Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Rush Limbaugh's woes

Freedom News Service

The story in Newsweek was gleeful, to say the least. But why not – mainstream media has been Rush Limbaugh’s target for years now, so it would be ridiculous to expect anything but glee from Newsweek.
It is interesting, however, to check one of the points the magazine made against Limbaugh and see how well it flies. Here is the passage I have in mind:
Limbaugh clung to the ideology of self-reliance to the last. "I’m not going to portray myself as a victim," he said. Millions of pain sufferers who use powerful medications could sympathize. But the mockery was instantaneous. Liberal mouth Al Franken (author of "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot") hit the airwaves to relish Limbaugh’s greatest hits of hypocrisy and his sneers at celebrity dopers like baseball player Darryl Strawberry and rocker Kurt Cobain, and virtually every newspaper dredged up this 1995 quote from Rush: "Too many whites are getting away with drug use. The answer is to ... find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them, and send them up the river."
Why label Limbaugh’s idea of self-reliance an ideology? Probably because "ideology" is a pejorative term used for phony ideas, those that clever people invent to rationalize some hidden motive, something that would, if honestly presented, not look so good. So, according to Newsweek, Limbaugh’s idea of self-reliance is phony.
Then there is that pipsqueak Al Franken whose moral sensibilities amount to zero: He loves to exonerate everyone who has sunk low except those who will not forgive it all, for example, Rush Limbaugh. In other words, Franken thinks we are all helpless, fated to be as we are, undeserving of any achievements and innocent of any faults – except when it comes to people who disagree with him. They are all guilty. Of what? No one really can tell with such a confusing position as Franken is peddling, so just trust him!
The crucial point to make about this passage from Newsweek is that just because someone who proposes a theory of how to live isn’t fully willing to live by that theory, it doesn’t invalidate the theory by a long shot.
Few of us are perfectly consistent, integrated to the utmost, yet we often know what’s right. Rush Limbaugh, despite his failure to rid himself of his "addiction" – and that is a loaded term he shouldn’t even be using because it does seem like an excuse – may well be correct that people ought to be more self-reliant than they are. The doctrine that we are all victims of circumstances over which we have no control is so self-defeating that it cannot even apply to Limbaugh's case. He, after all, is just about to do something about his problem. Alcoholics, so called, and other "addicts" all need to know what Limbaugh has preached for years, that they can take control of their lives.
Sure, sometimes it is difficult to cope with strong temptations. Whoever pretended otherwise? Self-discipline has always been a virtue, as has moderation and temperance. So, Limbaugh was merely pushing what amounts to a well-traveled idea, that people need to see their own role in their lives as being more prominent than some folks contend. And those folks do include a lot of modern liberals. It is they who preach to us about how homelessness, poverty, ignorance and the like must always amount to some kind of affliction, never something for which persons are responsible, never a matter of negligence, evasion, laziness and such.
Are there times that those who recognize the virtue of self-reliance fall into the temptation of becoming dependent on others or on some phony crutch? Sure. But that does not undermine the position they take, namely that it is best when people rely mostly on themselves to guide their lives. This doesn’t mean becoming a hermit by a long shot. But it means being the ultimate, sovereign authority of one’s life and not abdicating to others or fate or one’s genes or whatever.
Finally, there is the business about the law. Limbaugh was so far a supporter of the war on drugs, albeit a less than enthusiastic one, from what I have heard him say now and then on that topic. Still, he should not have been. He should have opposed it. In any case, there should be nothing legally actionable about what he did, abusing painkillers. It is ridiculous to have such things made into crimes. Perhaps this will teach him finally how wrong he was on that score.

Tibor Machan is a professor of business ethics and Western Civilization at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and author of "The Passion for Liberty" (Rowman & Littlefield). He advises Freedom Communications, parent company of this newspaper. E-mail him at Machan@chapman.edu

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