Category Archive 'Paul Theroux'

13 Mar 2012

Man Bites Dog Story: Liberal Novelist Defends Limbaugh

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Novelist Paul Theroux is a typical member of the community of fashion elite. He is no conservative, and decidedly no fan of Rush Limbaugh’s, but even he finds the left’s attacks on Limbaugh resulting from his criticism of Sandra Fluke hypocritical.

The defense of Sandra Fluke is so shrill that it is almost as though many of her defenders actually believe there is a vicious taint of self-indulgence, if not sluttiness, in a female student’s clamoring for a federal mandate of subsidized contraceptives. How else to interpret such a welter of special pleading? They believe she actually needs defending.

It occurred to me that in this fairly illiterate, irony-challenged country we have no notion of what satire actually is. Satire is merciless, unsparing, savage. It is not the genial teasing comedy of The Daily Show, or the fooling of Saturday Night Live. It is destructive and cruel. It is Jonathan Swift in “A Modest Proposal” writing of cooking and eating babies. It is Daniel Defoe in “The Shortest Way With Dissenters” speaking of killing members of a religious sect. It is Thomas Nast drawing pictures of hideous cannibalistic Catholic priests, or Horace making rhymes about buggery. It is John Collier mocking suffragettes by writing a whole novel about a man who marries an actual ape from the Congo in “His Monkey Wife,” and nearer to the present, it is Hunter Thompson’s “He was a Crook”—“ If the right people had been in charge of Nixon’s funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles …” …

This whole Limbaugh business epitomizes our confusion and our hypocrisy. The folks who depicted George Bush as a chimp, and Sarah Palin as a skank, are indignant when these same words are used against their people in the virtue industry, and that includes the troopers in the Reproductive Rights Activist Service Corps. The trouble with Limbaugh is that he is not a satirist—hasn’t the brains or the humor for it—and his earnestness, and his vanity, always gets in the way. He seems to believe that he is an opinion leader, but even as a gas bag on the sidelines he has a role to play, because not many other people are playing that role. If only he knew more about the power of satire, how it can do more than mere mockery. But, as a mocker—the Fluke affair is proof—he has an effect, and I think it uncovered one of our greatest weaknesses and our weirdest tendencies.

You have to give Limbaugh a pass, otherwise you lose the right to go on calling Gingrich and Eric Cantor pimps for Israel, and Rick Santorum a mental midget, and if you foreswear colorful, if not robust or wicked language altogether you might as well shut up.


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