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Reading Recommendation for today

The Great Limbaugh Con by Charles M. Kelly, published in 1994, is even more current and up-to-date than it was then. And it is not really about Limbaugh himself – he serves only as a starting point. There are many Limbaughs out there now who parrot the same stuff and what he pioneered in the early 1990s is now a big industry for the Right.

Furthermore, some of the right-wing rhetoric that Rush invented is now not just a standard GOP advertising lingo, but also deeply ingrained in the nation’s psyche and will take a lot of effort to neutralize. The book describes, for instance, exactly how Limbaugh demonized Hillary Clinton as early as 1991., and how some of the same tropes about her survive till today and made her presidential bid just that much harder.

But what is most important about the book is that Kelly uses Limbaugh’s rhetoric to discuss some of our erroneous preconceptions about the world, especially economics and how it works. For instance, Chapter 6 analyzes the phrase “trickle-down economics”, and Chapter 12 explains how liberals and conservatives have a very different definition of the word “work”. If the two sides of the political spectrum use different definitions of the same word, then the target audience – the low-information independent voters – will be confused. Or, depending how it is framed, the audience will understand the message to use one definition, while it really uses the other – the basis for Orwellian spin of the Right.

As far as I know, this is the first book that seriously talks about the role of language and ‘frames’ (though the word never appears in the text – too early in history for that) in the modern American politics. And it does it well.

You can read the entire book online on Google Books or buy yourself a cheap used copy on amazon.com. Even if you disagree with Kelly on some details, it will make you think differently and it will make you think next time you hear a right-wing hack in the media use some of those phrases – they do not mean what you think they mean.