The thoroughly loathesome Rush Limbaugh is reaping the whirlwind from his latest gaffe (defined, of course, as any instance where a political figure shares his actual opinion with the public), with advertisers fleeing in droves. This has led to a good deal of chortling among the liberal types in my social media universe, but Kevin Drum finds a cloud to go with that silver lining:
And yet….there’s an obvious slippery slope here. Lots of advertisers already shy away from political shows of every stripe, and this episode could begin to drive them all away. Why take the chance, even on a host who doesn’t usually cause national outrage? “Usually” isn’t never, after all, and in any case, you never know what a guest is going to say. Better to stick with local blowhards and self-help shows.
Limbaugh is getting what he finally deserves. I couldn’t be happier about it. I just hope that down the road this doesn’t turn into a preemptive boycott of every political gabber out there who has even the smallest chance of ever producing any national blowback. That runs the risk of turning every show into a bland marshmallow. It wouldn’t make the world a better place.
Actually, I think it would. Because I don’t share the hidden assumption in Drum’s piece, namely that pundits are a fixed and necessary feature of the media landscape. The theory that gun-shy advertisers would turn every pundit show bland implicitly assumes that there will always be pundit shows— in physics terms, that pundits are a conserved quantity, like quarks or leptons, where the total number in the universe is always the same.
But pundits aren’t a conserved quantity. They’re more like photons or other gauge bosons, able to be created and destroyed as needed. Or, to switch back out of physics terms, they’re like bacteria, or maggots, spawning in huge numbers where rotting filth collects.
Which is why I welcome the slippery slope. Because I like to think that if advertisers get leery of pundit shows and stop advertising on them, the net result will be fewer pundit shows, which would be an unambiguously good thing. If the ad dollars dried up, maybe we wouldn’t have quite so many people hyperventilating around the clock about how the outrage-of-the-moment in February 2012 affects the Republican chances in 2016. Because the vast majority of what the pundit classes yammer about is absolutely meaningless– they’re working themselves into a lather over trivial nonsense because working themselves into a lather has traditionally been a great way to bring in an audience, and attract ad dollars. And the constant lathered-up state of the pundit class is driving everybody crazy.
So, I say, bring on the slippery slope. Grease Rush up, and slide his fat ass right on down. And send Bill O’Reilly with him, and Chris Matthews, and hell, Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow for good luck. It’ll mean the end of the Daily show and the Colbert Report, but if that’s the price, I’ll pay it for a reduction in the overheated jabber about completely meaningless garbage. Replace ’em all with self-help shows, or home-improvement shows, or re-runs of Estonian sitcoms from the 1960’s– I don’t care. There’s almost nothing you could put on the air in their stead that wouldn’t make the world a better place.