On celebrating Rush Limbaugh’s death

February 21, 2021 • 9:30 am

The other day, depressed with the number of people I saw expressing sheer joy at the death of Rush Limbaugh, I put up a Facebook post:

In response, people proceeded to inform me, as if I didn’t know, what Limbaugh’s odious political and personal opinions really were, with some adding me that it was really okay to celebrate. (Nobody unfriended me.) After all, his existence was a net minus for the world’s welfare—something I’m prepared to believe—so why not gambol with glee when he died? (Let me note that he died of lung cancer, and it was probably a pretty horrible way to go.)

And, as Frank Bruni notes in his New York Times op-ed below (expressing a view similar to  mine), the celebrations were not only widespread, but pretty mean-spirited:

“BIGOT, MISOGYNIST, HOMOPHOBE, CRANK: RUSH LIMBAUGH DEAD.” Those were the words, capitalized and adrenalized, that HuffPost splashed across its home page. Several other left-leaning sites took the same tack and tone.

Of course, they were positively restrained in comparison with Twitter, which is basically talk radio’s less windy bastard child. “Rest in piss” had currency there. The F word, followed immediately by Limbaugh’s name, was taken out for a spin. There was speculation that Limbaugh had gone to a very hot place reputed to have nine circles and a red, horned ruler. There was wishing that he would rot there. One tweet said that Limbaugh “brought a lot of people a lot of joy by dying.” It was liked by more than 35,000 of the morbidly contented. I don’t begrudge them their relief that he’s no longer ranting. But is that really what they want to lavish a cute little heart symbol on?

Not for me.  While I don’t mourn the absence of Limbaugh from the scene, celebrating it just didn’t feel right. I couldn’t join the chorus of glee, and yet I didn’t understand why. I didn’t feel that I was superior to those who were celebrating (yes, it was mean-spirited, but I can be, too), but something in me baulked at expressing the verbal equivalent of heart symbols.

Part of it was that Limbaugh’s wife was on the news, clearly distraught, and she loved him, as other members of his family must have. So some people are more heartbroken than we are gleeful. And I’m a conscientious objector, which I think has made me wary of celebrating anybody’s death, even an enemy’s.

But most of all, I suppose, I realize how much every human values their own lives. Evolution has instilled strong instincts for self-preservation in us, and few can face a terminal diagnosis with equanimity. Limbaugh himself must have gone through unspeakable mental and physical torments after his diagnosis and before his death. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody, and it’s hard for me to look at that and laugh.

Yes, he might have had a negative effect on the world, but there are many people you can say that about. Not just Trump, but, as I think from comments by some on this site, almost every Republican, from Mitch McConnell to Ted Cruz on down, could be described as having a net negative effect on the world. Even regular people, if they engage in stuff like killing animals for fur or evicting poor people from their homes, might create, through their existence, a net loss in “well being”, however you measure that.  If having a net negative effect on the world is the criterion for celebrating someone’s death, then we should constantly be celebrating.

And yet, like Bruni, I think it erodes one’s character to engage in that kind of hate, and I think it’s eroded both Democrats and Republicans over the past four years to engage in the kind of demonization that led to the celebration of Limbaugh’s death. What doesn’t erode one’s character is a measured yet highly negative take on Limbaugh’s legacy, which both Bruni and Andrew Sullivan (below; click on screenshot) offer.

Bruni extols the New York Times‘s own obituary of Limbaugh as the way it should be done:

He earned it. If you’re going to fling your opinions at the world, you must be braced for the world to fling its reaction back at you. Those are the terms of the contract.

And it would be journalistic malpractice and morally wrong to publish obituaries about Limbaugh that merely noted his role in the rise of talk radio and his adoration by millions of listeners. Those appraisals were obliged, for the sake of history and accuracy, to note and be reasonably blunt about how he used his format, what listeners were thrilling to and what impact it had on the country’s political culture.

The Times’s obituary did precisely that. I don’t always agree with the approach and decisions of the news organization that employs me and have never felt any pressure to play cheerleader for it, but I think it handled Limbaugh’s death expertly.


168 thoughts on “On celebrating Rush Limbaugh’s death

    1. I totally agree with you. So many mean-spirited people are worse. I’m dismayed at the number who think themselves so good!

      1. But that comment is also an example of claiming moral high ground over others. No? Seems a bit like the proverbial pot and kettle to me.

  1. I’m sorry, but while I don’t celebrate his death, the world is DEFINITELY a better place without him. Who knows how many took as “99.8% true” (or whatever his fake “stats” opined) that hurricanes were overhyped and stayed to face possible death (while he relocated) or continued to smoke because cigarettes don’t cause cancer, and on and on and on.

    1. “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” – not your view then! 😁

      1. I never bought into that particular sentiment. After all, we all judge each other all the time. It is part of being human. I suppose we can take it as a reminder that we are being judged but, as far as “Judge not” is concerned, forget about it.

        1. ““Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

          What a ridiculous platitude. Should we just do away with our entire judicial system then? Should we abandon all notions of right and wrong, moral or immoral?

