Scoring Cheap Political Points

By Keith Kloor | March 17, 2011 3:57 pm

Rush Limbaugh is so indisputably noxious on a daily basis that one hardly needs to take anything he says out of context.

Yet Christopher Mims at Grist has managed to do just that in this post, when he writes:

Rush Limbaugh is laughing at Japan’s earthquake refugees.

Actually, Limbaugh started out mocking a Diane Sawyer clip at a refugee shelter, because she was marveling that the inhabitants were still recycling amidst all the devastation around them. Then he went on a sarcastic riff about how it seemed unfair that the people who invented the Prius were being punished by a vengeful “mother Gai.” That’s when he starts laughing at his own tasteless joke.

Now it so happens that I agree with the Grist headline for the Mims post:

If Rush Limbaugh’s heart fell out of his chest and into a bowl of raisins, you wouldn’t spot it

As someone who admires a good headline, I have to say, that’s freaking brilliant.

Alas, Mims is not exactly an exemplar of good judgment to be calling out Limbaugh for insensitivity when it comes to exploitation of Japan’s humanitarian tragedy for other purposes.

So file this one under the Department of hypocrisy.

  • http://gryposaurus.tumblr.com/ grypo

    He does laugh at them for recycling their garbage. He makes them the butt of the joke about Gaia wiping them out, (even though they are environmental) then laughs.  I have no idea what your problem with Mims or any of the other people who’ve already pointed this out.

  • http://www.cejournal.net Tom Yulsman

    Woops! The Grist headline actually talks about El Rushbo’s “heart,” not his “head.”
    He’s actually pretty darn smart. But as he spits, shrieks, and foams into the Golden EIB Microphone (“Mr.Revkin, why don’t you go kill yourself and help the planet by dying?”), he certainly does not show much heart.

  • http://collide-a-scape.com Keith Kloor

    No, grypo, he’s laughing at Sawyer at first, then he moves on to utter tastelessness. Look, it’s pretty obvious that Limbaugh is a heartless bastard, which is why I thought the headline was the most accurate part of Mim’s post. But really I found it ironic that it was Mims who is taking Limbaugh to task for tastelessness. Now one could counter that Mims didn’t laugh at the Japanese in his post from last week. But he certainly used their tragedy as a prop for another purpose. Same with Limbaugh.

  • http://collide-a-scape.com Keith Kloor

    Whoops is right–thanks, Tom, I fixed the typo. I have to stop multi-tasking while writing these posts–or edit more carefully.

  • sharper00

    No, grypo, he’s laughing at Sawyer at first, then he moves on to utter tastelessness


    I don’t understand your argument. You’re saying he first laughed at Sawyer and then laughed at his own joke about the Japanese and recycling. How is who he laughed at first relevant?

    If someone tripped in front of me falling face first and I made a joke like “He didn’t need that, his face was already pretty ugly!” most people would say I was laughing at that person and their predicament, not the joke I just made.

  • http://gryposaurus.tumblr.com/ grypo

    Well, I’m looking at the tape right now and @ 2:34 he stops talking about Sawyer’s recycling story.  In that schpeel he making fun of Sawyer for telling stories about recycling in the midst of the disaster.  @ 2:43 he laughs again while saying “Refugees are still recycling their garbage.”  Here he is making fun of refugees for still recycling.
    And while you may have a point about Mims and hypocrisy in using the tragedy, I don’t think Mims took the ‘laugh’ or joke out of context.

  • Menth

    In the interest of giving credit where credit is due,  the “bowl of raisins” headline made me laugh as hard as I have all week.

  • http://collide-a-scape.com Keith Kloor

    Menth–Absolutely! Best damn headline I’ve seen in a while. If Mims didn’t hop on the scareploitation boat with his post last week, I wouldn’t be giving him a hard time on this.

