Cheer up! Rush Limbaugh is not long for this world

April 23, 2016 Originally published on SFGate

Politics got you down? Insane climate change data making you queasy and fatalistic? Wishing the legislators of North Carolina and Florida and Mississippi, et al would fall off the map and move to Abu Dubai?

I feel you. But here’s a little something that just might brighten your day.

Whether by way of happy serendipity, clever Internet algorithm (read: endless related links), or simply because the gods know I could use a karmic pick-me-up, I keep stumbling across all kinds of stories and scattered media tidbits, each gleefully detailing the imminent, long-overdue demise of the most fatuous, morally flatulent king of all hate media.

Nope, not Bill O’Reilly (soon, soon). It’s Rush “Sluts n’ Oxycontin” Limbaugh, America’s favorite cigar-chompin’, filthy rich, Hillary-demonizing, (formerly) opioid-addicted kingmaker/shill of the Republican party.

Could it be true? Has Rush’s once mighty, all-powerful hate-radio kingdom of anti-liberal vitriol imploded faster than a Trump speech at a fact-checking convention? It appears to be so.

Caveat emptor: Most analysis I’ve seen is from decidedly liberal sources, and hence, just like you, each is probably eager beyond words to see Rush’s vile empire collapse – not to mention hope he suffers an inoperable swarm of genital warts, in perpetuity, forever.

Nevertheless, all seem to agree: Limbaugh’s ratings have tanked across the board. Numerous stations and advertisers large and small have dropped his show in the past year or two, most over his viciously sexist rant against Sandra Fluke, but also because he’s just not pulling in new, younger demographic – and Rush’s base is, well, getting old.

More importantly, Limbaugh’s (very expensive) contract with iHeartRadio is up for renewal. And iHeartMedia, the parent company, is just about bankrupt.

As MediaMatters put it:

This year, his contract is up and the timing couldn’t be worse. The talker is facing ratings hurdles, aging demographics, and an advertising community that increasingly views him as toxic, thanks in part to his days-long sexist meltdown over Sandra Fluke in 2012. (He’s also stumbling through the GOP primary season.)

Concurrently, iHeartRadio’s parent company, iHeartMedia, is heading to court, teetering on bankruptcy. The once-dominant radio behemoth is saddled with $20 billion in debt, thanks to a misguided leveraged takeover engineered by Bain Capital in 2008, the same year the radio giant inked its disastrous [$400 million] Limbaugh deal.

Let’s be clear: Limbaugh certainly still wields lots of influence. His show, while far from its peak, remains the top talk radio show in the country (though only barely). And some reports say, rather than suffer the indignity of a very public career collapse, he might jump to satellite radio, take a massive pay cut and start really getting nasty (no FCC!), as he bounds himself in a nutshell and calls himself the king of infinite space.

But the fact remains: Limbaugh’s superpower days are largely over. The younger generation of hardcore conservative trolls – and they are legion, just ask Trump – they’re finding new outlets, new ways to express their bile, often online (hi, Reddit). After all, who needs old-timer, old-man talk radio when you have the Internet? Who needs Rush when every undereducated right-wing white male can pretend he’s Rush, in chat rooms, Twitter, Facebook and commenting forums?

So then. Is it worth being at least mildly overjoyed at Limbaugh’s ongoing fade into irrelevance? I mean, there’s still Breitbart, Drudge, Alex Jones, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage and, um, a few others I don’t care to dredge up, because I have a functioning soul, because I value joy and I care about the world and spending too much time in the presence of moral and intellectual bottom-feeders poisons the heart and turns the world ashen and cruel.

Perhaps a form of blessing, then? How about: Best of luck in your new and increasingly impotent incarnation, Rush. Watch out for those opioids. I’m afraid the thoughtful and caring world will not miss you in the slightest. Peace out.

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Mark Morford

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