          I believe it was Bill Maher who aptly referred to the bible as “God’s Big Book of Bad Ideas.”

          1. “Should we abandon all notions of right and wrong, moral or immoral?”

            Yes! Right & wrong?

            The universe is indifferent.

            1. The universe may be, but we’re not. So if I steal your car, you won’t judge me? I’m guessing you’d think that was “wrong,” and you’d probably judge me. Just a guess.

              1. One assumes that punching you in the face would not be judgable then right? (You may not have a car but I assume you have a face). Sure, extreme example maybe, but your flippant brush off of the car stealing example leaves one fewer options.

                Somebody better be able to judge because otherwise we’ll have quite the anarchy going on.

    2. I think one can legitimately feel relief that this one particular source of venomous hostility towards a wide range of people whom the world has often treated badly is now silent, without getting any sense of pleasure out of the fact.

      Limbaugh was what his particular combination of genes and experience made him, and it was a pretty ugly affair that added little or nothing positive to the world. His place in it has now closed over, but there are still plenty of people with his attitudes out there, just as there were before him, and alas will probably be there into the far future, though few of them will be able to leverage their hatred the way he did.

      Maybe just having to *be* Rush Limbaugh was its own sufficient punishment: how could you live with that much corrosive viciousness inside you every day? Maybe the right thing to feel is not just relief that he’s no longer able to channel it worldwide, but more basically, that none of us had to live inside his skin with all the poison there…

      1. I suspect that he could live with “that much corrosive viciousness inside you every day” because he was selfish like Trump. He prioritized making money over anything else, except perhaps his family and trying to stay alive. He admitted that he didn’t have much in the way of deeply held political beliefs.

  2. Under these sorts of circumstances, I always remember the quip attributed to Clarence Darrow: “I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.”

  3. I’m afraid I’m with Hitchens on this. The videos of him after Falwell’s death are a joy to watch.

    https://youtu.be/tjRihCJnxcQ

    https://youtu.be/fvxZQyfUiHg

    https://youtu.be/doKkOSMaTk4

    The enema/matchbox line is sublime, and applicable to every sort of windbag who dies. And I doubt anyone today matches Hitchens’s acidity on Falwell, since it was on TV, not just on Twitter, and was said with panache and depth and real moral force. Not to mention that this was literally just after the man died. As for the bereaved family, well, said Hitch, they’ve got millions of fawning sympathisers and a lot of money, so speaking truth won’t harm them, and, in any case, so what? Sometimes, especially when someone awful is being lionised in death, what you need is a bit of piss and vinegar to counter it. Though I will say Falwell was worse than Limbaugh, given his direct involvement in fanning the flames of sectarianism in the Middle East.

    I imagine it’s a matter of personality over anything else, though. I’m more adversarial than some. I’m not going to have a party when someone dies, nor do I wish death on anyone, but if someone really odious croaks it, I’m going to be pleased- I can do no other. (I’ll be raising a glass when Benedict pops off, though it’ll be partially with regret that he was never held accountable for his actions and inactions.)

    1. Well I would not be honest if I said I did not at the time agree with what Hitchens said about Falwell. The “controversy” appears to center on actually saying what you believe. Most people familiar with Hitchens could guess that this was his opinion of Falwell at the time. He just had the nerve to actually say it and defend it.

  4. I’m with you. I don’t see any cause to celebrate.

    If all the bad things he did (Wikipedia claims he raised a considerable sum of money for cancer charities, so not everything he did was bad) were magically undone by his death, then we could celebrate. But they won’t be, so celebrating just looks really petty.

    1. Even though he gave money to charity, he kept plenty for himself. As you say, we can’t undo what he did, but we can certainly send a message that others shouldn’t model their lives after him.

  5. I agree philosophically, but then you surely have to extend the same view to mass murderers? They too can be loved. When Margaret Thatcher died, many people behaved the same way.

    1. I do not mean to imply, as Crass did (“mother of a thousand dead”) that she was a mass murderer- there are others… !

    2. Yes they did and that was even more petty. When Margaret Thatcher died she was an old lady with dementia who had had no power to influence our lives for good or ill for twenty two years. The time to celebrate was when she was forced to resign.

      There’s also no call to celebrate the death of a mass murderer. It won’t bring the victims back.

        1. I don’t believe I said we could force him to resign.

          That said, he could have been made to resign. All it would have taken is for his audience to stop listening to him because he broadcast lies all the time. The tragedy is not Rush Limbaugh, the tragedy is that the environment exists in which he could prosper. That environment still exists: it is not a cause for celebration.

          1. Limbaugh contributed mightily to creating that environment. Why would you let him off the hook just because there are a lot of ditto-heads out there who lapped up his sauce?

              1. Why would judgement of responsibility change because one/some of the parties are dead? Is Jeffrey Dahmer no longer responsible for his acts because he’s now dead? Should we not speak ill of him because he’s gone?

