Urine indicator dye, brought to mainstream attention by Adam Sandler’s film, Grown Ups, is a compound which reacts to pee, used in pools to indicate who is relieving themselves. Unlike Rush Limbaugh’s death, this substance is not real. But the two are similar.
On February 17, Rush Limbaugh died at the age of 70 from lung cancer. His impact was undeniable, like 9/11 or the advent of 4chan. People of all political persuasions agree Limbaugh forever changed talk radio. Where the disagreement lies, in whether he changed it for good.
Limbaugh laid the groundwork for rightwing audio shitposters; he was like Alex Jones with a mood stabilizer. His full-throated attacks on minorities, democrats, and rich coastal elites, while being a rich coastal elite, were a framework that President Trump followed to the letter. Trump gave the radio host the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Like Trump, Limbaugh didn’t stand for anything as much as he stood against his enemies, with some of his most notable bits include mocking people who died from AIDS, wondering why he can’t say the n-word (then saying it), smearing Black Lives Matter as a group of terrorists, and most recently, downplaying the Capitol riots.
Like the urine indicator dye, Limbaugh’s death activated a steady stream of conservatives who bravely stood up to applaud the dead man, not so much for his character, but his contributions to the modern conservative project, as if his death triggered a dog slide whistle. It’s like one of racism’s brand ambassadors died, and all the downstream affiliates have an obligation, by contract, to say something positive about the guy.
Larry the Cable Guy, the voice of Mater in Pixar’s Cars, waxed nostalgic about the radio host. Glenn Beck made the baseless claim that Limbaugh ascended to heaven. America’s curious and lovable war criminal George W. Bush released a statement to note the passing of his friend, noting his “love of sports and rock and roll.” Conservatives of all sizes, from Ben Shapiro to Donald Trump, expressed their respect for Limbaugh, though Trump spent most of his Fox News hit, remarkably, doing spoken word tweets about his election theories. Even conservative comedy stronghold, The Babylon Bee, penned some of its signature hard-hitting satire that the Left, in its zest for anti-racism, did a hypocrisy by tap dancing on the soft mud of a bigot’s grave. It’s not necessarily surprising, but notable. Rush Limbaugh was a conduit for “unpalatable” beliefs, in the same way Donald Trump is applauded for his ability to “tell it like it is.”
Telling it like it is, during a time of darkness and hardship, one could argue, was the most appropriate way to Rush Limbaugh tribute true Rushbo style, and many treated the news of his death like a joke writing prompt. Huffington Post ran his obituary, concisely and accurately describing the deceased as “Bigoted King of Talk Radio.” The obituary details Limbaugh’s career; both the positives that made him the king of talk radio, and the myriad views which made him a bigot.
Defector, a new media company, ran a double byline Point/Counterpoint, in which one author made the case that “Rush Limbaugh Was A Vile Motherfucker” while the other countered with, “I Agree, He Was A Piss Man And The World Is Better For His Death.” Both sides made valid points. Ron Perlman, the actor who played HellBoy, claimed Limbaugh would join his character. These responses are a more fitting tribute for a man who spent his time on earth disparaging dead people, as The Daily Beast noted in its Limbaugh death coverage.
It will be helpful in the future to reflect on who felt it appropriate to grant a solemn moment to mourn a bigoted megaphone. If conservatives can defend Ted Cruz’s vacation to Cancun the following day, maybe none of this means anything. If there is any solace to be taken in these inconsistent actions, it is that Rush Limbaugh is not here to see it, because he died.