The Slippery Slope of the Rush Limbaugh Boycott

Rush Limbaugh has been losing advertisers at a ferocious clip ever since his slut/prostitute comments regarding Sandra Fluke, and ThinkProgress reports today that the exodus has now become a full-scale rout: reports that Premiere Networks, which syndicates the Rush Limbaugh show, told its affiliate radio stations that they are suspending national advertising for two weeks. Rush Limbaugh is normally provided to affiliates in exchange for running several minutes of national advertisements provided by Premiere each hour. These ads are called “barter spots.” These spots are how Premiere makes its money off of Rush Limbaugh and other shows it syndicates.

But without explanation, Premiere has supended these national advertisements for two weeks. calls the move “unusual.” The development suggests that Rush Limbaugh’s incessant sexist attacks on Sandra Fluke have caused severe damage to the show.

I’m struggling about what to think of all this. On the one hand, obviously I’m pleased — and bleating from the right about liberal hypocrisy just doesn’t wash. Misogyny soaks our culture everywhere, and plenty of lefties have been guilty of it too. But Limbaugh’s no comedian. He’s no B-lister. And these weren’t heat-of-the-moment comments. He made them coolly and deliberately, and then kept up the attacks for three straight days. He went way beyond the pale here, and he deserves to get hit back hard for it.

And yet….there’s an obvious slippery slope here. Lots of advertisers already shy away from political shows of every stripe, and this episode could begin to drive them all away. Why take the chance, even on a host who doesn’t usually cause national outrage? “Usually” isn’t never, after all, and in any case, you never know what a guest is going to say. Better to stick with local blowhards and self-help shows.

Limbaugh is getting what he finally deserves. I couldn’t be happier about it. I just hope that down the road this doesn’t turn into a preemptive boycott of every political gabber out there who has even the smallest chance of ever producing any national blowback. That runs the risk of turning every show into a bland marshmallow. It wouldn’t make the world a better place.