              2. We aren’t talking about judgement of responsibility, we are talking about whether we should celebrate Limbaugh’s death.

                By the way, nobody has said he should not be criticised or “spoken ill of”. Nobody has said we shouldn’t do that, we have only suggested that celebration is not appropriate. Please don’t conflate the two responses.

              3. That seems like a difficult hair-splitting task. “I’m not glad that Limbaugh died, but I’m sure glad he’s gone.” Yeah, it doesn’t work for me.

              4. I’m sorry you seem to be unable to differentiate between celebration of somebody’s death and being glad that something has stopped. Personally, I have no problem distinguishing between the two.

                Also, I don’t see any problem with being glad that something has stopped in general whilst regretting aspects of how it stopped.

              5. What’s the difference, really? It’s OK to say “He did terrible things” but not “He did terrible things and I’m happy he’s not here to do more terrible things”? Adding a factual statement describing one’s emotional reaction to the news is off the table? I don’t buy it.

              6. @Jeremy (because the indentation limits have been reached)… A lot is hanging on the nature of “celebration”. And a lot seems to be tied up on the significance of death in the equation. As if it would be fine to celebrate if Limbaugh had ceased to do damage for some other reason (which reasons are OK exactly?) but not death.

                There seem to be an awful lot of very fine lines here. And it seems to come down to wanting to ban the expression of certain emotions when someone dies, or at least to shame those who do so. Everyone dies. If you want to laugh when I go, have at it!

            1. Absolutely agree. No one held a gun to their heads. They could try to use Marjorie Taylor Greene’s excuse, “I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true”, but where’s the personal responsibility?

  6. Yep, and how many at the Capitol Insurrection cut their teeth on Rush? I listened to him exactly once, maybe 25yrs ago, and that was enough. It might be one thing if his ideas were now widely-discredited, but nearly half the county doesn’t feel that way.

    For ref, here’s how the Beeb treated the Kaiser’s demise. But with the Kaiser I’m inclined from the little I’ve read about him to be more sympathetic – he was born with a withered hand and made to feel inferior by his English cousins for that and his poor command of English.

    1. Yep, and how many at the Capitol Insurrection cut their teeth on Rush

      Is “cut their teeth” American English for “getting a good hard grip on the crack pipe”?

      1. Aidan: “cut their teeth” is a reference to teething – maturing or starting on the road to what one becomes.

    2. It’s worth noting that the Kaiser’s death was June 1941, and thus near the UK’s low point of WWII, when a German invasion was imminent (and before the US entered the war), so the BBC’s piece should be seen in that light.

    3. The Kaiser was quickly sidelined in WW1 but remained a figurehead for the military. That probably made him a natural target for allied propaganda during the Great War.

      But his guilt preceded that war: He was a disastrous diplomat and isolated Germany with his belligerent rhetoric. Pompous and impulsive, he also personified the prejudices of his class: He loathed democracy, persecuted socialists, opposed a free press and was antisemitic.

  7. I only listened to Rush in the early 90s, when I had a job that allowed for casual radio listening. I thought the man was very funny and entertaining. When I’ve read articles on his death, and they quote him in condemnation, all I can think is, Yeah, but how did he say it, and in what context? The man was all about the satire and the reductio ad absurdum. I am sorry he’s gone, and feel badly for his family. Most of all I am disgusted by the glee with which his death was greeted. There is one funny meme going around that made me laugh, though: On a picture of Limbaugh, “Claimed to be Pro-Life; died anyway.”

        1. Of course I did. My comment was a direct response to DrBrydon and not to the OP. Apologies if that was not clear.

    1. I’ve been seeing all these Tweets talking about “listening to Rush on the radio” and getting puzzled, thinking “2112”, “Spirit of Radio”, “Tom Sawyer”, sounds good to me!

      1. Wikipedia notes of 2112 that

        “Side one of the album is occupied by the 20-minute futuristic science fiction song “2112”. The seven-part track is based on a story by Peart, the band’s primary lyricist, who credits “the genius of Ayn Rand” in the album’s liner notes.

        1. To be fair, that was 45 years ago. Peart later distanced himself from Rand. Not everyone has stuff they wrote at 25 years of age visible to the world.

          Peart died of brain cancer a couple of years ago. The Ayn Rand stuff is a small part of what he wrote (and, as mentioned above, he later moved on). Definitely one of the best lyricists in rock. And no question that he was the best rock drummer ever. Here is a classic song (inspired by Coleridge):

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEuOoMprDqg

          And the other two are at the top of their league as well.

  8. He wasn’t Hitler, after all…

    So is there is a line somewhere beyond which celebration would be appropriate? If there isn’t, then it doesn’t matter that Limbaugh wasn’t Hitler. If there is, it’s only fair to consider how some might see Limbaugh as standing beyond it.

  9. Although I didn’t celebrate his death, it was a relief to have one less hate-filled voice filling vulnerable heads…and I think different people have different ways of expressing that relief, even when one of those ways is pretty dark.