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    Yes, I too am a little puzzled by the hairsplitting here, Keith. Either he laughs at the refugees or he doesn’t. Whether he also laughs at Diane Sawyer is irrelevant. After @;34 it appears that he does laugh at the refugees, making fun of their current plight despite their efforts at recycling.

    He laughs at refugees from roughly 2:43-2:50.

  • NewYorkJ

    Calls for basic decency don’t apply to Rush Limbaugh. 

    Gilbert Gottfried says some tasteless jokes about the disaster and Aflac fires him.

    Limbaugh does it and he gets more attention and ad revenue.

  • Gaythia

    My nomination for the “not exactly an exemplar of good judgment” award is the posting of this animated graphical display by the New York Times yesterday.

    The graphics can be accessed here (which also has a link to a related story):
    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/16/science/plume-graphic.html

    What this really is a model produced by Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, an arm of the United Nations in Vienna. Basically it shows wind flows over the Pacific. The test ban group actually has 60 stations which they routinely use to monitor for radiation spikes in support of the worldwide ban on nuclear arms testing.

    Quite sensibly, in my opinion, the test ban group turned down a request for release of this for publication by the NYT, who then acquired it from other sources.

    Key anti-points, which at least the NYT took care to highlight:
    The forecast does not show actual levels of radiation
    Health and nuclear experts emphasize that any plume will be diluted as it travels and, at worst, would have extremely minor health consequences in the United States.

    Relative levels of radiation, in arbitrary units
    HOW DOES THE BRAIN WORK?   It appears that that clouds of radioactive material are headed in our direction. Will typical viewers see “radiation”and be concerned or stop to contemplate what “arbitrary units” might be? I believe that this will feed into a “get your iodide tablets now” mindset.

    In my opinion, the psychology of the graphics overpowers the science behind the information.

  • Pascvaks

    Ahhhhhhh…  “pots and kettles calling each other black”, the world is a wonderful, beautiful place to live if you stay out of earshot of the kitchen more than not.  Noise polution is more to be feared than any other manmade phenom.

  • Gaythia

    Here is an article from the Santa Cruz Sentinal newspaper that cites concerns raised by members of the public who have seen the plume model I mention in #11 above:
    http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_17642139

    “Meanwhile, seeking to reassure worried Californians, state health officials said Thursday that increased radioactivity levels had not been detected in the state — and they disputed a computer model, widely publicized early Thursday, that projected a threatening plume of contamination was crossing the Pacific and would arrive today in California.

    In a Thursday afternoon press conference, state health director Backer dismissed forecasts from the U.N.-based Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization of a plume arriving along the coast by today, saying that rain and shifting winds makes such precision impossible. ”

    In my opinion, even the state health director quoted above is not accurately reporting what the model actually says, ie, that: “The forecast does not show actual levels of radiation” Basically it shows wind flows over the Pacific.
     

  • DaveJR

    I’ve see a few of these Limbaugh posts here but I’ve never been motivated to actually see what the fuss was all about, so this is the interpretation of an outsider to Limbaugh and US politics and culture (British).

    First part is ridiculing Sawyer for sounding highly surprised she found recycling in a refugee camp.

    2:15
    “She sounds like she hadn’t seen her husband for 6 months”

    Followed shortly by:
    “These people are in the midst of earthquake devastation and the credit they are getting is for recycling.”

    The words clearly speak for themselves IMO. I don’t know how this could be interpreted any other way without prejudgement. The laughter is because of the reaction and the focus.

    The prius stuff:

    The gist of this section seems to be that Mother Nature just screwed over people who are sitting in refugee camps and still recycling. The birth place of the Prius. Environmentally friendly. One of the least places deserving of attracting the wrath of mother nature. This is what I call irony. It isn’t laughing at the refugees, it is laughing at the irony of an apparently environmentally friendly culture being smashed by the environment.

    Anyway, that’s just the interpretation of an outsider, but I’ll look more closely at future Limbaugh threads to see how I would interpret them compared to you!

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Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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