A Limbaugh protester in October 2003 © William Thomas Cain/Getty Images News
In the past week I have listened to -- and read more of and about -- Rush Limbaugh than any woman should have to endure without a paycheck to compensate for the pain and suffering .When my husband comes home and sees my tired, drawn face, he knows what's up.
Few women listen to The Rush Limbaugh Show and here's why: we are not -- and never have been -- an audience he is remotely interested in appealing to or attracting. In fact, Limbaugh seems so disinterested in women except as punching bags for his verbal attacks that I begin to wonder if his marriages are in name only. (Perhaps they are publicity stunts as Kim Kardashian's infamous union was rumored to be.)
His show is like an old episode of the Little Rascals/Our Gang kid comedies of the 1930s and 40s which follow the shenanigans of a bunch of scruffy street urchins. If you've ever seen it, you'll know what I mean when I describe El Rusho as Spanky. (One episode that still sticks with me revolves around a meeting of the "He Man Women Haters Club." But I digress.)
Who are the listeners of Limbaugh's daily radio show? According to a 2008 news media consumption survey conducted by PewResearch, 72% are male and 80% are conservative. In fact, PewResearch noted, "Limbaugh's audience included a greater share of men than the audiences for any other news or opinion outlet included in the survey."
His website is no different. According to quantcast.com (as of March 3, 2012) the vast majority of visitors to RushLimbaugh.com are aging white males: 54% are 45 and older (28% are 55+) and 91% are Caucasian.
All this explains why he thrives and gets away with the kind of name-calling you'd ground your own middle schooler for. He is preaching to an audience that shares his world view. Remember...this is the man who brought "feminazi" into mainstream culture and makes slut-shaming a regular part of his program...even going so far as to label female Cabinet members "Sex-cretary."
Alexandra Petri at the Washington Post does a superb job of summing up his current listeners judging from the new advertisers who have come on board -- a website for men who want to cheat on their wives and another site where sugar daddies can locate and "adopt" sugar babies.
While this goes on, the effort to give Limbaugh the bum's rush to the door continues with competing petitions imploring Clear Channel to cut the windbag loose from his moorings at the media conglomerate. (The problem with this is that there are too many; on Change.org alone dozens of petitions are splitting his protesters into small subgroups, thereby preventing any single one from achieving critical mass.)
The entertainment industry is doing a better job of generating buzz. Taking his cue from a recent Hollywood film, Jon Stewart on The Daily Show describes Limbaugh's tirades against Sandra Fluke as "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Gross" as he dons hazmat headgear to play clips of El Rusho.
The opinions of pundits are one thing, but the voices of working women and men in America are another. And when it comes to our enlisted women and men and our veterans, well... if they had the the courage to fight for us we at least owe them the respect of listening to their views. One movement that has gained considerable traction is the anti-Rush protest sponsored by VoteVets.org. Calling itself "The Voice of America's 21st Century Patriots," this non-profit organization primarily focuses on nonpartisan education and advocacy on behalf veterans and their families. In their petition to the Pentagon to remove Rush Limbaugh from Armed Forces Radio, they explain their reasoning:
Rush Limbaugh has a freedom of speech and can say what he wants, but in light of his horribly misogynistic comments, American Forces Radio should no longer give him a platform. Our entire military depends on troops respecting each other - women and men. There simply can be no place on military airwaves for sentiments that would undermine that respect. When many of our female troops use birth control, for Limbaugh to say they are "sluts" and "prostitutes" is beyond the pale. It isn't just disrespectful to our women serving our country, but it's language that goes against everything that makes our military work. I believe in our Constitution, including the freedom of speech, and would not take that away from anyone - even Limbaugh. But that does not mean AFN should broadcast him. In fact, it shouldn't.
It's doubtful that his show will ever be suspended by Clear Channel; some have called him "too big to fail." But if you sign one petition and back one effort to curtail the reach of his disparaging words, consider this one backed by VoteVets.org. They look like the group most likely to succeed. As of this writing, their petition at WhiteHouse.gov already has over 18,000 signatures on their way to a goal of 25,000.