An ethical look at three controversial, influential political commentators.
Lichtman (What Do You Stand For? Stories About Principles That Matter, 2004) has been writing and speaking on ethics since 1995. Here he sets out to highlight the unethical practices of three well-known political commentators: Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. Lichtman begins with a brief history of the populist demagogues who came before and moves forward to today, where the invention of 24/7 cable and other media outlets has blurred or even obliterated the line between news and opinion. Taking into account many of the quotes cited, it’s quite unlikely that Coulter, Limbaugh or Beck believe their own hype. Coulter has made it clear that she enjoys “stirring the pot,” and followers of Beck have apparently been unable (or unwilling) to decode his doublespeak—one moment Beck says that God speaks through him, and in the next moment he tells his audience that if they believe everything he says, they’re idiots. Lichtman’s study reveals evidence that followers of Limbaugh, Coulter and Beck can’t always separate fact from fiction, a fairly serious issue given that these speakers influence literally millions of people who are “relying on exaggeration, innuendo and outright lies.” The author even goes so far as to point out the PolitiFact ratings of statements made by each of the three, which is basically an exercise in futility, as Limbaugh, Coulter nor Beck has ever claimed to have ethical intentions. Although Lichtman provides documented examples of specific verbal infractions made by each of the speakers, it’s unclear what his overall purpose is, as the book doesn’t really uncover any new information. The overall theme is similar to those that came before: The unholy trinity of Coulter, Limbaugh and Beck is little more than egotistical, self-serving fear mongers who serve no purpose other than to further their own agendas and line their own pockets.
Lichtman should be commended for taking on this oft-debated issue; ethics in politics is the proverbial needle in the haystack, which will, no doubt, continue to be a hot topic for years to come.