    I believe the way you live your life (the things you say and do) is mirrored back to you. For the most part, if you’re usually kind to others, others will usually be kind in return. I viewed the horrible comments out there as his horribleness (is that a word?) being returned to him on a platter. I didn’t encourage it, but I didn’t discourage it either. Some vented in a cringe-worthy way for a day…and it was over.

      1. Had his fatuous Eurotrash trophy wife (you know, the one whose signature FLOTUS campaign was opposition to online bullying!) drape it around his neck at the State of the Union Address.

        #BeBest

            1. Wasn’t “Dolly” also the name of the sheep that was cloned? No THAT’s what I’d call a real “double Dolly.” 🙂

    1. Desantis’ flag flying at half staff…is that a euphemism?

      As for Limbaugh, I’ll grant him as much kindness and compassion in death as he granted others in life.

      1. Onliest thing gives Ron DeSantis a full chubby is Donald Trump. (Has there ever been a more wretchedly embarrassing political tv ad than THAT?)

        Florida hasn’t had a governor who looked more like a one-termer since the first risible Republican since Reconstruction to occupy the mansion in Tallahassee, Claude Kirk (aka “Claudius Maximus“).

    1. I think that ignoring him is dangerous… he said MANY things, DAILY, that made it ‘ok’ for people to continue to justify racist, misogynistic, homophobic, climate-change-denying, conspiracy-minded, ignorant unAmericans..

      He should have been a causality (no pun intended) of ‘consequence culture’ lonnnnnngggg ago.

      1. Yet if I did not ignore Limbaugh, those same people would still continue to justify racism, etc. If I did not ignore him, I would have needed to listen — and then I would be supporting the advertisers who funded his program.

  10. While historians frequently refer to George Washington as the “father of our country,” years from now they may well look back and refer to Limbaugh as the “father of the demise of our country,” in recognition of his having fathered the right-wing hate machine that lives on in Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, Tucker Carlson and a hoard of others.

    It’s ironic that a man who’s very existence was a cancer on democracy, civility and reason, died of cancer. While it may not be polite or dignified to celebrate the death of another human being, the inclination is understandable in the same way one might celebrate the remission of cancer.

  11. I don’t believe in celebrating anyone’s death. But my personal code is such that I have no problem speaking ill of the recently departed so long as I said worse about them while they were still alive. I called Rush Limbaugh a loudmouth, blowhard jerk and a detriment to the commonweal while he was living, and I’m not about to pretend otherwise now, though I see no need to spike the ball in his anyone’s face.

  12. I am reminded of how much I miss not being on FB or any of those other platforms full of extremist and their idea. It is the failure of this country and most of it’s people that looking back is what they do best. Biden says they are looking forward but it certainly does not show. In foreign policy he is almost totally looking back and it will not go well. In domestic policy the only thing they are doing is fighting against a failed state so giving any thought to Rush Limbaugh is really not constructive. If we really want to avoid the bottom we are all racing for we should forget and say so long to all the dead, including 500,000 additional due to the virus so far and get busing doing something about the future. By the way, there is nothing wrong with sending vehicles to Mars but I do wonder what that has to do with what is needed down here. I also wonder why we are still spending 7 or 8 hundred billion on military around the world each year and where much of that money should be going. Not that it is as much fun as trashing Rush.

  13. I have to disagree.

    First, I know that my wishing Limbaugh dead (I don’t remember actually doing that) had no effect on his actual dying. Certainly not after he died.

    Second, for most of his adult life, Limbaugh got up every morning and thought about what lies he would tell his audience. This was done, by his own admission, solely for the money it made him. As many have eulogized, he had huge influence on the US political scene and definitely went a long way to enabling Trump and his hate and divisiveness.

    Third, our expressed disdain for Limbaugh is a social signal to all the would-be Rush Limbaughs that might want to follow in his footsteps. I doubt whether it will have much effect but it’s all we have. If we honor people after their death for the good things they did for the world, certainly we can tell all who’ll listen about those who did bad things.

  14. I believe it is in our nature to dance on the graves of our perceived enemies. What has changed is the ability to broadcast our glee. Another contribution of the social media to the growing incivility of society.

    1. That seems like a difference with no distinction. I don’t think it is easy to distinguish “don’t speak ill of the dead” from “don’t be honest about the bad the dead have done”. And I don’t think it is clear that there’s a difference between expressing relief that a bad actor will act bad no more and “broadcasting glee”.

  15. A writer at NBC news adds the following morsel: ” I’m thinking of radio host Rush Limbaugh, who died this week at age 70 from lung cancer after denying that cigarette smoke was a serious health threat (it “takes 50 years to kill people, if it does,” he said) and smoking for decades.”

  16. I for one am glad he’s dead. I wish he had died decades ago. We’d all be better off — even his devoted listeners would be better off.

    As to respecting the grieving loved ones — sure, okay. But I’d have more respect for them if they had repudiated him while he was alive. And Limbaugh gleefully tied himself, personally, inextricably, to his odious attitudes — who are we to pretend otherwise? Good riddance. To the whole package.

