Proper examination is everything. Without it, each and every one of us is easy prey for the charlatans and power-hungry folk who wish to dominate our lives.
Considering this fact, it was surprising and disturbing to hear Rush Limbaugh advise his listeners to disengage from what passes off for “news” nowadays and allow him to run “interference” and be the “boundaries” for them.
The entire quote and context is as follows (the audio can be found here):
“Do you want to live a better life? Do you really want to have a normal, optimistic outlook on life every day? Don’t watch that stuff! Don’t watch CNN. Don’t read the New York Times. If you look at Drudge [Report] and if you see headlines that portend the end of the world tomorrow, don’t click on it. Just, avoid the crap that pollutes the so-called ‘daily news’ that comes from left-wing news organizations. You will be amazed; and it doesn’t long either. Just two days, you go on a drive-by media fast, two days of it, and your outlook on life will be dramatically improved. You won’t believe it. And I know you’ll say, ‘Well, I’ve got to stay focused on the opposition’. No, you don’t! I’ll do that for you. I’ll tell you what they’re up to. And as a bonus, I’ll nuke it! You don’t need to expose yourself…that’s one of the many reasons why I’m here. I know how to do this without it ruining my life. I know how to do this without it ruining my day. That’s why I’m here, to run interference, to be the boundaries for you. But I don’t watch half of this stuff anymore because it’s so predictable and it’s so boring and, frankly, a lot of it is really just lame…and there is more speculating…”
While a portion of what Limbaugh states is true (namely, that plenty of “news” is actually disguised propaganda), intimating his audience to allow him to be their exclusive filter for important information is problematic.
Firstly, Limbaugh’s recommendation smacks of the exaltation of willful ignorance. This is in direct contradiction to his justified denunciation of “low information voters”, since they are easily manipulated by crafty politicians due to their obliviousness towards all things civic life. Yet, in a sudden reversal, conservatives receive a pass and can ignore the scheming of the liberal press because he’ll be the one to run “interference” for them. To make matters worse, he presents the suggestion as a net positive for his listeners, claiming that to ignore the narratives outright leads to a more optimistic life.
Secondly, Limbaugh has frequently and rightfully taken to the “golden EIB microphone” to verbally castigate demagogic pundits and legislators who attempt to pugnaciously censor and control independent thought and criticism. Yet, in another about-face, conservatives who listen to his program should allow him to do all the examination pertaining to political and social issues exclusively in the name of avoiding the ruination of one’s day and outlook.
Wouldn’t it be better to counsel the audience to disallow “fake news” to burden their existence rather than asking them to allow him to be the arbiter of the information they’ll intake? It’s a risky and dangerous proposition.
Imagine for moment that we were to adopt Limbaugh’s advice wholesale. Do we trust Limbaugh to cover all the day’s important topics? What if there is a news item that deserves further consideration but he doesn’t consider it to be important or can’t cover it because of time constraints? What happens if Rush decides to discontinue being the “boundaries” for his audience? What then? Also, let us not forget that Limbaugh is human, just like us. He makes mistakes (irrespective of his hyperbolic claim that he is almost always right) and is fallible. Moreover, it is important for each individual to be informed about what leftist talking points are in order to recognize them for what they are and also to help others who are in the dark see them for what they are, lies.
Lastly, when Rush advises his audience to let him run “interference” for them, he does so based on the claim that he’s learned to identify false media narratives without letting them affect his life negatively. In essence, he’s implied that his listeners should relinquish individual examination of the “news” because they don’t know how to prohibit bad news from affecting their emotions – a haughty and intelligence insulting proposition. If he has this ability, why not train everyone else to imitate his approach instead? Could it be that he knows that his program’s continued success depends on many of his listener’s deference towards him?
I fear that Limbaugh’s multifaceted advice will inspire radio listeners to exorbitantly lean on him for news and perspective. Furthermore, it will also encourage his audience to abdicate independent verification of all things – not a conservative position. Such things can only lead to monolithic thinking, or as George Orwell put it, “groupthink”, which is antithetical to freedom.
The surrendering of personal examination and learning to another who will gladly do it for the public has never ended well, and Rush should know this. When people stop thinking for themselves and choose an arbiter who decides what they can and cannot think, such an act ends in tyranny.
Possibly, my criticism will arouse the anger of Limbaugh’s followers and they’ll take umbrage with my denunciation of his statements. Yet, such a defense of Rush’s declaration is actually a resistance to the essential principle of the examining all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and proves that many have already turned over their freedom of thought over to a radio personality.
Christians and conservatives alike constantly complain that liberals foolishly surrender their responsibility to verify all things autonomously. Why then, when a famous conservative commentator asks his audience to do the exact same thing, do many not see it as a dangerous and contradictory proposition?