I have a dirty little secret to tell. When I was pretty young — 12 or so, I’d say — I’d wake up really early, at ~6:30am, and watch Rush Limbaugh before getting ready for school. With the volume very low, so I wouldn’t disturb my parents or sister, of course. This was at about the same time that I’d intentionally go to bed early as well, at about 9pm, so I could get up and watch the original Star Trek at 1am. My parents were particularly disturbed by these habits when they discovered them, but moreso by my watching Rush Limbaugh. They were appalled that I would watch such a nasty, cynical, invective-spewing bloviator.
But that’s why I watched him. I was well aware that he was an invective-spewing bloviator, even at that tender age. I was fascinated by the control he had over his crowd — I clearly remember one of the first times I saw him, he was coming back from commercial break and his live audience clapped exactly once. He then explained that he’d told the audience that they were running short on time and couldn’t afford a full applause, so if they could just clap once when he gave the signal, that would be great. And he was absolutely chuffed that they had done it — that he had that level of control over his audience, that he could ask them to do something absurd, and they did. He admitted as much almost verbatim. The explanation easily took longer than any such applause might have, so it struck me as particularly bizarre, and I simply had to try to grok how the man’s brain worked.
I was fascinated by the fact that he could spout such nastiness about “feminazis” and act childish and make petulant demands of people and call his callers “ditto-heads” affectionately. I was well on the road, at that point, to my current life’s trajectory, which appears to be seeking out and subjecting myself to the worst parts of humanity in some sort of absurd masochistic cultural immersion.
Imagine my surprise when, while digging through the Everything Is Terrible archive for more of this cultural flotsam, I found a short clip of some of Rush’s show.
It’s with no small measure of nostalgia that I watched that video. Ah, the nonsense of yore was every bit as rich and as textured as the nonsense of today. Nice bit of sexism to start off, then a whole bunch of mugging, then some operatic singing. And an audience absolutely lapping it up like it’s fried gold.