Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rush Limbaugh as a Silencing Trigger

Instead of talking about Kirsten Powers’s new book, NPR goes down a rabbit hole.

By Kathryn Jean Lopez — May 28, 2015
Screen shot: May 6, 2015

Kirsten Powers has done a public service with her new book The Silencing: How the Left Is Killing Free Speech, a bit of a thankless task if Twitter is any indication.

Still, Mary Eberstadt has noted the treasure that it is. Peggy Noonan has as well. So has Kathleen Parker. I wrote about it here the other day.

And Rush Limbaugh has recommended it. Which, in many ways, changes everything. His word of recommendation and praise can be a great gift to authors.
On his show the other day, Rush said:
Now, she’s still a lib, proudly says so, but as I say, she’s not rock-ribbed with this. And many times, in fact, on a Fox show here or there — you know, occasionally, ladies and gentlemen, I find myself involved in a controversial affair. Doesn’t happen a whole lot, but sometimes I do, and on many of those occasions, Kirsten, using her instincts, has refused to join the chorus in whatever the criticism of me is. And she’s been right on those occasions.  
I thought writing this book was a gutsy thing for her to do because it’s not like somebody like me writing a book describing how the Left tries to silence people. I mean, she goes after ’em, folks. This is not a soft-pedaled little commentary or analysis on theory. She goes after these people with explicit, undeniable examples of how people on the left are literally trying to deny average, ordinary Americans access to the First Amendment.  
They are literally trying to destroy people. And as a liberal, it bothers her. She is the old classical liberal, I think is the term. An old classical liberal is not what a liberal is today. Liberal today means extreme, fascist, statist, intolerant, full-fledged, almost Stalinist type person. And it bothers her. She has written about it complete with examples, and because she comes from the left doing this, she has become this immense target of these people. I don’t know that she was prepared for it. She said she was, but I don’t know that anybody is.
And then he made a prediction:
So here comes Kirsten Powers, an appreciated and endowed, accepted ranking member of the Left calling them out. And so now they’ve gotta destroy her. She’s no different than if she were me, as far as they are concerned. They used to like her, they used to appreciate her, and some still do, but she’s got to be shut up. 
And then, while on National Public Radio, Powers found herself in what became a debate about Rush Limbaugh and his purported racism, for criticizing President Obama.

This came just after she talked about how some topic — like marriage — is made “radioactive” and becomes a “conversation stopper” instead of a “starter.”

Rush Limbaugh as a topic himself is frequently used as a bludgeon for intimidation and silencing, in the fashion that she chronicles in her book.

After this experience, Powers may just wind up with a new chapter for the paperback, dedicated to Rush Limbaugh.

Rush Limbaugh is, in myriad ways, a gift — and not just to authors with books to sell. He is a man of intense gratitude and generosity and one of the great communicators of our day. If you’ve listened to him for any extensive amount of time, as many of us have, you know he communicates principles with clarity and wit and a depth of understanding. Everyone knows he talks but he is also a voracious reader and listener — which takes some humility, which, yes, even the man who for almost 30 years has declared on his show that he has half his brain tied behind his back just to make it fair, has — who frequently holds up more good to more people in one hour of his three-hour show than many of us can do in our entire lives. Rarely in news and commentary about him does the man in full appear.
Rush Limbaugh as a topic himself is frequently used as a bludgeon for intimidation and silencing.
And still on the air he is. And still being used by many — including quite well-intentioned people who believe what is said about him — to distract from the preponderance of Davids who are being crushed by a Goliath masquerading as supreme benevolence.

I love something a wounded veteran at National Review’s 50th-anniversary party (our beloved WFB was still with us) told him — Mark Levin points to it in his book, Rescuing Sprite: “We all have our roles.” Rush was embarrassed that this self-sacrificing American without an arm was grateful to him. But the Marine spoke a truth we could all afford to hear and appreciate, not to fill us with pride, but to make us more humble: to trust that if we pray, if we labor, if we encourage the better angels, we can do some good in the world, as maddening and confusing and heartbreaking as it can be.

I do hope that both people who do and people who do not watch Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh buy The Silencing. In gratitude. In openness. In a desire for something better in our politics and in our conversations — on NPR and in daily life.

And I’d hope that anyone with a media platform — especially on the Left — might take her book under consideration and cover the suppression of free speech, instead of giving into your temptation to be distracted. We all have our roles — and styles, temperaments, platforms — and may we all use them to do some good. Just like Rush Limbaugh. Just like Kirsten Powers.

– Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large at National Review Online.

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