Back in 2005, Emmitt Tyrell described a cultural bifurcation that he dubbed “the Kultursmog”:
There was a grand event in New York City last week. One of the most consequential figures of the last half of the twentieth century observed his 80th birthday in the glamorous Pierre Hotel with several hundred of the most influential members of the political movement that he helped to found, the modern conservative movement. The consequential figure was, of course, William F. Buckley, Jr. Close students of the American scene will thus understand why no organs of major media covered the event. Major media used to cover what were called “public intellectuals.” They stopped covering them when conservatives joined the ranks of public intellectuals and then overwhelmed the ranks.
What claims the attention of major media today is a phenomenon called Kultursmog. It is the popular culture of the United States, polluted utterly by a weird politics, a politics that is often called liberal but is actually simply leftish and adolescent. It has no fixed values or ideas other than to disturb the peace, which the legally attuned will recognize as a misdemeanor in most jurisdictions of the civilized world. Kultursmog is a culture that mixes rock stars in with fashion models and the ideas of Al Gore. Occasionally the smog actually includes the Hon. Gore, along with those other “rock star” personalities, the Clintons. The Kultursmog is always politically correct, ever sensitive to the whims of the Democratic National Committee, and increasingly anti-intellectual.
As Tyrell noted:
In fact I think I can argue successfully, if ironically, that Buckley is personally responsible for the anti-intellectualism that has spread throughout major media over the past 25 years. There once was a time when the late night television shows, the morning chat shows, and the personality sections of print journalism would occasionally feature the likes of Buckley and his most frequent liberal opponents, John Kenneth Galbraith and Gore Vidal. The time is long past. Buckley finished off his opponents years ago, and no young egghead was up to taking on his wit or erudition.
Rush Limbaugh has a fantastic radio voice, but I think he’d be the first to admit that his speaking style is vastly different from the now sadly deceased Buckley. Perhaps because it’s far more blunt and direct, it helped reignite conservatism when his radio show first went national, in the late ’80s–the years between President Reagan leaving office, and Republicans recapturing Congress in 1994, until ultimately losing it again in 2006. Like him or hate him, Rush was a key new media phenomenon in the transition years from the monolithic northeast corridor TV networks, to the Web, Fox News, and the Blogosphere. But as Andrew Breitbart writes in his latest op-ed for the Washington Times, the Kultursmog is still choking the establishment legacy media all the same:
Spokespeople for CPAC said it was the best-received speech in the conference’s 36 years. And that included Ronald Reagan, who, by the way, was no rhetorical slouch.
By any measure, Mr. Limbaugh hit the ball out of the park. He may have done so for the team that, these days, many people are rooting against. But the ball did land over the fence.
On the other hand, the “drive-by media” – as Mr. Limbaugh aptly refers to his business competition and ideological foes – portrayed a completely different event.
Clearly taking their cues from Mr. Obama – as well as Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid – the Fourth Estate, without the benefit of a Frank Luntz focus group or an instant poll, immediately labeled the speech as “angry” and alienating to “moderate voters.”
The netroots, the mainstream media’s devious protector from its left flank (e.g., the Huffington Post, Media Matters and the Daily Kos) also opined as if they had witnessed a hate crime.
Anonymous liberal commentators, the rabid pests of the new media, sought out the most popular conservative blogs to flood the zone with familiar Rush Limbaugh slanders. Their goal: To demoralize the right with layer upon layer of media domination. Only talk radio with its emphasis on Socratic debate over raw emotionalism and with Mr. Limbaugh in the driver’s seat has escaped the left’s clutches of pure media dominance.
For years, the radio kin of these underhanded online annoyances – coined by Rush as “seminar callers” – have read their Democratic National Committee-produced scripts to muddy the political waters. Talk-show call screeners will be on double duty this week trying to keep off the air anyone who might try to tear down the post-speech unity and elation.
For more than a generation, the traditional media has tried to build a wall around public sentiment to protect the Democratic Party from articulate critics. Recent election cycles and the emergence of the Internet have only exacerbated the situation. In the past year, media bias has gotten out of hand.
But it has not been able to stop that mountain we call Rush. He is much more than an entertainer or a person who can “motivate the base” – as the media repeats like cheap talking points.
He has the uncanny ability to expose the intricate web of bias to those who do not yet know that they should doubt the media’s sincerity. Many in the Regency Ballroom on Saturday night were once dupes or elitists like me who were shown the light by a guy who didn’t even graduate college.
With newspapers long ago judged as far gone on the left and television networks turned off for good by enraged customers, the media has good reason to hate Mr. Limbaugh.
Mr. Limbaugh is the man who is most to blame for their demise. No wonder they bad-mouth him every chance they get.
Meanwhile for some thoughts about a very different speech from another conservative leader at CPAC, Ronald Radosh critiques Newt Gingrich.
(Hat tip for Rush links, Free Canuckistan.)
Update: Speaking of Buckley, the Dana Report is “Remembering William F. Buckley, One Year on”, including a link to a Fox News special on WFB, titled, “Right from the start.” And as for El Rushbo himself, John Hawkins analyzes “Where Rush Limbaugh Went Astray At CPAC.”