The Three Amigos and Other Updates

Published: January 3, 2011

By Jim Lichtman
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After closely following these commentaries and reading the results of the survey, Discordant Voices, I’m sure you’re all asking… “So, where’s the promised book, Jim?”

While I was hoping the e-book– an ethical examination of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter – would be ready this past fall, I’m now looking at a March release date. Besides making sure that all the quotes are properly sourced, I’ve spent additional time digesting new information including Glenn Beck’s book and supplementary movie Broke. (And it wasn’t easy. I’ve gone through about six boxes of Tums and the theater doesn’t stock antacids.)

The book’s purpose is to make a concise and compelling case against what I call the Holy Trinity of Demagoguery – and why I believe these three to be the most divisive and dangerous. Along with chapters on each, there will be expanded analysis of the survey, as well as chapters on Edward R. Murrow, ‘30s demagogue Charles Coughlin and ‘60s provocateur Joe Pyne.

What follows are excerpts from chapters on Limbaugh and Beck.

Limbaugh –

“Not long ago I was invited to an impromptu dinner for eight and found myself seated next to someone I’d never met.  After everyone ordered, the gentleman and I began to exchange a few words.  In situations where I am unfamiliar with others, I listen, mostly.  I discovered that the man next to me comes from the financial sector, is recently retired, and sat on the board of a very prominent corporation.

“The table conversation covered a variety of current events from the economy (he came off intelligent and well-informed), to the Boston Red Sox (we’re both big fans), to the BP crisis in the Gulf – about which this same man volunteered the following:

“‘Yup, just like Rush predicted, the oil in the Gulf is breaking up due to the hurricane. There’s not much left; no long-term damage.’

“On his radio show, Limbaugh called, what has been described by experts as the greatest oil disaster in U.S. history ‘a leak.’

“Needless to say, I was interested to know why this savvy financial guy, a man who could impart the specifics on any number of economic indicators, seemed to believe in Rush Limbaugh’s oil disbursement and oceanographic expertise.

“‘Do you listen to Rush often?’ I asked.

“‘I won’t deliberately sit by the radio,’ he said, ‘but generally, yes.’

“And here’s the real question for me:  ‘Do you believe Rush Limbaugh’s commentary is factually correct?’

‘Well,’ he answered, ‘if he were wrong there’d be a list of it somewhere, wouldn’t there?’

“‘As a matter of fact,’ I said, ‘there is,’ and offered a couple of resources.

“At that moment, you’d think I just told him that the Red Sox’sDavid Big Papi Ortiz had just been caught gambling on baseball, using steroids and cheating on his wife… all in the same week!

“In an age of hyper-opinion media, Rush Limbaugh is the Big Papi of right-wing talk.  Outsized, bombastic and always in control, Limbaugh is quite literally, the 800 lb. gorilla of radio with a listening audience of somewhere between 15 – 20 million each week all of whom wait – apparently with baited breath – for the next gospel from a man who’s self-confidence Jesus Christ would esteem.

“For three hours a day, five days a week, Rush Hudson Limbaugh III holds forth with ‘half my brain tied behind my back just to make it fair.’

“Lucky for us.”


“After plunking down $18, I watched Glenn Beck’s Broke: Restarting the Engine of America at my local theater.

“Broke was filmed, our affable host tells us, in front of a packed 3,000 seat theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The head count in the 2,000-plus seat theater where I saw the film was 21(counting theater staff).

“Beck walks on-stage to loud, kinetic applause from his Pittsburgh fans.  Everyone in my theater held their applause, until he walks over to introduce a classic 1965 Mustang, (my group applauds the Mustang).

“The car is a metaphor for the problems facing America. Back in the good old days, Professor Beck explains, an individual could pop the hood, spot the trouble and fix it themselves. Today’s engines are sealed preventing the individual from doing anything except rely on experts; ‘experts,’ Beck points out, who got us into much of this mess to begin with.

“In one of many chalkboard chats, Professor Beck, with the help of organizational leadership expert David Buckner, points out the startling fact that interest on the federal debt amounts to $32 billion per month. In one attention-grabber, Beck shows us how far we’ve come in a ‘5000 year leap,’ of technology by drawing a flat line on a chalk board that rises dramatically at one end of the board. Beck then mounts a portable lift behind the chalkboard, and, carrying a long red tape, continues to elevate the tape à la Al Gore from his Inconvenient Truthenvironment movie.

“So what are Beck’s solutions to America’s problems?

“‘One, Americans must accept what is coming… Let go of the things we feel entitled to, like MedicareSocial Security, healthcare, etc.’ And ‘Two, we must have ‘firm reliance on Divine Providence’ and ‘mutually pledge our lives, fortunes, and sacred honor’ to protecting our republic.’

“That’s it.

“Beck presents a dazzling array of facts, charts and statistics meant to overpower and alarm.  And they do! The debt we’ve amassed is staggering and overwhelming. I’m just not convinced that someone who screams, shouts, jokes and nearly cries makes the kind of credible and compelling case necessary to tackle the issues we face.”

Other Updates 

As of this writing, I will be in the wilds of New Hampshire for two weeks in conversation with a group of very smart, equally engaged students about ethics. While I hope to be posting from the road, I’m not sure I’ll have much time.

However, these commentaries will return to a regular schedule by January 17th. Until then enjoy the New Year!


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