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The Ressentiment of the Reactionary Elite

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Zev Chafets has padded his fawning, puddle-deep New York Times Magazine profile of Rush Limbaugh into a book, with results that are apparently so bad that World’s Nicest Reviewer Janet Maslin delivers a merciless pan.   The WaPo, meanwhile, has enlisted the Good Frum to review it, with entertaining results:

“Largely decorated by Limbaugh himself, [his Palm Beach house] reflects the things and places he has seen and admired. A massive chandelier in the dining room, for example, is a replica of the one that hung in the lobby of New York’s Plaza Hotel. The vast salon is meant to suggest Versailles. The main guest suite, which I didn’t visit, is an exact replica of the Presidential Suite at the Hotel George V in Paris. There is a full suit of armor on display, as well as a life-size oil painting of El Rushbo. Fragrant candles burned throughout the house, a daily home-from-the-wars ritual.”

There is a great deal more in this vein, and not a syllable of it is meant mockingly. Yet Chafets also writes the following, with equal non-irony: “Rush wasn’t enthusiastic [about the reelection bid of George H.W. Bush]. Bush struck him as a pretty, country club moderate, an Ivy League snob.”

[…]

Chafets quotes Limbaugh telling Maureen Dowd in a 1993 interview, “You have no earthly idea how detested and hated I am. I’m not even a good circus act for the liberals in this town. . . . You can look at my calendar for the past two years and see all of the invitations. You’ll find two, both by Robert and Georgette Mosbacher.” (Robert Mosbacher was secretary of commerce under President George H.W. Bush.) Not two pages later, we hear of Limbaugh’s New York evenings with investment banker Lewis Lehrman, William F. Buckley and Henry Kissinger. And yet the aggrieved subject and biographer are fully sincere in both instances.

Limbaugh has skillfully conjured for his listeners a world in which they are disdained and despised by mysterious elites — a world in which Limbaugh’s $4,000 bottles of wine do not exclude him from the life of the common man.

This line of argument merely skims the surface of how bad the book is, but it’s certainly especially instructive. The way in which extremely wealthy and powerful conservatives have not merely portrayed themselves as endlessly put-upon victims but gotten gullible hacks like Chafets to play along is remarkable.

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