You've probably heard that recidivist jackass Rush Limbaugh called a Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke "a slut" and "a prostitute" after she testified before Congress about wanting the Jesuits who run her college to pay for her birth control pills. Just to make sure that nobody but nobody ever gets sexually aroused again, the broadcaster who once "had talent on loan from God" spun out a scenario in which he would also watch a video of Fluke having sex. Limbaugh subsequently fake-apologized for his untoward remarks. Why a fake apology? Because being a former Oxycontin addict and super-conservative marrying man means never having to say you're sorry. Not as long as a Democrat's in the White House at least.
But the comedy ain't done yet. Over at The New Republic, Timothy Noah explains why it's like totally different when Bill Maher calls Sarah Palin "a twat" and "a cunt," or when Keith Olbermann calls Michelle Malkin a "mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick on it."
Here you go:
It's different in two ways.
First, all of the people who were subjected to verbal abuse by the liberal- or left-leaning blowhards and smart-asses mentioned above are public figures. If you follow politics you know who they are. Fluke, on the other hand, though a political activist, was not really a public figure. If you follow politics you probably didn't know who she was until Limbaugh attacked her.
Second, and more important, none of the rappers and liberals and leftists mentioned above is so feared by President Obama or any other Democrat that said Democrat would hesitate to criticize him if the occasion warranted it. That isn't necessarily because Democrats are braver people. It's because there is no rapper or liberal or leftist commentator or talk-radio host or comedian who commands anything equivalent to the knuckle-dragging army of haters that Limbaugh leads on the right.
Yeah, that's not really much of a counter-argument.
For starters, Noah goes pretty light on the abuse-o-meter. At The Daily Beast, Kirsten Powers provides a somewhat more in-depth catalog of vagina dentata imagineering by liberal asshats.
Olbermann, for instance, suggested that that the best way to take Hillary Clinton out of the 2008 presidential race "was to find 'somebody who can take her into a room and only he comes out.'" And that conservative commentator S.E. Cupp should have been aborted by her parents. Enchante!
Matt Taibbi, whom Noah tags for calling Andrew Breitbart "a douche" in his obit, is similarly scampish toward the ladies, writes Powers:
Left-wing darling Matt Taibbi wrote on his blog in 2009, "When I read [Malkin's] stuff, I imagine her narrating her text, book-on-tape style, with a big, hairy set of balls in her mouth." In a Rolling Stone article about Secretary of State Clinton, he referred to her "flabby arms." When feminist writer Erica Jong criticized him for it, he responded by referring to Jong as an "800-year old sex novelist." (Jong is almost 70, which apparently makes her an irrelevant human being.)
Boy, those jokes are fall-down funny, aren't they?
And then there's Chris Matthews, the leg-tingled MSNBC host and stalwart JFK defender, who particularly seems to thrive on attacking Hillary Clinton in gender-specific terms:
Over the years he has referred to the former first lady, senator and presidential candidate and current secretary of state as a "she-devil," "Nurse Ratched," and "Madame Defarge." Matthews has also called Clinton "witchy," "anti-male," and "uppity" and once claimed she won her Senate seat only because her "husband messed around."
But if Noah's catalog of rancid liberal misogyny is incomplete, is he right that Fluke isn't a public figure and hence not fair game? She's not as famous or all growed up as, say Hillary Clinton or Laura Ingraham ("a right-wing slut" according to MSNBC populist Ed Schultz), but even Noah notes that she's a political activist. But that's besides the point: How does being, I don't know, a syndicated columnist such as Michelle Malkin, make it less fucked up that Matt Taibbi wants to put "a big, hairy set of balls in her mouth"? The point isn't that Rush Limbaugh is a bigger tool than liberals who resort to sad-sack sexist japes. It's that there's something seriously fucked up with all of that sort of thing. Especially when you're pretending to be serious thinkers or writers or commentators.
Noah's second reason for why Limbaugh needs to be held to a different standard is also odd: El Rushbo has more divisions than the Pope when it comes to commanding a Dittohead Army or something. If asked about it, any pol should dismiss such dumb comments, as should listeners. What exactly that has to do with, say NPR favorite Marc Maron's comments about hate-fucking Michelle Bachmann, I don't know.
If you've ever needed a reason to rethink dumb attachments to the left-right, liberal-conservative Manicheanism at the heart of conventional politics, the sort of idiotic Team Red vs. Team Blue mentality underscored by Noah's need to exonerate the misogyny of his ideological allies should give you something to ponder.
Update: Last night, Timothy Noah replied at TNR to this post, writing that he was not defending "the unacceptably vile things" that folks such as Taibbi, Olbermann, and Maher has said. Rather, he reiterates his point that "It matters more to society what a person with a big following says than what a person with a small following says" (italics in original).