You Always Shoot the Ones you … Fear

There is no question that the events of this week involving Rush Limbaugh being denied a chance to bid on ownership of an NFL franchise amount to a full-blown hatchet job on American freedom. There is nothing close to a reasonable excuse circulating that justifies what the media, policymakers, player’s union, and NFL bureacracy have conspired together to do. I don’t care if Rush Limbaugh were Michael Savage (and he surely is not), one’s political profile and free speech do not justify the denial of a market opportunity. The fact of the matter is that rational people who dislike Rush Limbaugh still know that this was a tragic miscarriage of justice. But I have some additional analysis that goes beyond the left’s hatred of Rush Limbaugh.

Human nature is such that people do not worry about shooting down those they have no fear of. They can loathe someone to the bone, but if they detect no genuine threat from that person (a threat to their comfort, their ideology, their preferences, their something), then human nature does not allow that person to exert much energy worrying about it, let alone acting on it. There are plenty of examples from both sides of the ideological aisle. I find Keith Olberman to be a contemptible human being, adding no value to any worthwhile discussion, constantly spewing discredited viewpoints and rank idiocy. And yet I never, ever think about him, write about him, worry about him, or otherwise target him. He is what we call “harmless”. He has no viewers besides other far left radicals. His network has less viewers than Sunday afternoon reruns of I Love Lucy does. I just do not take seriously that a guy like Keith Olberman poses any threat at all to the issues I most passionately care about. Similarly, look at the way the bulk of the conservative right deals with Joe Biden. Does anyone actually think this guy has any impact on any policy decision whatsoever? He is a know-nothing legislator, and a do-nothing politician. It should not be too difficult to figure out why Obama picked him to be his running mate. There is just nothing to be worried about with this guy, unless one is worried about laughing too much (most of the time he talks, it subsequently involves me laughing). Conservatives rarely target Joe Biden, for they know he is not worth the trouble.

But why the venom directed by conservatives (myself included) at Barack Obama? This is a popular guy (though decliningly so), a powerful guy, and a deeply ideological guy. People have every right to be worried about him; he went from “community organizer” to “leader of the free world” in a matter of minutes, and my bet is that anyone who can do that can get some version of socialized medicine passed. Paul Krugman is one of the most disgraced economists on the planet, still holding on to the perposterous concept that mere government spending actually “stimulates demand” … Why is Krugman not to be ignored? Because he is a best-selling author, an often appealed to economic voice in the mainstream media, a NY Times columnist, and a default expert on fiscal matters for various under-graduate students on the six or seven or eight year plan towards their degrees.

The conservatives have their share of Bidens and Olbermans, as well as Obamas and Krugmans. I find it amazing that Mitt Romney is hardly ever attacked in the mainstream press, and I find it nearly irrefutable proof that no one on the left is afraid of him. They may be wrong, but their perception of him is that of an ineffectual flip-flopper who has no meaningful future in American politics. I am awfully disappointed in Sarah Palin’s abandonment of her commitments in the state of Alaska, but it is utter delusion to suggest that the left does not fear her. They may (or may not) fear her as a future Presidential candidate, but they certainly fear something about her (an impact in middle America and rural blue states, primarily). No one is on the receiving end of that kind of wrath and mistreatment unless there is a deep-seeded phobia of her ability to impact an outcome.

And this brings me to Rush Limbaugh. David Brooks wrote an idiotic article two weeks ago that I felt the need to lambast here. His thesis, and the thesis that I often hear from other critics of Limbaugh (et al) is that they are irrelevant – that no one cares – that their popularity is deceiving – their impact over-estimated. I guess I would just suggest the following to the self-congratulatory Brooks and other Limbaugh-haters like him: Do you think an all-out PR campaign to block a legal transaction in the marketplace happens all the time? Do you think attempts to block the communications of bloggers and talk radio personalities are exerted because the left is not afraid of these people? I can talk for hours about the various disagreements I have with Glenn Beck, but I would never dare suggest that he is not having an impact on American culture. Ask Van Jones if Beck has teeth.

Rush Limbaugh has his flaws too, though he is actually a very astute political observer, and I would never bet against his entrepreneurial drive. The mistake Rush Limbaugh made on his way to being an NFL owner is that he is just too important. And when you are important, people are always going to shoot at you.

If only Keith Olberman could afford an NFL team, we wouldn’t have any hubbub at all.