Extreme right US radio host Rush Limbaugh was last week pushed out of a prospective ownership group aiming to buy National Football League team the St. Louis Rams. Several black players, recalling Limbaugh’s hateful on-air race-related outbursts, said they’d never sign for a team that counted him as a part-owner. Other team owners, none of them exactly renowned for their social radicalism, balked at the idea. The league itself distanced itself from the bid, citing Limbaugh’s “controversial” remarks. And finally the bidding group’s lead investor, Dave Checketts, dropped Limbaugh, euphemistically calling him “a complication and a distraction.”
Limbaugh knew exactly where to lay the blame for all this. “This is about the ongoing effort by the left in this country,” he said, “wherever you find them, in the media, in the Democratic Party, or wherever, to destroy conservatism, to prevent the mainstreaming of anyone who is prominent as a conservative. Therefore, this is about the future of the United States of America and what kind of country we’re going to have.”
I’d have nothing against a future where conservatism is destroyed. It will be a truly wonderful thing for the vast majority of the world. However, the idea that the Democratic Party or the media in their current forms could directly bring this about is as delusional as most of Limbaugh’s twisted caterwauling. The ironic thing for raving Rush is that conservatism is far more capable than either of the above two institutions at destroying itself. The NFL probably does not care about civil rights, as such. But it does care about protecting its image, and it really, really does care about losing money. The threat of a sponsors’ or a consumer boycott is easily enough to slap the league into a decent stance on facing down bigotry.
There was a similar case in the UK last week, when Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir wrote that the death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately in Mallorca should not have been classified as down to “natural” causes, as stated in the coroner’s verdict (he died of heart failure), because his death followed a night on the town with his husband, they may have been smoking cannabis, and they had invited a third man back home with them. The outraged reader reaction to this unfounded, bilious, and entirely unnecessary opinionating caused several companies to pull their advertising from the Mail’s website.
In years past, the Mail would have taken pride and delight in provoking and offending so many people. Nowadays, immediate commercial pressure can force them into thinking again when they run such naked bilge. So even if odious, poison-pushing wasters like Moir and Limbaugh don’t change their views, and bleat in their next six columns or broadcasts that they’ve been deprived of their freedom to stoke the fears and prejudices of little-minded morons, at least the world won’t have to bear the publicised contents of their sickened minds.
It’s not exactly change wrung through storming the corridors of power, as visualised by generations of fist-clenching idealists. Rather it’s a lesser radicalism achieved through the exploitation of capitalism’s sensitive side, born of the belated realisation among corporations that (big surprise here), black people, gay people and left-leaning people all have money too, and they can all choose where to spend it. But before business realised that bigotry’s bad, it took years of lobbying by those heinous forces of idealism – the ones Rush probably thinks are out to destroy him - to illustrate why unfounded hatred on the grounds of gender, race or sexuality is nowadays unacceptable to those of us in the quiet majority too old and comfortable to storm the barricades, but with a molecule of power in our pockets.