PZM’s post on Limbaugh’s death and other recent news reminded me of a topic that’s been on my mind for a while, but couldn’t think of how to say it. Now’s the attempt:
Limbaugh was a vile racist and fascist apologist who spewed conspiracy theories. But was he doing that sort of trash talk in the 1990s as his popularity was on the rise? Nowhere near as much. He didn’t fully come out as human garbage until the early 2000s when he started working for ESPN.
No, this isn’t a “Hitler was good at first” defence of Limbaugh. My point is that those who eventually become garbage usually didn’t start out that way. When Chris Wallace was at NBC and Lou Dobbs was on CNN, was there any inkling that either would become fascist fanatics and apologists? No. At one time, they and others who went to Fox Nuisance were actually viewed as credible journalists.
It’s not limited to media or politicians. When pewdiepie (or putrid pile, as I call him) first became famous, there wasn’t even a hint of his neonazi beliefs. Laci Green used to be intelligent until she “went red pill”, and used her former celebrity to lure her one time audience toward ignorant ideology. We could say the same about certain ex-FtB bloggers who started swallowing pseudoscience and left the blog.
The late 1990s and early 2000s were the first decade of high profile atheism. How would we now view Richard Dawkins had he died in 2010 before Elevatorgate and “Dear Muslima”? If Hitchens died in 1999 before cheerleading Bush and the US invasions? Sam Harris and Pat Condell had died before they exposed themselves as racists? Very likely, their reputations would be very different.
So what happens that makes such individuals do this, what causes them to lose the plot? In most cases, it seems to fall into one of two categories:
1) They reached a certain level of “untouchability” before feeling safe enough to do it. They became phenomenons and appealing to adversitizers, no matter what they said or did.
2) They said or did something that the public liked or agreed with, and assumed they could say or do anything and the public would still agree. They made the egotistical mistake of assuming it was themselves that people liked, not an insight that they had.
This doesn’t mean it happens to everyone. Just look at John Pavlovitz. For years his ideas and insights have attracted a lot of public attention, and yet he managed not to become full of himself. His latest pieces on Carano, Cheetolini and others are thoughtful and worth reading.
Always check your hat size at the door. If mine grows, please slap me.