    Racism, misogyny, gay-bashing, and mocking the disabled may still be casually accepted in some circles, but our society has made clear moral progress in the last couple of decades; Limbaugh didn’t. So as for “our roughness certainly isn’t going to lead anyone to the light”, i.e., liberals’ rejoicing isn’t going to change any conservative minds, I’m not so sure. I think more than a few people who have been casually nodding along with Limbaugh over the years are now appalled to see his record called out, loudly and derisively.

  17. As a non-believer in libertarian free will, I think of people like Limbaugh, Hitler, serial killers, and other psychopaths as victims in a sense —after all who would among us non-psychopaths would want to trade places with any of them in favour of being hateful or violent or worse? I would much rather celebrate Rush Limbaugh losing his career because bigotry and hatred and lies are no longer popular on the radio, than celebrate his death. The conversation really needs to be asking why he was popular at all, and how can we do better than being a society where a significant population lionizes him.

    Hitch’s one slip, in the comment that he is sorry that there is no hell for Falwell, was certainly a mistake, as he rightly argues elsewhere that no-one deserves eternal punishment.

    1. Humans are capable of many conversations at the same time. As with many of these sorts of timeless issues, conversations about why and how people like Limbaugh become so popular have been going on for all of human history. More so now than ever before.

      It is entirely possible to have those sorts of conversations while at the same time ridiculing and speaking negatively about the Limbaughs of the world.

  18. Brevity being the soul of wit, when it comes to these matters, it’s tough to beat Bette Davis on the demise of Bette’s bête noire, Joan Crawford:

    “They say you should speak only good of the dead. Joan Crawford is dead. Good.”

    1. Or, to see how the death of a political opponent should be treated, search (I used Bing) Not the nine o’clock news politicians argue for Mel Smith’s and Roman Atkinson’s treatment.

  19. ‘Not just Trump, but, as I think from comments by some on this site, almost every Republican, from Mitch McConnell to Ted Cruz on down, could be described as having a net negative effect on the world. Even regular people, if they engage in stuff like killing animals for fur or evicting poor people from their homes, might create, through their existence, a net loss in “well being”, however you measure that.’

    In the above, I get the impression that you mean that literally. That ‘almost every republican’ is a net negative on well being in the world? Do I understand that correctly? You are of the opinion that members of that party are a drain on society and well being largely construed?

    If so I am curious what opinion you have of Democrats, or of Libertarians. Is membership in a party sufficient to determine moral worth?

    1. No, I clearly do not think that. What I was saying is that I have seen, on my site but more commonly on other sites, the opinion that all Republicans are detrimental to society. I don’t share that opinion, and clearly don’t think that membership in a party is sufficient to determine moral worth. I wasn’t talking about my OWN take, but what I’ve seen from some GOP haters.

      1. Thank you, I misread and was thinking to myself, that cannot be right. I’ve been reading the site for years and never before got that impression. Thanks

        1. Thanks for clarifying. I enjoy this site a lot, and I admit to being a bit startled! Glad I misunderstood our host.

  20. What I’d like to know (and never will) is – did he realize he was making a rather large negative impact during his short time on Earth and do it anyway? Did he simply not care that he was hurting all of us? That would make him a psychopath, and explain but not justify him. Psychopaths have some components of the brain not in functioning mode. They can’t help it (see also DT).

    1. I would doubt that he would realize it or even think it. What we should learn from the past many months of this radical, extreme Trump party within the republican group is — the major cause, the major attraction to this thinking. For my two cents it is religion. White evangelical religion. To fully and properly believe all of these crazy and delusional idea you must have a starting point. I think if it is studied carefully it starts with the religious belief.

  21. I am in the same place. Celebrating the death of the awful man somehow seems to be a poor reflection on ones’ self. One can be assured too that the death of a liberal who has been a thorn in the side of arch conservatives would be callously celebrated as well by conservatives.

    But there is admitted a sliding scale to these things. I was very happy to learn of Bin Laden’s death. If I was born decades earlier, I would certainly have celebrated Hitlers’ death.

    1. For me, and for many I think, I may indeed be happy upon the death of a very bad actor, for example Hitler. But it’s the cessation of the threat they posed, the damage that they caused, that inspires such relief as to make me happy, not specifically the person dying. If the person had in some way other than death been rendered incapable of causing further damage, such as being imprisoned, I’d be just as happy.

  22. This might be a good time to remind people of one of my all-time favorite SlateStarCodex essays: https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/30/i-can-tolerate-anything-except-the-outgroup/

    (See especially section V, on the respective responses to the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Margaret Thatcher.)

    People are celebrating Rush Limbaugh’s death because he was a leading advocate for the Red Tribe, and they are Blue Tribe. Not because he was an outstandingly evil man, not because he did some bad things (though I happen to think he did). People don’t celebrate the deaths of people who are on their own side, no matter if they did bad things. The Blue Tribe celebrates the death of Rush Limbaugh because he spent his life mocking and denouncing the Blue Tribe, and now the Blue Tribe is able to get back at him. It’s really that simple.

