Rush Limbaugh was a terrible human being,” one of them tweeted, “and I refuse to abide by the convention that his death absolves him from the criticism for his legacy of bigotry.”

What convention is that? Yes, there’s that musty adage about not speaking ill of the dead, but it hasn’t really applied to prominent political figures or culture warriors for some time.

This was once a social norm. Is it really now “musty”? Perhaps, at least among those whose undue passion and lack of impulse control means they cannot, simply cannot, ignore an opportunity to spew vitriol against those they hate. That isn’t to say that there won’t come a point when a deceased person’s life is subject to review, but only after a decent period, whatever that means now.

But the pitch of that ill-speak needn’t be screechy. The manner of it needn’t be savage. It has more credibility — and, I think, more impact — when it’s neither of those things. And we preserve some crucial measure of civility and grace.

Ironically, it was that last line, those two words, “civility and grace,” that morphed Bruni from “reasonable hater” to hated.

Not that anyone does, or should, care what’s “funny” to some guy named Klippenstein who writes for The Nation and The Intercept, but it reflects the irony and hypocrisy of demanding slavish adherence to whatever “social rules” arose ten minutes ago while denigrating social rules that society embraced that inhibit their impetuous rush to hate.

I will shed no tear for the loss of Rush Limbaugh, and so I had nothing to say about his passing. This was not because Frank Bruni’s argument, that shrieking about how awful he was or celebrating the death of a human being who said terrible things would provide support and comfort to Limbaugh’s followers and sycophants. This was because that “musty” old adage was a social norm that some of us still believe worthy of following.

We are not gracious and civil because the deceased necessarily deserved it, but because we are who we are. I chose to say nothing, and by saying nothing, made my choice.

27 thoughts on “The Rush To Hate

  1. Guitardave

    The desire to do a ‘dance’ upon the demise of your enemy isn’t an unnatural emotion to have, but IMO, the desire to tell the world about it is pretty fucking sick.
    Grace left the room decades ago.

    1. SHG Post author

      Yet here we are, not just watching sick happen around us, but applauding it when it does and condemning those for not joining in the applause.

      1. Guitardave

        I should have clarified that the ‘not a unnatural emotion’ is still a base one.
        Once upon a time i recall there being a well defined line between what were called ‘base’ and ‘higher’ emotions.
        These days it seems as though any old emotion that one feels must be good, because you felt it.
        I believe it’s one of the wokes ‘Ten-thousand Commandants’
        #4736. “You and your cause are righteous and good, therefore any feeling you experience is virtuous.”

        1. CLS

          Better we recognize our base emotions and rise to be better.

          Personally, I was raised to keep my mouth shut if I had nothing nice to say about someone.

          So I’m sure Rush used his left and right turn indicators while driving.

  2. Hunting Guy

    Winston Churchill.

    “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

        1. SHG Post author

          Right and left make funny jokes that only appeal to their own right or left tribe, and everyone else thinks they’re just insipid presumptuous assholes. It’s so weird how people can see it so easily when the other tribe does it and yet doesn’t see it at all when they do the exact same thing.

      1. Hal

        Just an observation, and may not be worth sharing, but if you’re going about your business and you meet an asshole that’s just bad luck. You’ll get over it. If you keep meeting assholes all day long… chances are it’s you that’s the asshole.

      2. Rengit

        In defense of Churchill’s quote, he was also a notorious asshole, so you can be both at the same time; there’s a high chance that “standing up” and “being an asshole” will overlap.

  3. KeyserSoze

    I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.


  4. Paleo

    They did it when George Bush died. Hell, they did it when Barbara Bush died. Whatever one thinks about Limbaugh, their reaction bears no relation to him. It’s them – so eaten up with politics that their humanity is gone.

    They point out all of Limbaugh’s faults and ask why they should be polite about his death. It’s because they (we) are supposed to be better than him. But that’s the thing they miss and would never admit – they aren’t.

  5. B. McLeod

    The more interesting facet of this is that they waited until he was dead. In so doing, they missed the opportunity to throw in his face the fact that he was dying and in considerable discomfort for many months. Perhaps this is the vestigial social restraint of even our rabid “progressives” of today. Perhaps it was simply that they were more concerned with avoiding the possibility of any response. Like the flunkies around the deathbed of Comrade Stalin, they had to be cautious.

  6. Howl

    John Donne:
    “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

  7. Rengit

    Whether or not the norm of “respect the dead” remains viable, I doubt a culture in which “openly celebrate the death of your social and political enemies” is a norm is a healthy culture, and death as a potential cause celebre, rather than uniformly a tragedy and time for mourning, is not conducive to peace.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Being nasty about the death of a political opponent just makes your side look bad. While I haven’t bothered to look I’m sure the same people who made TikTok videos of themselves driving around
    screaming in anguish over Ruth Bader Ginsburg have made equally stupid videos of themselves rejoicing over the death of Rush Limbaugh.
    In neither case did they win friends and influence people outside of their echo chamber

    1. SHG Post author

      The problem with this arg is that people aren’t doing it to convince the other tribe, but to virtue signal to their own.

      1. Kathryn M Kase

        Perhaps that’s also why Peggy Noonan devoted a whole column in the Wall Street Journal yesterday to itemizing Limbaugh’s “polarizing legacy”: she was virtue signaling to her “tribe,” whatever that is. Funny thing is that she demonstrated, for the record, that Limbaugh was a jerk whose jerkdom manifested in ways that weren’t adjacent to the facts and that he was able to do so due to the demise of the Fairness Doctrine.

  9. Ljakaar67

    I have been curious though where are the Yiddish curse “may his name be erased” fits in.

    I am not sure of the original intent of this curse, but it describes my feelings, the sooner we get to a world where we have no memory of him or the horrible things he did or enabled, the better.

  10. Pedantic Grammar Police

    Like great pro wrestlers, great actors on the public stage must play both heel and face, to separate audiences. Rush Limbaugh was a master of this.

  11. Natalie

    “We are not gracious and civil because the deceased necessarily deserved it, but because we are who we are.”

    I love this. Such a simple and profound concept.

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