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Limbaugh vs. the Classics

November 7, 2011

In case you had any lingering doubt that Rush Limbaugh makes a good charlatan’s living espousing half-baked pseudo-ideology slyly disguised as principled conservative philosophy, the winning radio host informs us that he doesn’t know what Classical Studies is, but he’s sure it’s a clever socialist plot.  His faux-ignorant blather about the uselessness and insidiousness of studying Greek, Latin, Cicero, Plato, Aristotle, Homer, Virgil, the Bible—you know, the bulwarks of Western Civilization that any conservative worth his salt should have an interest in conserving—reveals that he has no regard for the origin and history of our ideas, for the development of the intellect, or for conservatism.  Rod Dreher gets it: “If Limbaugh were any kind of serious conservative, he would be trying to figure out how we can make Classics majors employable by fostering an appreciation for the Classics — this, as a way to restore a love for and knowledge of the cultural foundations of Western civilization, as a shoring up of our cultural defenses against what Russell Kirk called ‘chaos and old night.’”

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  1. November 7, 2011 2:31 pm

    I see Limbaugh’s point. Why would a racist drug-addled libertinous hedonistic lying nihilist need a classical education?

  2. J. Pickett permalink
    November 7, 2011 2:35 pm

    That’s why I am a conservative who never listens to Limbaugh. I tried a few times years ago but he is ignorant and his meaningless statements were boring.

  3. November 7, 2011 2:55 pm

    Amen Kyle.

  4. Rodak permalink
    November 7, 2011 3:31 pm

    Libertarian conservatism is anti-intellectual, and always has been. People whose main focus is on making money, while consolidating power, have no use for, and no appreciation of, abstract ideas.

    Limbaugh and his ilk are very consciously, very cynically, leading the under-educated masses in directions which will cause them to vote against their own best interests, even as they are being bled dry by their overlords through legislation enacted by the politicians for whom they vote, all of whom are acting as hired agents for the plutocrats behind the scenes.
    Limbaugh is not “ignorant.” He knows precisely what he is doing, and he does it very well.

    In its basic tenets, what passes for conservatism today is in direct contradiction to the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no other way to say it: it is evil.

    Does Satan allow a little good into mix (e.g. pro-life promises)? Certainly he does. Satan isn’t stupid, either. The bleating merinos who listen to Rush Limbaugh and political hacks and do their bidding in the polling place are the stupid ones.

  5. Jimmy Mac permalink
    November 7, 2011 3:53 pm

    In America today, woeful ignorance pays very, very well.

  6. Mark Gordon permalink
    November 7, 2011 4:13 pm

    There is nothing even remotely “conservative” about Rush Limbaugh, at least in the traditional American sense of that word. He’s a neo-Wilsonian on foreign policy and a Randian on economic policy. The fact that he doesn’t understand the distinction is no surprise. The fact that his millions of listeners don’t understand it is a shame.

    • Rodak permalink
      November 7, 2011 4:26 pm

      I think it’s a mistake to assume that Limbaugh “doesn’t understand the distinction.” There no longer is any distinction. Ayn Rand’s heyday was over 50 years ago, and her triumph is nearly complete.
      If Rush Limbaugh is not “conservative,” what label should be applied to him? If you suggest “libertarian,” I will suggest that libertarianism is only the leftwing of contemporary conservatism. Rand had equal contempt for the professor, the priest, and the politican–and so do the plutocrats who give Limbaugh his scripts.

      • Mark Gordon permalink
        November 7, 2011 5:07 pm


        We don’t disagree, and you are quite right that the term “conservative” has been successfully hijacked by these people, with Limbaugh in the vanguard. But the term has an older provenance that is still worthwhile. Let’s not forget that as late as the early 1980’s, William F. Buckley was still a bitter foe of Rand, writing that “her desiccated philosophy’s conclusive incompatibility with the conservative’s emphasis on transcendence, intellectual and moral.” I remind you that I am not a conservative, and so my purpose isn’t to defend conservatism per se, but the notion of Rush Limbaugh as the inheritor of an intellectual tradition that stretches back to Edmund Burke, and which includes Richard Hooker, Michael Oakeshott, Richard Weaver, Russell Kirk, and others is preposterous.