    1. The problem with that analysis is that it completely ignores the conduct of the person who died and makes it all about team jerseys.

      1. I agree. It’s a “both sides” argument. Rush Limbaugh should be condemned for the lies he told, not what team he was on. If there was a Rush-like person on the other team, we should condemn them as well.

        1. The question isn’t whether we should condemn people for the lies they tell: of course we should. The issue here is one of CELEBRATING THE DEATH of someone who told lies, and my claim is that “Blue Tribe” people would not CELEBRATE A PERSON’S DEATH unless that person was of the “Red Tribe”, no matter how many lies they told or how many other crimes they had committed. As with the example given in that essay of Osama bin Laden and Margaret Thatcher.

          I can’t think of a counterexample: can you? I can think of plenty of examples of “Blue Tribe” people celebrating the death of “Red Tribe” people (and vice versa – this is not a flaw confined to one side). But I can’t think of a single example of a “Blue Tribe” person celebrating the death of another “Blue Tribe” person. But I am happy to hear any examples you have.

          1. You can start by naming someone on your so-called “Blue Tribe” that you think told enough lies that we would have such a conversation. I am not saying that such a person never existed or won’t exist in the future, but until you produce one, this conversation is meaningless. It’s not my job to come to your rescue. It’s your petard now.

            1. I’ll go for Marion Barry – remember him? Did the “Blue Tribe” celebrate his death? (The “Red Tribe” certainly did.) And lying was hardly the only ethical problem around him.

              I don’t wish ill on anyone, but if I am spared long enough to see it, I’ll be interested to see whether “Blue Tribe” people celebrate the death of Don Blagojevich when he dies. I’ll lay a small wager that they won’t. They’ll offer measured criticism (as they should), but they won’t be celebrating. Red Tribe people, on the other hand, will be cheering.

              And then of course there’s the smoking gun which you don’t mention: the one that Scott Alexander refers to in the essay I cited – the measured way in which the “Blue Tribe” responded to the death of Osama bin Laden (who I hope we can all agree was worse than Rush Limbaugh). Osama was not “Blue Tribe” himself, of course, but the point is that “Blue Tribe” members didn’t see him as part of their outgroup – in other words, he wasn’t “Red Tribe” – so his death was not a cause for celebration among them.

              I think these examples – especially the last – should be enough to demonstrate the point. People criticize (and should do) when people lie, when people are corrupt, when people murder. And they are often willing to offer such criticisms even of their own “tribe”. But they don’t CELEBRATE THE DEATHS of people unless those people are part of the other “tribe”.

              1. As far as I know, both Marion Barry and Blago got what they deserved from both sides. Neither made a living lying to people like Trump and Limbaugh and neither had any kind of big following. In short, I will admit they are liars but don’t care enough about either to say much more at their deaths. You’ll have to take my word for it but my opinion of them has nothing to do with their party affiliation. If that’s the best you’ve got, we’re done here.

              2. Marion Barry didn’t “get what he deserved from both sides”. Democrats responded to his death with measured criticism, balancing positives against negatives. The “Red Tribe” responded with unalloyed glee. Whichever of those you think he deserved, it definitely was different on both sides. (And he had a VAST following locally, as anyone who lived in D.C. then will tell you, and a pretty substantial one nationally, at least among the Black community.)

                But in any case, Marion Barry is not “the best I’ve got”. As I keep saying to you, the best I’ve got is Osama bin Laden (I’ve mentioned him three times now, you haven’t responded to that once). Whose death was not celebrated by the “Blue Tribe”, despite his being manifestly far worse than Rush Limbaugh. Perhaps you could address why you think that is, if you dispute my analysis.

              3. What are you saying here? That the Blue Tribe didn’t celebrate Osama Bin Laden’s death as much as you think they should have? That’s ridiculous.

  23. I kind of look at it as what I would feel if I checked my trap in the morning and found it caught the annoying rat. I would not “rejoice” in that situation.

    1. I won’t miss him, but I think you’re dead wrong in saying that “the rest of the world will not miss him”. There were all those Dittoheads that made him popular; they will miss him. You may not LIKE it that they’ll miss him, but they will .

  24. He was as personally kind and generous, we are told, as he was publicly shameless.

    Rushbo had a total lock-’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key attitude toward drug addicts in the early years of his show. Then he developed a massive opiate habit of his own, scoring from multiple doctors and on the black market through his maid, though he beat the rap with representation by Roy Black. (Rumor around the campfire in south Florida was that he was a complete prick to his fellow patients while he was in rehab.)

    1. I suppose Limbaugh had to have some redeeming qualities. He became a spokesman for HSUS despite his earlier attacks against PETA. And, get this, he had a beloved cat named Punkin. There are many loving pictures of Rush and Punkin on the internet.

      1. As a prosecutor once said to me as my pleas for leniency for my client were falling on her deaf ears — “Even snakes have moms, Ken.” (And I don’t think she meant it as any insult to ophidians.)

