On Monday, my friend Sasha Abramsky was upbraided by Rush Limbaugh. (The clip of his show and a discussion of one of the problems with it is here: http://mediamatters.org/blog/201011150020)
What sent the internet ablaze was the fact that Rush kept calling Sasha a “stupid babe.” Sasha is a man.
Now, this is an understandable mistake, especially if you don’t do any research on someone. Sasha is short for Alexander–Americans often make it a girls’ name even though it traditionally isn’t. As a Karma, which in most of the world is a man’s name, I sympathize with this kind of mix-up.
Rush’s mistake, though, points to his rather sexist language. He dismisses this “stupid babe” as a bimbo. When I listened to the clip, I kept thinking he was going to say “bimbo” or “bitch” because sometimes there were pauses on the “b”s. Since one presumably wouldn’t call a man a stupid babe, one should be careful about doing that with a woman.
At least in public if one wants to be taken seriously.
But I will admit that I use “sexist” language sometimes, although I generally use that language for everyone. I call both men and women “babe.” If you cut me off in traffic, you’re a “dick,” whether you appear to have one or not.
I’m not all that interested in Rush’s “babe” slip. It’s no great revelation that he’s sexist, and he’s said sooooo much worse that this little tidbit is almost cute.
What bothers me is the lack of fact-checking. He has a staff. If he’d done even the most basic google search, he would have not only seen that he should pick a new word, but that Sasha knew much more than Rush gave him credit for.
You see, Sasha was writing in Salon about the kind of President Obama wanted to be. Rush dismissed the short section he shared with his audience, saying this dumb babe didn’t know anything. Sasha is the author of “Inside Obama’s Brain.” If anyone is qualified to talk about how Obama thinks, it would probably be the guy who spent the better part of a year researching it. Sasha just got back from interviewing Obama’s sister as well.
The passage Rush attacked was one in which Sasha talked about what Obama believed in. Rush then said Sasha was wrong because Obama didn’t believe in them.
An example: Obama wants good government. Rush said Obama obviously didn’t and then ranted about more invasive airline screening procedures (at least I think that’s what happened; I was confused by the non-sequitor, but I refuse to go back and listen to that again).
It is perfectly acceptable to say that someone is engaging in “bad” government, whatever they believe. It is asinine to say that someone doesn’t even want good government. Rush and I seem opposed in almost every way, but I believe that he and I both want “good” government. We just have different ideas about what that is. I don’t think I know anyone who wants “bad” government, even those people who essentially want to do away with it.
Rush could have claimed that Obama wasn’t living up to what he wanted, but he had to take it that ridiculous step to the right and imply that Obama’s inherently bad by claiming that he doesn’t want good government.
That’s stupid, babe.