Wednesday, 17 February 2021 – 20:25
A lung cancer has taken the great star of American political radio. Millionaire and always controversial was the voice of the conservatives. He came to define the covid as a “bad cold” and ask for the secession of the states that remained loyal to Trump
Rush Limbaugh, the father of conservative US radio, has died of lung cancer, possibly caused by heavy smoking, leaving a huge void in the US media at a time when technological change and the controversy over the impartiality of the informants is at the center of public debate in that country and in the West.
Limbaugh was much more than a journalist. It was a cultural phenomenon. To him is due the popularization of the word feminazi. And, too, it was an economic phenomenon. Ultimately, he is responsible for the explosion of the Fox News network, with an air of radio talk, which has been erected in the Leader of America’s News Television during virtually the entire presidency of Donald Trump.
His audience was, however, always a mystery. The communicator claims of 20 or even 40 million people connecting with their show they seem clearly exaggerated. Magazine Tlakers, specialized in the world of radio, gave a much lower figure recently: just 15 million. But the numbers only tell a small part of the story. Limbaugh’s audience loyalty was absolute. And his contract, of Messi’s dimensions, proves it: since 2009, Sirius the Sirius XM radio paid him 100 million dollars – 83 million euros – annually. Only the king of the porn radio, Howard Stern, whose style and manners are at the antipodes of Limbaugh, with the exception, obviously, of the capacity for provocation.
Because what Limbaugh – or, as his ‘fans’ knew him familiarly, Rush, by his first name – was best known for his controversies. He was able to broadcast on the air a song titled Barack the Magic Black, in reference to the then president, Barack Obama. He was able to tell that the Canadian actor Michael J. Fox, was “exaggerating” the tremors caused by Parkinson’s, while imitating on the air – and broadcasting via video on the Internet – the spasms of the Hollywood star and accusing her, without proof, of “not taking her medication.” He was able, during his brief and botched television adventure on Fox News in the 1990s, to say that “The White House has a new bitch” while the image featured a photograph of Bill Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, who was thirteen years old. And he was able, in 2016, to always make the same pun between “witch” (“witch”) and “bitch (” bitch “) to refer to the Democratic candidate for the White House, Hillary Clinton.
Only Rush could say, as he did on February 25, that Covid-19 was just “like a bad cold.” Or suggest, on December 10, that the states in which Donald Trump won secede and separate from the United States, something that is illegal according to the doctrine of the country’s Supreme Court.
With that attitude, it is not surprising that another man from the world of entertainment and lover of perpetual provocation, Donald Trump, gave Limbaugh the highest decoration of the United States in peacetime: the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Nor is it surprising that he did it in the most striking way possible: in the middle of the State of the Union Address, held exactly one year and ten days ago. Limbaugh, who attended as the president’s personal guest, received the award in Congress from the first lady, Melania Trump.
His contract was typical of Messi, he earned 83 million euros per year
It was the institutional consolidation of a communicator whose combination of comments, catchy nicknames and attacks gooseberry It was a constant factory of controversies in the United States that created a school within the country, first, and later exported to the whole world.
But Limbaugh didn’t just establish his empire on airwaves because of his communication skills. Like all achievers, he came at the right time with the right idea and the right partner. His rise to fame occurred in 1988, when Californian radio entrepreneur Ed McLaughlin offered the commentator’s program free to US broadcasters who wanted to accept it. There was only one condition: that those stations would accept four minutes of advertising for every hour of program that McLaughlin’s production company, ABC, would sell to advertisers across the country.
For radios, it was a bargain. Free content, just in exchange for giving those four minutes. What nobody expected was the incredible boom audience that followed. In that, Limbaugh was also supported by technology. By the late 1980s, radio audiences in the United States had shifted from AM to FM in droves, because of its far superior sound quality. The AM referrals needed some type of content that didn’t require excellent audio, and that’s where the provocative commentator came in perfectly. I already said it Marshall McLuhan, which ideologically was also in a different galaxy from Limbaugh’s: “The medium is the message”. This time, the AM.
The communicator’s talent did the rest. The result: three decades of dominance of political radio. Limbaugh resisted it all. Presidents. Political changes. Iron ill health, which, like an FM Beethoven, includes the entire hearing capacity twenty years ago, and also an arrest and fine for addiction and illegal use of painkillers and anxiolytics.
His death leaves a void in America’s conservatism. It is a void that can already be seen coming. Limbaugh’s audience is aging rapidly, and Covid-19 has caused daily car trips to the office to drop as teleworking takes over. The transfer of El Show de Rush Limbaugh Internet was successful, but less than in its traditional AM medium. But that does not mean that his model of journalism is in crisis. People like Joe Rogan, 53, are taking their witness in the world of podcasting. Limbaugh is dead; your radio model, no.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism