Reading news accounts of the past week, you may have thought conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh was merely rebuked for his history of controversial racial comments when he joined a group making a bid to buy the St. Louis Rams. Actually it was something far more serious, according to right-wing writer and commentator Selwyn Duke. Limbaugh was the victim of a “lynching,” Duke wrote in an article posted on the John Birch Society website.
It’s hard to imagine an angry mob storming the gates of Limbaugh’s Palm Beach compound (market value, $48 million) and stringing him up from a palm tree. But twice Duke wrote that Limbaugh was lynched. And in a third reference, he conjured up the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings of 18 years ago, writing that Limbaugh was subjected to a “high-tech lynching.”
An estimated 4,743 people – nearly 73 percent of them black – were lynched between 1882 and 1968, according to the Archives at Tuskegee Institute. Still, Selwyn equates a grotesque and terrifying death at the end of a rope with robust debate over Limbaugh’s views, which Selwyn claims “are in fact very mainstream.”
“It’s quite a bit over the top,” says Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau and vice president of advocacy and policy. [The organization took no position on Limbaugh’s Rams ownership ambitions]. “Lynching was one of the earliest forms of domestic terrorism. Not only was it used to wreak havoc and fear, but to kill. It was used to send a chill to other African-Americans. Whatever is happening to Rush Limbaugh, it certainly is overly inflammatory to call this a lynching.”
Considering Duke’s other conclusions about the Limbaugh brouhaha, his lynching hyperbole isn’t surprising. A frequent guest on hate-radio host Michael Savage’s show and other far-right venues, Duke wrote in the same article that Sen. Joseph McCarthy was “one of the most maligned men in American history.” Limbaugh, he contends, is a victim of a new McCarthyism in which “closet communists” are quick to call their foes racists.
These are dark days for conservatives, Duke adds. “The reality is that conservatism is becoming the new communism, with those proclaiming the creed suffering increasing persecution for their beliefs,” he writes. “While in the ’50s you could be blackballed for being a communist, it’s now conservatives who must express their beliefs in whispers. [Limbaugh, Savage, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, et al are hardly whispering]. Limbaugh’s views are in fact very mainstream, yet he still was branded a heretic by today’s powers-that-be. So if such a lynching could be visited upon him, what about me? What about you?”