  25. I, too, have the instinct to recoil when a death is celebrated. There was something deeply unsettling when in an interview Hillary Clinton reported with triumphant joy the death of Gaddafi (who was being sodomized with a bayonette). And Gaddafi was no nice person, either.

    Limbaugh has no significance here across the pond. I’ve read about his odious views from a distance. He celebrated the death of people infected with AIDS, and held views on a similar level of depravity. The influence of his voice has harmed many people. He might have contributed to deaths, too. He poisoned the minds of countless listeners, and they went on to make the lives of others more miserable because of it. However, I put most of the responsibility on each individual.

    On reflection, even though it’s not in my character to be gleeful about someone’s demise, I understand why those harmed by him have every reason to be happy about his death. In a society, it also signals that his contribution was, in fact, that negative. Should his victims be silent about it, and allow him dignity in death? They’re not picketing his funeral like Fred Phelbs, but express opinions on their social media account. I don’t exactly like it, but I understand it.

  26. I think it’s ok to have thoughts, but as Bruni says, it debases us to give voice to them. My first thought when I heard Limbaugh was dead was…uncharitable…but I make an effort not to put it out there. I think we are better for keeping such thoughts private.

    1. I have little respect for Bruni. He used to virtually fellate GW Bush in the NY Times. Now he’s what? Their food critic?

  27. I agree with you Jerry, and I appreciate your post. The only death I’m guilty of “celebrating” is Antony Scalia’s. But at the time, I didn’t think 666 Mitch was going to block Obama’s appointment, so I was more celebrating that we’d have a balanced SCOTUS. Too bad that didn’t turn out.

    I was listening to someone who worked closely with Rush in a technical capacity. He said Rush was clinically depressed, took medication for it, and regarded his own show as a schtick, and not a real part of his personality. I don’t think that is enough to forgive his destructive talk, but it is a factor. I guess it’s another example of how money, like religion, can turn an otherwise good person into an evil one. And he knew, just like Trump, that millions of Americans love to hate, and he exploited that fact.

  28. I still vividly recall the first time I heard the name Rush Limbaugh: I was eating sugar cereal and read the St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press at my parent’s house in April 1994 when I read the comments he made about Kurt Cobain, who had recently committed suicide: “Kurt Cobain was, ladies and gentlemen, a worthless shred of human debris.”

    My initial reaction was shock and anger, and I remember asking myself, “why would someone say such a thing about an otherwise harmless grunge rocker who obviously had serious mental health issues?” I was too young to understand the politics of him going after a counter-culture figure like Cobain.

    I haven’t read the more gratuitous comments celebrating his death, yet I don’t condemn others who are dancing on his grave. As the cliche goes, “you reap what you sow.”

  29. Sullivan’s (and this post’s) final paragraph pretty much says it all:

    He was as personally kind and generous, we are told, as he was publicly shameless. And it’s important to see the man as a complicated whole. But what he did to conservatism was ultimately to facilitate its demise as a functional governing philosophy; and what he did to the country was intensify its cynicism and tribalism. Few did so much to popularize conservative values; and few did more, in the end, to discredit them.

    Politely put, with no glee, but devastating nonetheless – and all the better for it.

  30. Remember Limbaugh is dead. We cannot get back at him by attacking him publicly. But hi family is in shock. Let’s grant them enough time to recover a little before we excrete on his memory.

    “There was speculation that Limbaugh had gone to a very hot place reputed to have nine circles and a red, horned ruler.”

    -> Wouldn’t limbo be more appropriate for him ?

    1. It isn’t about “getting back at him”. It is about, IMO, being honest about how one felt about a very public person and whether one’s thoughts have to be run through an etiquette filter or not. And who’s filter must be used. One person’s “we are better off with him gone” is another’s “gloating”.

    2. Weeping large tears for “his family” who’ll cry all the way to the bank to collect their hundreds of millions of dollars of inheritance, made at the direct expense of decency, our democracy and everybody from Chelsea Clinton to people with Hiv to opiate addicts (before he was busted)…. etc etc etc. Yeah. Big, heavy tears over here.
      D.A., NYC

  31. I would certainly be relieved were ex President Trump to die in the next few years; perhaps even glad. If he is alive and physically fit to stand he will do so. He may win. I am British, not American but I am clear that neither the United States nor the rest of the World can afford another four years of Trump.

  32. I would certainly be relieved were ex President Trump to die in the next few years; perhaps even glad. If he is alive and physically fit to stand he will do so. He may win. I am British, not American but I am clear that neither the United States not the rest of the World can afford another four years of Trump.

  33. Apologies for the double posting above. I corrected one word and somehow the whole text repeated.
    Professor, may I ask this:- Had the von Stauffenberg plot of 20 July 1944 been successful and you had been alive and an adult at that time do you not think it possible that news of the death of Hitler would have given you joy and put you in something of a celebratory mood.

    1. Yes, but celebrating would have been rewarded with a bullet through the head from the Gestapo so… Low profile, am I right ?

