Rush Limbaugh reserved his nom de Twitter in 2009, but @limbaugh only appeared on user screens Thursday, March 15, 2012, after a thinly disguised declaration of war: “There’s an army out there that wants to be mobilized”, he told his radio audience, “and so, I figured, use Twitter for it.”
Innocents like Conor Friedersdorf missed the message. In a post at The Atlantic, headlined “Why Rush Limbaugh’s New Twitter Account Is Cause for Celebration”, Friedersdorf wrote:
“On Twitter, Limbaugh himself will be interacting more outside his radio bubble, and his words will be even more accessible to critique. As someone who thinks that his rhetoric is often indefensible, I think this medium is most likely to discredit him. It’s possible that he’ll try it out for a week or two, tire of the invective that comes his way, and let his account go dormant. But if he keeps at it — if he commits to the medium — he’ll find over time that he lacks the discipline to refrain from tweeting messages that further discredit him.”
That might be true if Limbaugh were a normal Twitter user. But normal tweeple don’t have (as of this writing) 119,400 followers who are about to be weaponized.
“I’m just going to put some things on Twitter that you can help us circulate,” Limbaugh told his listeners. “It’s that simple — you just retweet them.”
And his first tweet seemed inoffensive. It said:
“Here’s how the opposition astroturfs advertisers. Smart piece from @LegInsurrection Pls Retweet bit.ly/y6Tnnv @mmfa “
This rather cryptic message requires decoding.
First, note that Rush suggests that his critics aren’t reasonable people open to logical argument. They don’t just disagree with what he says — they “oppose” him. He considers them “opposition”. As in another contemporary conflict, if your “opposition” is not a “rational actor”, you must bomb them.
“Astroturf”, in this usage a verb, refers to passing off as a “grassroots movement” the machinations of a concealed entity, such as a political body or an industry.
The “smart piece” to which Rush refers, is a post on the web site Legal Insurrection (thus, @LegInsurrection ). The post, bylined by William A. Jacobson, accuses Media Matters for America ( @mmfa ) of organizing and orchestrating the boycott of Limbaugh sponsors in the wake of Limbaugh’s attack on Sandra Fluke.
Thus, Rush’s tweet can be seen as an attempt to arm his “dittoheads” with an allegation with which to defend him against his “opposition”.
Rush’s second tweet is to another post attacking Media Matters, and his third to one that alleges coordination between Media Matters and the White House.
The sources of these posts are not disinterested, nor have their allegations been verified. But Limbaugh urges his “army” to retweet the posts.
Spreading disinformation is only one way Limbaugh can wage war on his opposition.
If the tweets of unhappy women can drive sponsors from Rush’s radio show, can the tweets of his angry dittoheads bring them back? Or, in the future, prevent them from leaving in the first place? Can a reverse boycott entice new sponsors?
Conor, did you truly think Rush Limbaugh would be tweeting you and reading your witty replies? Did you think you could send him a DM? Since he follows no one, no one can.
You can block Rush, of course. That will insure that you receive none of his tweets. But if you make him unhappy, can you block 100,000 members of his army?