When porcine hate-radio host Rush Limbaugh finished calling Sandra Fluke a “slut” for nine hours, he discovered that two hundred thousand Americans were already using social media to separate him from his sponsors. It caused something of a panic at Excellence In Broadcasting, Limbaugh’s Orwellian-named radio shop, and has since snowballed into a near-death experience for all of talk radio. Limbaugh has now started tweeting in a vain attempt to whip up social media support:
— Rush Limbaugh (@limbaugh) March 19, 2012
Rush links to a spreadsheet there that I’ve tweeted or linked in this blog at least a dozen times, so it’s not like he’s revealing any secrets. What has happened to Limbaugh is an example of crowdsourcing, not astroturfing. It’s telling that Limbaugh doesn’t even know the difference.
“Astroturf” is when an organization (like, say, FreedomWorks) creates the appearance of a popular surge in support for an issue (see: tea parties). Even if a large group of people (see: angry old white people scared of a black president) responds to the message, astroturf is still characterized by top-down management and messaging. This inevitably shows up in movement fractures, which is why Tea Party Patriots and Tea Party Express don’t get along: the former makes a great deal of its grassrootsiness, while the latter is literally run out of a Republican agit-prop shop in California.
No one had to tell us that Rush Limbaugh was vulnerable to advertiser education, and no one had to organize us. Instead, Americans who’ve tired of his disgusting misogyny, racism, and general asshattery have organized themselves via social media. We were free to do so and it cost us nothing. That’s an important point: tea parties were characterized by hands out asking for money at every turn, whereas I have yet to see the first ask on Limbaugh.
It’s hard to overstate just how desperate the above tweet is. @Shoq, the Twitter personality who put together the spreadsheet, is hardly a “Dem operative;” just over a year ago, Jane Hamsher tried to convince people he was a Republican operative. He’s helped Occupy with web architecture issues before, but he’s also a foremost critic of their tactics. @StopRush, formerly known as @StopBeck (real name Angelo Carusone) became an activist without anyone’s urging or payment, either. Both Peter Gabriel and Rush (the band) demanded Limbaugh stop using their music in his show, and neither is a “Dem operative.”
And me? I’m an obscure blogger living in Alabama. I could only wish for Beltway money and resources to come my way. So when I pushed and pushed to get 25,000 signatures on the White House petition to remove Limbaugh from Armed Forces Radio, rest assured that I was actually not eating until goals were met, and that I was doing it out of conviction. No one ever pulled a hunger strike at a tea party. As I keep saying, it’s very easy to tell the real activists apart from the fakers.