        1. Had Hitler died then, the war would have been shorter, I guess, but at the moment, it would have been horrendous reatiations on the populations of the occupied countries.

          Thinking about it give me the chills.

  34. Thx, friends, for the links to Christopher’s “Hitching” of scumbag Hannity and defenestration of Falwell’s matchbox. Made my evening! 🙂
    All history owes the dead is the truth: Falwell, Hannity or Limbaugh. I say the same things about them dead or alive.

    D.A., NYC

  35. With public celebrities, which now includes politicians as everyone is playing for the crowd, I criticize them publicly if I feel so motivated; after they die there is no need for me to say anything more.

    Somehow this reminds of when Carl Sagan died, and I read some really snippy comments about how he popularized science or some other nonsense, and I thought they were pretty cowardly if they didn’t bother to say it while he was alive. I try hard not to be what I dislike in others.

    But certainly, knowing that the creator of a site I value, would be distressed by any post-mortem nastiness from me, I have no problem not voicing it here. At least.

  36. It maybe the case that those celebrating Limbaugh death have lost their evolutionary predisposition to judge (their own) human actions as either right or wrong. Their culturally acquired moral norms being their primary guiding compass. I can see why this weighs heavily on your mind, but those you write about see nothing. Its like talking to a brick wall!

  37. I suppose it was superstition that made the Romans say ‘De mortuis, nil nisi bonum’ and I think even for us atheists, it makes for good manners and decency. He can’t hurt us now, and it makes us look vindictive and petty to celebrate. I’d go as far as to say that anyone celebrating an individual’s death has come up short in the humanity department: have such persons never suffered grief? Perhaps we are all too self-centered to give a moment for sympathy for a fellow struggling through his last breaths, or for his family. It will happen to all of us, and all our loved ones too, and it seems indecent to not pause and reflect on that, then to temper our assessment of a man we did not like with that knowledge.
    Or to put it as a trolley problem—one track populated by six people celebrating his death, the other by one saying to himself ‘he was a man for a’that; we shall not look upon his like again.’ Which lever setting makes the world a better place?

  38. “While I don’t mourn the absence of Limbaugh from the scene, celebrating it just didn’t feel right. ”

    I agree. I would have been happy had he retired (maybe he did — I never followed him), But celebrating a death seems rude to me. (“do you really want to put a cute heart on this/”)

    I did celebrate Voldemort getting voted out and then actually leaving office. That was worthy of a big party. We had good Champagne and still red wine and fireworks. I would not react to the same way were he to die next week.

    1. Then I put it to you thus… What’s really the difference? Why is it OK to celebrate the downfall of the Orange Menace? To morph a comment often made on this page, “Have you not known the pain of failure?” He has family that is grieving the loss!

      1. To varying degrees, family members should share the breadwinner’s guilt as they at least enabled and very often actively supported him. Children should be off-limits, of course, but once they are of age they have a decision to make. I’m not saying Limbaugh’s wife is as much to blame as Rush is, just that I don’t worry too much about her feelings. After all, he had to die sometime. And don’t get me started on Melania Trump and her stupid “Be Best” anti-bullying campaign.

        1. He had four wives. One wonders how numbers one through three feel. Not that it is any of our business one way or another.

  39. It’s interesting that one of the most beloved family movies in American culture (I don’t know how far abroad that sentiment goes) involved TWO iterations of literally singing and dancing in explicit celebration of the death of the antagonist…a character who seems to have done not much more actual harm in the fictional world in question than the titular character, who was actually a con-man. There’s something very deep in human nature that triggers celebrating the death of a “villain”.

  40. Given what a poisonous effect Rush has had on the US political scene and that he had a bit of a penchant for speaking ill of the dead, a touch of schadenfreude at his demise from a disease that he probably helped spread by defending the tobacco industry from government interference — seems entirely in order. In general, I agree, dancing on graves does tend to degrade the character of the dancer, but there are a few exceptions where that activity does seem justified. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Columbus, Rush, Pat Robertson, Putin, Khomeini, Kim Jong Un, and Trump spring to mind as examples. Obviously, disagreement on this point is not a cause to unfriend anyone. 🙂

  41. I think that joyous celebration of Limbaugh’s demise throws more gas on the rage of the dittoheads and the millions of minions of Rush and his despicable spawn – Hannity, Carlson, Beck, Jones, et al. The legend lives on from Rush on down [apologies to Gordon]

  42. In the NY Times obituary, the writers state, “As a boy Rush was a pudgy loner who disliked school and longed in vain for popularity.” (Reading the Times over a number of years, if there’s the least smell that someone is a “loner,” the Times will ferret it out and bloviate about it.) I gather that the Times makes an exception for Limbaugh when it comes to “fat shaming .” Yeah, be sure to get in that “pudgy” dig at someone when he a was a kid. Obviously, I don’t like that, but, considering the digs Limbaugh directed at others including minors (his alleged private civility notwithstanding), he makes it harder to be sympathetic.

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