Some nineteen years ago, I was working at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, surrounded by a host of seemingly very intelligent men and women. Name the best technical schools in the country and the chances were you would find a graduate from most of them in any average corridor in the five-storied building of the Middletown location. All around me, over-qualified, high-achieving, electrical engineers, computer scientists and mathematicians, did their best to make sure I acquired a gigantic inferiority complex, equipped as I was with merely a puny masters degree in computer and information science from a small technical school in Newark.
Then, one day, suddenly, I didn’t feel like an intellectual midget any more. During my lunch break, as I partook of my three-times-a-week run in the surrounding environs, a car pulled up next to me, and a colleague of mine, one of those absurdly, over-qualified graduates from one of the nation’s best technical schools, popped his head out to ask what I was up to. As we exchanged pleasantries, I could hear Rush Limbaugh on his radio. Puzzled, I asked, “You listen to Limbaugh?” He replied, “Yeah, he’s great; you should check him out sometime. He’s got lots of smart things to say. Makes a lot of sense.” And then, my colleague drove off, my expression of puzzlement still writ large on my face. But I felt strangely pleased too. I might not have gone to the schools that these guys had, but by golly, I was smarter than them!
Flash forward. A couple of days ago, Ann Althouse, law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, NYU Law School graduate, and considered a ‘conservative intellectual’, offered a critique of Limbaugh, which includes: First, the the usual, quaking-at-the-knees qualifier that any ‘critic’ of Limbaugh from the right feels compelled to offer (in Althouse’s case: “I like Rush Limbaugh, and I get his concept of media tweaking, and I get that he’s lampooning government regulation”) and then, after unpacking the various misrepresentations in his analysis, the following:
Quite aside from the lack of a factual basis for his humor, it’s just mean to aim words like “slut” and “prostitute” at a woman, especially a young woman, even if the metaphor is apt. Even when you get the joke and agree with the criticism of the policy she’s advocating, it feels ugly. The humor backfires.
“Even if the metaphor is apt”? If the “metaphor is apt” then why does it feel “ugly”? And why does Althouse then say “Even when you get the joke and agree with the criticism of the policy she’s advocating…The humor backfires.”? What was the joke in there? If I call Althouse a “retard” for liking Rush Limbaugh, is that a joke? No, its a polemical broadside. And why is someone who agrees with Sandra Fluke’s criticism find themselves in a position where they think the non-existent “metaphor” used to describe her is “apt” and “get” the non-existent “joke”?
Really, if Althouse was worried about Limbaugh going after her, or that she would lose her legions of feral commenters, she shouldn’t have bothered writing her post.
Update: I owe a hat-tip to David Auerbach, who directed me to Althouse’s post.