Rush Limbaugh Show Mocks Urban Blacks

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In an ugly segment, staffer "Bo Snerdley" offers to translate his English monologue for the "brothers and sisters in the hood"



For a long time, I argued that Rush Limbaugh's program wasn't racist -- that its host uses race-baiting, plays on the racial insecurities of his audience, and deliberately stokes racial controversy, but that as abhorrent as his behavior is, the best way to understand it is as cynical provocation. His mean-spirited mockery of Chinese speech did strike me as an indefensible outburst, but it seemed like the exception that proved the rule. It is, however, no longer an exception.

During a recent broadcast, an employee of the talk radio host introduced himself as follows: "This is Bo Snerdley, the official EIB Obama Criticizer, certified black enough to criticize, 100 percent American slave blood and a legitimate birth certificate on file in New York state. I have a statement."

That isn't the racist part.

Snerdley (who is black, and whose real name is James Golden) proceeded to critique President Obama's recent immigration speech, unironically complaining, "Shame on you, Mr. President. Race-baiting so early in the campaign season?" What came next is my focus:

And now a translation for the EIB brothers and sisters in the hood. Yeah, what up, my homeys? Check it out, yo. El Paso. Obama blazed up in there like a total O.G. and they took it to them Republicans like Team Six took it to Osama, up all in their grill dog, double tapped him, told 'em the border under control, yo. We puppies ain't gonna chill till they get a moat with some gators to keep those Mexies out, which, you know, a'ight, a'ight, I feel that. But, but, you know, there's some' about this that just ain't -- ain't -- ain't right. You know, if you get your low rider, you roll down south over that boulder, yo, all of a sudden you be in grave land, man. They've got more bodies rolling up in that joint every day without heads, man, hundreds, no, thousands of 'em, with Mexican flags on top of the graveyards, man. They got people showing up dead all over the joint. 
Yo Bomb, man, let me axe you this, man. You gonna send your booty-licious home girl, Michelle and your two shorties down there to party for a weekend on the border, yo? I don't think so. Plus, check this out, man. You hit up the airports, man, TSA is hitting you up harder than five-oh, man. They grabbing three-year-olds, feeling them up like they on some kind of booty call, man. What's up with that, yo? Okay, here's the deal, amigos. Obama playing games with you all, okay? He coulda had this immigration dealy when Democrats had DC up on lockdown. He's just setting up Republicans, making 'em out to be racist to trip y'all up, get you Spanish all tricked out before the election and jack you, you know? It's like the audacity a joke, okay? Obama is playing y'all. But, yo, I got one other thing. Obama, big Prez, man, gas is still high, man. And speaking of the borders, over here in the borders of the hood, man, we still ain't got no jobs. A'ight? When you gonna come to these borders and check that out?      

Unlike some critics of the talk radio right, calling a bit racist isn't a charge I make lightly. In fact, I've gone out of my way on prior occasions to defend the right against charges of racism when I find them to be unfair. I am also aware that this kind of assertion only causes Limbaugh's troops to rally around him. But so be it: the truth is that it's a racist bit, and I dissent from the proposition that no matter how badly Limbaugh (or in this case, his staff) behaves we ought to ignore the nation's most popular and influential radio program. 

What is it going to take for the folks in conservative journalism to realize that this guy's continued prominence is poison for the right and the country? I don't get it. Take your average editor at a conservative publication. Were he running a meeting about the magazine's stance in the upcoming primary, and an intern suggested the editorial line should be elevating Donald Trump and labeling Mitch Daniels a RINO, he'd be laughed out of the room. People might even question his intelligence. If the editor's 10 year old son implied that his black grammar school classmates needed an ESL translator, and launched into an extended monologue in which he mocked their speech patterns with crude stereotypes, the kid would be chastised and told why what he did was wrong. In other words, less is expected of a prominent voice in the ideological coalition than would be a hapless intern or a misbehaving pre-teen. This is a tenable situation?

National Review once wrote an editorial about Rush Limbaugh:

There are voices in American politics that should be assiduously marginalized and given no respect: the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers; the Klan. What is going on here is a scurrilous attempt to place Limbaugh in their company.
The mere fact that Michael Steele, the Republican chairman, criticized Limbaugh was not objectionable. He could have made any number of criticisms without necessitating an apology. But to call Limbaugh's show "ugly" -- and worse, to make no protests while a CNN interviewer compared Republicans to Nazis -- was gross.

I'd never compare Rush Limbaugh to the Klan, or assert that he is as bad as someone who crossed into the territory of engaging in violent acts. Nor do I think it is necessary that he be dismissed without hearing, as would be appropriate if the Klu Klux Klan issued some sort of press release. All I ask is that when folks think Limbaugh is saying something that is particularly wrongheaded or offensive they call him on it. That's what journalists are supposed to do when prominent, influential people advance flawed ideas. Usually it forces the target of criticism to do better, but the Limbaugh program has been coddled for so long it's become the juvenile delinquent of the airwaves.

In light of the monologue above, the mockery of Chinese speakers, the segment where Limbaugh implied that Michelle Obama is fat, or his habit of calling Democrats "our domestic enemy" -- to name just a few recent examples -- I wonder if any of the National Review editors responsible for asserting that Limbaugh's show isn't "ugly" would be willing to debate the proposition.

Anyone?

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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