Why Rush Limbaugh's New Twitter Account Is Cause for Celebration

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His foray into the new medium helps to break through the bubble in which talk-radio hosts exist -- and is only likely to further discredit him.


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Rush Limbaugh started a Twitter account Thursday. As I write this post, he has sent out two tweets, has more than 112,000 followers, and has sent traffic to items at Legal Insurrection and The Daily Caller. Critics of his work might be tempted to lament his emergence on another platform. Despite thinking he is deliberately offensive and frequently inaccurate or misleading in his assertions, I'm glad to see him in my TweetDeck, to which I've already added his musings.

Why?

One flaw of talk radio as a medium is the ease with which a host can exist in a bubble. He sits alone in a studio. The few audience members who reach him are filtered through a call screener. Another flaw is the difficulty with which the host is held accountable for the words he broadcasts. Until recently they just drifted off into the ether. The Sandra Fluke controversy wouldn't have played out as it did but for the easy access to audio and video clips of his remarks. 

On Twitter, Limbaugh himself will be interacting more outside his radio bubble, and his words will be even more accessible to critique. As someone who thinks that his rhetoric is often indefensible, I think this medium is most likely to discredit him. It's possible that he'll try it out for a week or two, tire of the invective that comes his way, and let his account go dormant. But if he keeps at it -- if he commits to the medium -- he'll find over time that he lacks the discipline to refrain from tweeting messages that further discredit him.

After excoriating Limbaugh and his enablers for his Fluke remarks -- words Limbaugh apologists would do well to remember that even he wouldn't defend -- I noted that calling on government to force him off the air was even more problematic, and suggested that rather than coercing ritual apologies out of pubic figures when they offend, we ought to shame them into debates. I am not someone who thinks that the best ideas always win when ideas are exchanged. But a lot of what Limbaugh says is really stupid. Stripped of the ideological bubble that helps protect him, the medium at which he most excels, and the inhibitions that people seem to lack most on Twitter, I am convinced that Limbaugh's worst ideas will lose even more than is now the case.

So welcome to Twitter, Rush. And don't let an evening drink or two stop you from telling us what you really think!
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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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