Monday, March 5, 2012 / 3:00 pm

A Rush of Poor Choices

Rush Limbaugh flips like a pancake while conservative leaders watch him get grilled.

by Tony Chavira

Tags: women's health | women | republicans | Rush Limbaugh | social science

Rush Limbaugh
Even glasses can't always help you see clearly.

A few days ago, Rush Limbaugh defended calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” and today he apologized when a few his more chivalrous advertisers dropped his program. In fact, what he said was that he was “joking.” This is the way Rush Limbaugh jokes with women he doesn't know: on his nationally syndicated radio show.

Also yes… you read that right: Rush Limbaugh backtracked on his convictions because of the money and called someone else a prostitute. Which–to spell things out even for the dumbest of us–is defined as selling yourself for money.

Sandra isn't having any of his apology though and I don't blame her. After all, he didn't backtrack because he genuinely cared about her, womankind or the prostitutes' harsh working conditions. But AOL doesn't seem to care (possibly because Rush-rage riles up the HuffPo army like no other can), and neither does an assorted member of his unmanned army of drones who call women “sluts” jokingly all the time. Like Patricia Heaton, the star of shows that will soon lose their entire female audience. Or conservative blogtress Pamela Geller, who said this with complete seriousness (until she backs off later and adds an “LOL jk” on the end):

A 30-year-old poses as a 23-year-old, chooses a Catholic University to attend at $65,000 per year, and cannot afford ALL the birth control pills she needs… so she wants the US taxpayers to pay for her rampant sexual activity. By all accounts she is banging it five times a day. She sounds more like a prostitute to me. She must have an gyno bill to choke a horse (pun intended). Calling this whore a slut was a softball.

How can someone who is clearly overflowing with sexual frustration be so comfortable defending Rush when he calls out 30-year olds law students for wanting to get it on? Or, you know, just regulate her own body? Well, fortunately for enlightenment, Rush's idiocy can be explained: there's a psychological mechanism that forces people who've made dumb decisions to defend themselves, no matter the degree of dumbitude. It's called “choice blindness” and works kinda like Psyblog explains here:

The experimenter showed willing participants (about half men, half women) pairs of female faces on playing-card-sized photos, one in each hand. Participants pointed to whichever of the two faces they found most attractive. The experimenter then passed the card to the participants and asked them to describe exactly why they found that face attractive.[…]

[But] Sometimes, when the experimenter passed the card to participants, there was a little sleight of hand involved. This resulted in the participant staring at the female face they didn't choose.[…]

So what happened? Well, people justified their decisions pigheadedly no matter what face they saw, of course.

Both the participants looking at the photo they chose and those looking at the one they didn't both seemed sure of their reasons, used equal specificity, and equal emotionality. It seemed there was no clue in participants' verbal reports of the old switcheroo.

The implications of choice blindness on Rush Limbaugh are interesting though: he could be so trapped by his original statements that the idea of backing off only occurs when the fear of losing money arises. Just check what he said immediately after the outrage and tell me that he planned on apologizing:

And not one person says, well, did you ever think about maybe backing off the amount of sex that you have? Do you ever think maybe it's your responsibility for your own birth control, not everybody else's? Nobody raises those questions. Amazingly, when there is the slightest bit of opposition to this new welfare entitlement being created, then all of a sudden, “We hate women. We want them barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen,” all of these other things.

Rush had been blinded by his choice to slander all of womankind, Sandra Fluke in particular. And he did what came natural to our primate minds: defend his decision at all costs.

Well, not all costs. When his choices conflicted with his cash flow, Rush pivoted on a dime (and it didn't help that a plethora of top Republicans finally had a good excuse to put Rush in his place). 

But that's how we know Rush is apologizing dishonestly: he did it for the money. You see, the Hastings Center published a study that breaks this logic down nicely. In a nutshell, the researchers decided that they were going to see if they could get more newborn baby recruits for projects if they paid researchers to get parents' to submit their newborn kids for research. The idea was simple: if money was the greatest motivating factor, the team who was getting paid would have more participants than the team that wasn't

But what happened?

Although significantly more parents were approached to enroll their newborn in the remunerated [paid] study, parents were more likely to consent to participation in the study that did not compensate the research team.

I mean, the parents weren't getting paid either way, but even when money was the core motivating factor of a researchers it didn't sway them to sign their babies up for experimentin'. What mattered, instead, were the approachs each team took and the parents' reactions to those approaches. In other words, when people aren't motivated by money, we can see their good intentions.

And they're are getting paid, they'll do anything to achieve their goals and we can see right through that too. I mean, we're not dumb: most people know Rush switched because of the cash. Rush Limbaugh turned on a dime to save a few more, then went back to his show to spew more misogynistic bile like this, while defending every single thing he said except for two unfortunate words: slut and prostitute.

And why? Looks like there're only two possible reasons: for the money or to defend his stupidity.

Either way, he's all downhill from here; congressional Republicans only needed an excuse.

Tony Chavira is the President of FourStory, a nonprofit organization that promotes fairness and social justice through strong writing and storytelling. He is also the Program Developer at RACAIA Architecture, writes and posts comics at Minefield Wonderland, and teaches Business Report Writing at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

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