Did Rush Limbaugh mock Japanese earthquake refugees?
Yes, according to the Huffington Post, which aired a video clip of his call-in show. Click here to watch the clip yourself.
I'm no fan of Rush Limbaugh. He's a pompous, self-absorbed jerk who bends reality to fit his skewed take on the world. But in this case he's been wrongly accused.
If you listen to the clip you'll hear Limbaugh respond to a caller who points out an apparent irony - at least in his withered, turnip-seed perspective - that Japan's role as an environmentally sensitive nation should have averted its suffering at the hands of "Mother Gaia" with earthquakes and tsunamis. Limbaugh plays an audio clip of Diane Sawyer marveling that earthquake refugees are still recycling their waste at a shelter.
Limbaugh launches into a mocking diatribe - and this is what the Huffington Post characterizes as ridicule of earthquake refugees.
Except it's not.
Limbaugh isn't mocking refugees, at least not from what I heard. He's mocking Sawyer's coverage.
He's suggesting that amid the destruction caused by Friday's earthquake and tsunami, Sawyer could have found something more worthwhile to praise recycling at a refugee shelter.
He then mocks the Gaia hypothesis, which holds that Earth is a living organism. The hypothesis has been enlarged somewhat since its inception to include the notion that a guiding intelligence or spirituality inhabits the living world.
It all comes across - at least according to the Huffington Post - as a heartless indictment of the Japanese people, who invented the Prius and mastered the art of public transportation. Surely such environmental stewards could not suffer the wrath of Mother Gaia!
Misinterpretation notwithstanding, Limbaugh's criticism is way off base for a number of reasons, and these are what the Huffington Post should have taken him to task for.
Japan is hardly an environmental steward. Sure, they invented the Prius and perfected public transportation. But they did so at the motivation of money, not environmental awareness. At over $4 per gallon for gas, the Japanese need vehicles that achieve the high-mileage claims of the Prius, Insight and Nissan Leaf. And with almost 130 million people crammed into the Japanese archipelago, you've got to find an efficient way to move them around that doesn't involve personal vehicles.
Japan's continuation of whaling, its overfishing of Pacific waters and its primary role in creating a consumer - thus disposable - culture in Western nations makes it an environmental villain, not a favored child of Mother Gaia.
Limbaugh's implication is as bloated with hot air as Limbaugh himself.
As for Sawyer's reporting of the recycling efforts at a refugee shelter, what I heard was that a group of people who had suffered unbelievable adversity were still trying to do the right thing. It instantly humanized their plight in a way that no simple enumeration of the catastrophe could have reproduced. I applaud Sawyer for seeing this and recognizing it for what it was - a ray of hope amid all the carnage. I'll bet Limbaugh would have appreciated a tiny bit of compassion when he was struggling with his drug addiction.
Limbaugh's mockery was cold-hearted and horribly typical of his black-and-white take on world events. I don't think he's guilty of the sins described by the Huffington Post.
But for other reasons he's worthy of our contempt.