  7. November 7, 2011 4:28 pm

    My real issue is that so many people, many of them educated, actually think that Limbaugh possesses some form of the truth. My brother and I cannot even discuss him – it is very sad that a man as seemingly bright as my own brother, thinks that Limbaugh is speaking the truth.

    Add to that the disenfranchised angry masses that listen, and it is just all the more reason to disdain truth. So very sad and very dangerous as well.

  8. November 7, 2011 4:44 pm

    It is quite clear, Rush is looking to create trade schools and to silence education. Then people won’t know history (classical studies) and won’t be able to confront him with his misrepresentation of history.

    I love how he plays up “knowledge” when he wants to sell something, even if the “knowledge” is something like history, which he says isn’t practical! I also love how he is pushing the transformation of the education system to its utter destruction- the notion that one studies for a degree as a kind of job training. It used to be that one who had a degree was shown as capable of being trained and they would be taken and trained (with pay). Now it is “be useful to us.” Slavery anyone?

  9. Dan permalink
    November 7, 2011 4:44 pm

    Like it or not, he does have a point. There are certain thing in which you pursue an education for the sake of the education, classical studies being one of them. There is a lot of value in said education from a personal and humanistic viewpoint, but that value does not translate to employability. If you’re looking for a job, get a tech school diploma or an MBA. Both of those will leave you spiritually and intellectually starved, but you’ll get what you set out for.

    You can’t expect to have your cake and eat it too.

    • November 7, 2011 4:59 pm


      If that was actually his point, then I agree with you: You study Liberal Arts for its own sake, not for the sake of employability. That is in fact what makes it “liberal”.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      November 7, 2011 5:09 pm

      Except that wasn’t really his point. Listen to the segment. His point was that Classics are worthless in themselves and a source of leftist subversion.

      • Rodak permalink
        November 7, 2011 6:10 pm

        @Mark Gordon–The core problem is that so many Americans–and not only ditto-heads–have been convinced that “leftist” and “subversive” are synonymous; they are not.

      • Dan permalink
        November 7, 2011 6:20 pm

        I think that was a tangent rather than his primary point. Although it’s hard to cut through the incoherence to determine what is a tangent and what isn’t.

        In any case, even if his other point is looney tunes, his point on this is still reasonable.

      • November 7, 2011 6:54 pm

        Mark writes, “His point was that Classics are worthless in themselves and a source of leftist subversion.”

        Let me just suggest that Rush’s chain of reasoning appears to be the following:

        1. The OWS protesters are complaining that they are in debt for college and their degrees are worthless.

        2. Rush says, well what do you expect when you major in Classical Studies. That kind of degree is not worth much in the workplace.

        3. He goes on to suggest that leftists and Socialists, who predominate in higher education, like to encourage people to get worthless degrees (in terms of employability). That way they will be unable to support themselves and will demand that the government take care of them.

        4. He also suggests that a degree in Classics is worthless in itself, but for the most part, the reason for that is that it’s an entirely speculative (as opposed to practical) discipline, and therefore doesn’t prepare you to be able to support yourself.

        In the context of the OWS protesters, who primarily are protesting the state of the economy, Rush’s criticism is relevant: He thinks a lot of unemployed people would be better off — economically — if they studied something more practical than the Classics.

        To the extent that he’s saying a degree in Classical Studies is worthless in every way, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But to the extent that he’s focusing on the value of a Classics degree in today’s economy, he has a point: People who major in the Classics should understand that such a degree is of limited employment value.

      • Mark Gordon permalink
        November 7, 2011 10:50 pm

        @Rodak, I agree. Terms like “leftist,” “socialist,” etc. are nothng but symbols to Rush and his minions.

        @Agellius. First, it was an interview with one protester that Rush used as an excuse to indict Classics as a major. He doesn’t know any more than you or I know what kind of degrees the OWS protesters have, but they certainly don’t all have Classics or other “worthless” degrees. Second, I know plenty of college graduates with “practical” degrees who are a.) saddled by enormous debts; and b.) can’t get jobs. Heck, the waitress at my favorite breakfast place has a degree in accounting, just the kind of major someone like Limbaugh should appreciate. But he’s too busy making excuses for the status quo and creating a straw man out of OWS protesters to explore why she can’t get a job. Third, Limbaugh is a college dropout disc jockey. His ideas on the relative value of one degree or another are worthless. Fourth, it is precisely the soulless system Limbaugh cheerleads that makes well-educated young people unemployable in this economy.

