Cruelty, Cont.


Earlier today I wrote that arguably the dominant trait of the conservative movement was cruelty. I obviously meant that word "arguably" to be there. But to give some sense of what I meant, I offer the following:

Sandra Fluke, a third-year student at Georgetown University Law School, was barred from testifying by Rep. Darrell Issa, the committee chair at the faith-based hearing on Capitol Hill, because he deemed her unqualified. Issa said the panel was supposed to focus on religious freedom and Fluke is not a member of any clergy. She eventually spoke to a Democratic hearing spearheaded by Pelosi on Feb. 23, where she talked about the need for birth control coverage. Fluke spoke of one friend in particular who needed contraception to prevent ovarian cysts. 

Rush Limbaugh, though, had a different take on Fluke's testimony. On his show Wednesday, he suggested that the reason Fluke cannot afford birth control is because she is having too much sex. "Can you imagine if you're her parents how proud of Sandra Fluke you would be?" he said. "Your daughter...testifies she's having so much sex she can't afford her own birth control pills and she agrees that Obama should provide them, or the pope." 

Fluke testified that without insurance coverage, contraception can cost a woman as much as $3,000 during law school. "Three thousand dollars for birth control in three years? That's a thousand dollars a year of sex -- and, she wants us to pay for it," Limbaugh said, adding that high school boys applying to college should consider Georgetown. "They're admitting before congressional committee that they're having so much sex they can't afford the birth control pills!" 

The conservative radio host continued: "What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We're the pimps." 

Limbaugh shied away from his word choice towards the end of his show, saying "So, she's not a slut. She's round-heeled. I take it back." Round-heeled, though, is a euphemism for the same thing, an old-fashioned term for a "promiscuous woman." On today's show, Limbaugh turned up the heat and suggested that women who use insurance-covered birth control should post sex tapes online: 

"So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex. We want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch," he said. 

There is a way of conveniently marginalizing Limbaugh as a "radio host" who doesn't really speak for any aspect of the present conservative movement, or any element of the GOP electorate. It's a strange position given Limbaugh's immense popularity, the timidity elected Republicans show when asked about his comments, and the prominent role he's been given in the past at C-PAC. The deference he enjoys stands in stark contrast to his apparent status as an old uncle who just happens to say incredibly cruel things which say nothing about the greater family.

Nevertheless, influence or not, it is worth calling this what is is--the normalization of cruelty--and asserting, no matter how redundant, that is wrong and evidence of the lowest aspects of humanity.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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