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Rush Limbaugh: A Tweet or Twit?

Monday, March 19, 2012

The radio industry doesn't quite realize the firestorm raging outside of the Rush Limbaugh show, which is protected by caller filtering and dump buttons. As this story continues to build in social media, radio trades are either dropping the story or presenting it in ways that minimize damages. How nice to be confined to edited information. It limits your scope of knowledge, and makes all seem well in a not-so-well world.

On Thursday of last week Rush Limbaugh may have made his worst decision yet.

"Yes, there are the Rush Limbaugh fans. Hilter had his too in the beginning." Last week Rush Limbaugh decided that he needed to assert himself via Twitter. The problem, though, is he's moved into a world where there is no controlling the message. You'd think he learned with the Rush Limbaugh Facebook page.

Before discussing Limbaugh's activation of his Twitter account, let's view what happened at Facebook, as it demonstrates this loss of control. I won't run down the long list of Dittohead comments (read them here). As you'd expect, they are supportive. Instead, let's take a look at some of the detractors' comments on Facebook; for the first time, they are getting a stage next to the man himself.

Charley Chaney is "Lies made by Rush Limbaugh," a fairly funny posting
Brendan Zarem - Is it just me or did you just take the extremely racist
and extremely unified perspective in the same paragraph?
Campbell Shannon - Really you're quoting Rush now? please stop he is toxic,
the most unChristain person in america...
Elizabeth V. McDowell - How can any woman listen to Rush when he is such
an obvious misogynist?
arl Abend - Everything he says is a lie-nothing new!
Arnoldo Bertoncini Why doesn't Facebook have a dislike or maybe a hate button?
I'd sure use it for El Rushbo.

These few, grabbed at random. There are thousands more from only the first couple of posts, and they show how social media is not going to be easy to control for a man who's so used to controlling.

Back to Twitter. In his first three Tweets, the radio industry - and Rush Limbaugh - is getting a taste of what it's like to lose control of the message.

Rush's most recent Tweet says "Does the WH coordinate with @MMFA? Connect the dots in @commentary." It links to this headline:

"Anti-Rush Campaign Was in the Works" over an article with these words: "According to the architect behind it, Media Matters online strategy director Angelo Carusone, the project was actually created in 2009, but stayed inactive until the Sandra Fluke controversy boiled over."

Only, that's just part of the story! The part left out is how, in the world of creating for online, many projects are set aside until the rest of the world catches up with what the creator of the site is tryng to convey - or until the creator decides to move into action. (An example of the latter is how Rush Limbaugh created his Twitter account in February, 2009 without activating it.)

In the above example, Angelo Carusone opened a similar anti-Beck campaign at the same time as his anti-Limbaugh account. According to Carusone and stated in the article but not highlighted were these words: "The [Glen] Beck work was working, and I kind of froze the Rush work..."

Relative to the Rush Limbaugh official Twitter account, as of now he's posted 4 items.

To demonstrate how one quickly loses control in social media, let's look at reponse to just his last post at 8:31 PM - 18 Mar: "Most Americans remain conservative, unaffected by @MMFA dem operatives: http://bit.ly/Aa0eXl." By this morning came these replies:
You know that thats just a big fat lie. I don't want to live in you'r fascist #America!
@limbaugh Eat shit and die
LOL RT @limbaugh Most Americans remain conservative, unaffected by
@MMFA dem operatives
You go Rush. Keep calling a spade a spade.
By "most Americans" don't you mean angry aging white men?
The ones that are #stuckinthefifties like you?

I expect each Limbaugh Tweet to be met with similar anti-Rush comments, in approximately the same ratio, for a reason. As a general observation, the Rush Limbaugh audience is older, composed of white males who have not spent a lot of time on social media. That's opposed to the opposition to Rush Limbaugh, which comes from a youthful segment of society who have spent a great deal of time on SM. As a result, we see other Twitter accounts like #StopRush appearing.

Here is where the Limbaugh empire's Archilles heal lies. Try searching Twitter for "@limbaugh" (no quotes). Move your cursor over any entry, and select the "open" link that appears. You'll see why this Limbaugh Tweeting can become ugly.

Or, visit the "boycott Rush Limbaugh sponsors to shut him down" Facebook page. Viewing MediaMatters.org's Limbaugh Advertisers by the hour page is another eye opening experience. Or just go through the comments at the same web site's page titled "Limbaugh: Why Buy Health Insurance When You're Young, Healthy, And "Looking For Women At Georgetown Law School?"

Poor Rush. His propensity for feeling he's right is about to get another huge blow, just like he did in 1995 when taking hate-filled rhetoric into a CBS television studio. According to a CBS executive: "He came out full of bluster, and left a very shaken man. I have never seen a man sweat as much in my life." (I suggest viewing this through the 5:05 mark at least to get a feeling for what happens when you remove Rush Limbaugh from his protective bubble.)

If you are in the radio industry you are not getting a true reading of the dissension by just reading radio trades. They won't give the facts on one of their own. It's carries too much revenue risk.

And if you are not social media savvy enough to uncover just how far this new media form is distributing the message that Rush Limbaugh stands for evil in this society, in this day, with millions now refusing to accept this approach, you won't understand the full weight of this predicament.

Yes, there are the Rush Limbaugh fans. Hilter had his too in the beginning. But what we are seeing today is jelling of a younger population which refuses to give in to a continuum of hate messages that now make up many conservative broadcast radio programs.

That Rush is underestimating the power of social media (and has foolishly employed the power of it without fully understanding how it works) will prove to do more harm than good for him, the radio industry, and the advertisers who continue to support this style of programs.

There's a firestorm of resentment growing. Just because you are protected from it by how radio industry trades elect to report this episode doesn't mean it's not raging.

Will Rush Limbaugh be removed? That depends on how long those who have "had enough" of Limbaugh rhetoric carry this, and how deeply they dive into that pit of local stations and advertisers who have supported this - and other - hate mongering programs.

The mistake being made is that there seems to be no acknowledgment of this moving out of the controlled broadcast environment into social media. This well could be Rush Limbaugh's Waterloo. At the very least, it has become his McCarthy moment - when it's now being asked, "Rush, have you no sense of decency?"

Ken Dardis
President (retired),
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