        As for the assertion that “leftists and Socialists” predominate in higher education. Prove it. Chris Hedges has shown that the American education establishment is every bit as dependent on the corporate state as the banks. What Limbaugh means is that academics vote largely Democratic, which only proves that they are liberal. But that’s a far cry from being “leftist and Socialist.”

  10. David E permalink
    November 7, 2011 5:23 pm

    I have always thought that Limbaugh was was a blowhard, but I will credit him with making “conservatism” a powerful force in the media. When I was growing up in the sixties, the media was 100% leftist. A young person could not be a conservative back then because you barely knew that conservatism existed.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      November 7, 2011 11:16 pm

      Yeah, Howard K. Smith and Walter Cronkite were real wild-eyed leftists. With all due respect, David, can you distinguish a liberal from a leftist, or genuine conservatism from the faux conservatism of Rush Limbaugh?

      Does Rush Limbaugh represent faith and family, a traditional and harmonious social order, a non-interventionist foreign policy, and genuinely limited government? Please.

      • David E permalink
        November 8, 2011 10:02 pm

        My limited point was that TV journalism back then consisted mostly of Kennedy-Johnson liberals. Aside from Wm F. Buckley (a rather eccentric figure), I can’t think of a single conservative voice, not even as a token. Can you? Conservatism was The Stupid Party. Just think of Barry Goldwater and William Miller. Among college students, conservatism was not on the radar screen, unless you were a devotee of Buckley, and they tended to keep a low profile. Limbaugh changed all that. He gave voice to the essential conservatism of the American people. And by the way, Cronkite was a typical liberal of that era, although many of the “silent majority” respected old Uncle Walter.

    • Rodak permalink
      November 8, 2011 5:13 am

      With all due respect, David E., That is a complete crock. I was a student at the University of Michigan during the period 1965-1969–the very height of the “leftist” ascendency. The University of Michigan — in the environs of which the (*gasp*) SDS was founded and staffed. The dreaded Bill Ayers was famously there during part of that time. I even met him once, in a social situation. And I can assure that at no point during that period were more of the students “leftists” than were normal, run-of-the-mill, moderate-to-conservative, mid-western, white bread, middle-class pyramid climbers. I would bet my mortgage on the proposition that there were more Young Republicans on campus in those days than there were students who had ever heard of SDS, much less belonged to it. I ask you–who got elected POTUS in 1968? It certainly wasn’t a “leftist.” People who believe what you have just stated have bought the DISINFORMATION and HISTORICAL REVISIONISM of propagandists for the oligarchy, lock, stock and barrel. The true “left” has never been more than a fringe of the political process in this country. And a liberal is not a “leftist.” For the opinion of true leftists concerning liberals, go on YouTube and find a Phil Ochs song called “Love Me, I’m a Liberal.” It will be instuctive. (Although not of anything you can sell on the radio.)

      • David E permalink
        November 8, 2011 10:20 pm

        As I said above, my point was that the Kennedy-Johnson liberal TV media had a monopoly on the political conversation back then. Can you name me one conservative media voice from that era? Nixon was elected in 1968 because the American people perceived, through the media, that the country was in turmoil – both domestically and in Vietnam. Oh, one more thing: Not interested in Phil Ochs.

    • Darwin permalink
      November 8, 2011 8:39 am

      Though at the same time, the idea that academia as a profession is far to the left of the American mainstream is not founded on nothing. Indeed, in reference to Rodak’s point above, my friends who are tenured academics tell me that faculties now tend to be rather to the left of where faculties were 30-40 years ago.

      Certainly, you won’t find a majority or even a large minority of real socialists and Marxists amoung university faculty — but that you can reliably find a few real Marxists at a typical university (the English department is often one of the more congenial atmospheres for that, as compared to political science, economics, or history) and a large number of people who are okay with that underlines how far out of the mainstream tenured faculty often are in ideology. One can consider that good, bad or indifferent, but denying that it’s the case seems a bit odd.

