THE BLOG
03/20/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Don't Boycott Rush Limbaugh

If you ask Ditto Heads, Republicans or just casual fans why they like Rush Limbaugh their answer is always the same: because liberals hate him.

No, "I admire his humanity." Not, "I like his high moral standing in the community." Nor, "He inspired me to get off drugs/lose weight/have a family/find true love."

No if you ask someone who likes Rush Limbaugh why they like him it's solely because he makes liberals nuts. Some will say it's because they think Rush is funny; he's funny to those who love to see liberals go nuts.

It's a political theater show: The warm-up act is Rush blowing hard into his syndicated microphone. There's the cameo by people who agree with everything he says, just because he says it. But the main event is people reacting to Rush. Together it's a hyper-partisan spectacle and Rush is being the producer solely by setting the tone.

"Limbaugh wants Obama to fail!" was a headline for two weeks last winter. It was talked about, denounced, analyzed, discussed, pondered, considered and dismissed in and around the media. In doing so this sound bite, a flippant comment made by a jock paid to shock was repeated a million times. So instead of maybe one million* disinterested people or so having their familiar day-time drone of Rush's in-studio spit-cast on in the background, now every man, woman and child knows what he said about the freshly sworn-in Barack Obama. Rush's proclamations suddenly got an exponentially larger audience than they would have otherwise.

All because what he said was offensive: It resonated with our lower nature and some of us are ashamed of that. When we lose, we secretly want the winner to suffer.

Rush is an agitator. That's what his role has been for more than 20 years. He's not a reporter, he's not a politician nor is he a strategist. He just says horrible stuff and regular people, liberals and the media get whipped up and therefore more people hear him.

He's also, like most of this current crop of conservatives, a contrarian. So whatever the current Democratic president is for, he has to be against. Obama is for improving the country's health care system, Rush is for the opposite. Obama is for repairing our financial system, Rush is for the opposite. Obama is for American's donating to Haiti, Rush is for the opposite. Remember when Rush was for everything President Bush was for? Neither does anyone else.

So since Rush, in the wake of the Haitian earthquake, before the bodies were cold, before the death toll was counted, before the aid could land, decided to bloviate "Obama will use Haiti to boost credibility with light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country." This seems to be a tipping point and there have been calls by liberals to boycott Rush Limbaugh.

Now I believe in Free Speech, protected speech. Therefore I believe in protecting hate speech. Even stupid speech. Even outrageous and poorly timed speech. It doesn't mean I'm for corporate sponsored hate speech, which Rush Limbaugh is. He has the right for the government not to silence him, but not the right to have companies financially support his views.

So you'd think I'd be all for a boycott of Rush Limbaugh. No. No I am not. Here's why: you can't boycott something you're not patronizing. So if you're not listening to Rush's show, then you have no leverage in a boycott. There was a boycott of Glenn Back after he called Obama a racist last year. Yes, Beck lost from some estimates 98 sponsors. But now his ratings are higher than ever and lack of sponsors or not, he's still on the air. Did the boycott backfire? Yes.

Consider this: if a group of neocons wanted to boycott Rachel Maddow, everyone in the country would watch her show. If she managed to irritate a group enough to have them call her sponsors, her platform would swell.

The answer is to ignore Rush Limbaugh. Ignore him. Just stop being outraged by the stuff he says. You're not going to change his dwindling fan base. He doesn't command a voter bloc (remember when he asked his listeners to get Hillary the nomination?). If you disagree with Rush, you're the audience that must walk away. We can leave ignorant and racist comments unchecked if it means a smaller broadcast of said comments. If the only reason his fans love him is because he makes liberals nuts, liberals have their job clearly laid out for them.

He has the right to say things and I have the right to not repeat them. Besides, Rush hates tolerance. What a more perfect revenge.

*His current ratings are reported at 13.5 million a week. At 15 hours a week of yammering, that's less than one million an hour, average listening. But actual data of radio ratings are kept vague on purpose.

This piece originally appeared on True/Slant.