Years ago I pegged Rush Limbaugh as a sociopath–what the DSM-IV of my college days referred to as “antisocial personality disorder.” Since that time I haven’t seen or heard anything from him which has caused me to reconsider that diagnosis.
Obviously I don’t have the credentials to actually diagnose someone with a mental disorder. And even if I did, I surely would not do so without any personal contact or at least psychological testing data. But this isn’t a real diagnosis. It’s an educated guess.
So anyway, yeah: total sociopath. As in, I don’t believe he has any empathy for others. Not for his listeners, whom he knowingly misinforms and manipulates. Not for the targets of his hateful tirades. And surely not for the America whose politics he has coarsened and poisoned for so many years. He does it for money, I assume, and perhaps fame. And anyone who would knowingly hurt so many people, so often and for so long–and do it just for money–well, such a person has a pathological lack of empathy in my estimation. He’s Hannibal Lecter–without the murder and cannibalism.
But this actually helps me understand Rush a bit better than some other people seem to. First, and most helpful of all, I don’t have to theorize that he believes the things he says. He may believe them or not (I suspect often not), but it’s irrelevant. If being untruthful will bring in the paycheck, he’ll do it. Lacking remorse for the consequences of his lies, why not? This is the guy who once declared it a fact that there were more trees in America today than there were when Columbus landed. He’s far too smart to actually believe that kind of nonsense. I submit to you that he simply lied and that he does not care.
I also don’t have to theorize that his goal is to assist the cause of political conservatism or the Republican party. Take the recent unpleasantness. Surely every thinking Republican will admit that sexist tirades against college students don’t really help elect any Republicans. So why would Rush do this? Perhaps he believes he’s helping but is mistaken? That just doesn’t pass the sniff test. Try this explanation on for size: He doesn’t care.
I sort of feel bad for the people who listen approvingly to his show. In world where they feel threatened from so many different sources–the government, Democrats, ethnic minorities, poor people, foreigners, liberals, scientists, feminists, immigrants–the person who’s really screwing them is their ol’ pal Rush.
On the other hand, they must go to Rush to get their Two-Minutes-Hate itch scratched because that’s the kind of people they are: Frightened, suspicious and judgmental. Fuck ‘em, I guess.