  11. November 8, 2011 8:16 am

    Not to defend what Limbaugh said in this particular instance, but any of us who ad libbed on the air for 3 hours at at a time would end up saying dozens of stupid things every day.

    • Rodak permalink
      November 8, 2011 12:01 pm

      @Darwin–Many, probably most, of them are liberals–at least when they’re young. Very, very few are now, or ever were, true Marxists. I grew up the son of a faculty person in a university town, where nearly all of my friends’ parents were faculty couples. I live and work on a college campus now. I’ve had lifelong exposure to academia, so I’m not getting this from watching Wolf Blitzer.

      • Kurt permalink
        November 8, 2011 1:20 pm

        My freshman year at college, they greatest culture shock (for them and me) was meeting upper middle class Republican students who had never met a kid from a working class family. Hutus and Bantus were as much part of their world as the children of craftsmen or factory workers.

        I imagine they also found some parts of the faculty outside their realm of experiences as well, but to a lesser degree.

  12. M.Z. permalink
    November 8, 2011 8:53 am

    The sweet irony is that Rush Limbaugh, assuming he is honest which for the most part I think he is, would not advise anyone to go to broadcast school and into radio, at least if they wanted to make money in it. Likewise, Dreher has written countless times about the folly of going into journalism and writing. In other places, I read lamentations about going into law. I have written plenty about the lack of opportunities in computer science. The Internet is strewn with people warning others about getting doctorates. What one learns if one reads long enough is that one should just become content to be poor and not fight it; one learns if there is a meritocracy it will find you. If it hasn’t found you, then you just don’t have a whole lot of merit. This all wouldn’t be so bad if there wasn’t this meme out there that the ticket out of poverty is to work hard, as if those in the meritocracy were the only ones to have figured this out.

  13. Brian Martin permalink
    November 8, 2011 10:22 am

    There is one thing that is very similar among the talking heads like Limbaugh and his peers on the right, and Big Red Ed Schultz and his fellow travelers on the left…They trade in fear. They are wonderfully adept at using the fears of otherwise intelligent people and lead them down the paths of closed minded knee jerk reactionism. Fear for your jobs because of the economy? pick your scapegoat… (Limbaugh…It’s the hoards of unwashed illegal aliens flooding the country and taking jobs) or (Schultz…It’s the evil corporations busting unions and screwing average folks). There is another common denominator…these people’s livelihood depends on stoking people’s fear and anger….otherwise they wouldn’t have jobs.

    • Rodak permalink
      November 8, 2011 12:07 pm

      Do you watch Rachel Maddow? She smart as hell, and unlike most of the rest of them, she does her homework. When she says something, she’s got it well-referenced. And she is always well-prepared to debate anybody with a dissenting point of view, fairly and factually. There is nobody comparable to her on the right; and few on the left.

      • Kurt permalink
        November 8, 2011 1:06 pm

        But she is a big ole Lesbanian. And I’m pretty sure people from Lesbaniastan are Muslim terrorists against American exceptionalism. At least I think I heard that on Rush’s show. Or maybe it was somewhere else. I dunno.

  14. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    November 8, 2011 12:26 pm


    I couldn’t agree with you more. The popularity of this completely horrible human being is always proof to me internally that my own cultural conservatism is sane, and that what is called “conservatism” in this culture is, paradoxically mostly pure cultural decadence. In addition where I work there is a bust similar to your picture. As I sit there reading and writing, I often stare at it, and feel happy, in addition to more and more confirmed in my cultural convictions.

  15. Anne permalink
    November 11, 2011 2:53 am

    Unfortunately, I think much of academia has been encouraging students to pursue undergraduate degrees that lead primarily to post-graduate studies, but I doubt humanist ideals of a classical education have much to do with it; I think the goal is revenue, i.e., ongoing support for those ubiquitous capital campaigns. But that’s just a personal observation.

    Question for Limbaugh: Don’t most Tea Partiers have college degrees? Did any you know study history?


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