Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 9, 2021, and updated on Feb. 17, 2021.
The news today that Rush Limbaugh, the acidic host of a politically-fueled, syndicated radio show has died, will set off competition to see who among right-wing talkers will now provide political fodder to his estimated 15 million listeners.
Limbaugh died Feb. 17m 2021 after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2020.
His terminal condition will spark a morbid competition among some big media followers over who will get access to his millions of followers and advertisers as Limbaugh ends his career as one of the top, right-wing media propagandists in U.S. media history.
The reason for this deathwatch is money.
At stake is a big money jackpot, derived from loyal right-wingers in the U.S. and Canada. These listeners have salivated for over 30 years listening to his anti-Democratic, anti-immigrant, racist rants, interspersed in a call-in format, credited with making up a considerable segment of the right-wing media empire.
Whatever his appeal, Limbaugh built a weekly audience of 15.5 million listeners. His syndicated show (of which he owns the majority) became the most popular radio show in the United States.
Limbaugh’s importance to the right-wing is so crucial that Trump even gave him a Congressional Medal of Freedom in February 2020 for helping to create and promote falsehoods, such as Trump’s infamous birtherism conspiracy going back to the first Obama president in 2009.
Limbaugh was one of the first to attack Obama. In 2011, he said, “Republicans should do nothing to help Obama.’ Damn right. Damn right. Helping Obama hurts the country.” It got worse from there. He has also denied climate change, LGBT rights, feminism and made controversial comments on minorities.
What lengths will Limbaugh go to attract listeners?
“Limbaugh has frequently referred to some women as ‘femenazis,’ compared an adolescent Chelsea Clinton to a dog and said feminism ‘was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream,’” according to CNN. He also lost advertisers when he “referred to a law student named Sandra Fluke as a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute’ after speaking before Congress in 2012 to advocate that birth control should be covered by health insurance at religious institutions.”
Trump built his half-baked political career on the birtherism lie and his repeated assertions that he would produce Obama’s non-US birth certificate. Of course, it was of the first of Trump’s 20,000 lies in elected office. Still, Limbaugh took the lie and ran with it for hundreds of hours, while associating it with other falsehoods his audience appreciated.
Limbaugh proved that consistent lying to a receptive and suspicious audience made gullible by pandering to their prejudiced works. In an iHeart Radio interview, Limbaugh said he attracts 43 million listeners, but in radio audience analysis, he said “all 43 million don’t listen at one time. That’s over three hours. The average time spent listening to this program is like two hours and 28 minutes.” That is two-and-a-half hours to indoctrinate, entertain, and mislead people per day. No wonder the QAnon conspiracy found a receptive audience; they just cultivated fertile ground by tapping into Limbaugh’s audience of gullible followers over the past 30 years.
There is Big Money in Lying
Limbaugh’s formula also attracted unethical and morally-bankrupt advertisers who wanted potential buyers. This advertising helped make Limbaugh very rich.
Limbaugh is held in his esteem in right-wing media circles since he is a great success story for radio and cable T.V. right-wing wannabes who have no education, impressive credentials, and special talents.
Limbaugh worked to attract an audience that wore their baseball caps backward and would attend pro wrestling matches and think they were real. A 2009 Pew Research study found that 80% of those who regularly listened to Limbaugh were self-identified conservatives versus 35% of the total U.S. population. The same proportion identifies as Tea Partiers Christian Conservatives. Not surprisingly, 72% were men. Another study found that 85% were white, with the majority over age 55.
Limbaugh used a format of entertainment, commentary, political fantasies, and the Democrats’ demonization to thrill his audience. He skipped the traditional conservative principles of fiscal conservatism, reliance on the Constitution, and the free market. Instead, Limbaugh pushed ethnic pride, nationalism, and populism. Whatever the formula, it worked.
The Real Reason for Limbaugh’s Death Watch
Limbaugh’s most significant appeal among other right-wing radio and cable T.V. fakirs is his net worth: $600 million. That’s not bad since he only has a high school education.
This fact attracted two other Trump sycophants, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity, neither of whom graduated college but are worth $250 million and $40 million, respectively.
All three were at one time at the top of the right-wing media propaganda ladder, followed by others, such as Bill O’Reilly (remember him?), Laura Ingraham, and Anne Coulter. Many other right-wing media hosts traded average radio show careers for the bigger paychecks available, from preaching propaganda to less educated or conspiracy-believing listeners.
Be Prepared for More Hate Speech and Incitement
So, as this significant shift in right-wing media succession plays out, watch for the attacks on the Democrats. At the top of the list will be Joe Biden; the first female person of color, Vice President Kamala Harris; elected minorities; and all of their associated policies and missteps to become top-line stories for a salivating right-wing audience.
These coordinated attacks will worsen until Limbaugh passes away as his wannabe successor audition for his role as Minister of Propaganda. Look for input from Steve Bannon, Mark Levin, Breitbart news, Stephen Miller, and even Trump himself, as they work overtime to derail the Democratic Congress and its agenda.
All this will cover the right-wing militias, who are now active after their successful attack on the Capitol.
Trump now has about $250 million in cash from his brainwashed followers and fellow travelers. This money will mostly go to fund his family’s businesses, but some will be used to ferment more violent actions. The beneficiaries of this in terms of generating more viewerships and listeners will be the propagandists gathering in the wings of FOX, Breitbart, and right-wing social media cesspools.
This is the Trump legacy that started with the Tea Party in an unhinged, factually inaccurate rant done by CNBC’s Rick Santelli from a Chicago trading floor. In that screaming fit, Santelli attacked people who could not pay their mortgages after the real estate-fraud that led to the 2008 recession. Santelli, a fixed-income expert, knew that exotic fixed income instruments, fraud, and greedy derivatives, real estate, and mortgage salespeople caused the 2008 recession. Yet, he shifted blame to the uninformed home buyers.
A long downward Republican history created the Tea Party. It was built on decades of revisionist conservative thought, so it is no surprise that 33 years after Limbaugh’s radio career began, lies have proven to be a great business. This is the price we pay for intentional media misinformation campaigns conducted with no accountability. Voters beware. The worst is yet to come.