Is Facebook To Blame for Rush Limbaugh’s “Imus Moment”?

Conversations in real time.
March 5 2012 5:43 PM

Did Social Media Take Down Rush Limbaugh?

A Slate staff debate.

(Continued from Page 1)

Manjoo: Maybe because it was directed at a specific person? A college student, not a politician or pundit. Sort of like how Imus insulted the Rutgers women’s basketball team. 

Lithwick: It was a private person. And instead of apologizing—like David Letterman did after joking about Bristol Palin getting knocked up by Alex Rodriguez—Limbaugh dialed it up and asked for a sex tape.

Jeremy Stahl: I disagree. Jack Shafer had a great tweet on this over the weekend: “Is this Limbaugh's Imus moment? His enemies leveraging public opinion to send him into exile for what he's done in the open for decades?” Had Rush said the same exact thing as Imus pre-social media, he would have been fine. One could argue that he has said the equivalent or worse to what he said about Fluke for years and hasn’t suffered any consequences until now. Twitter and Facebook make it really easy to put pressure on corporate sponsors in a way that was a lot more complicated to organize just a few years ago.

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Engber: There's an attribution bias here. Twitter and Facebook are buzzing about all sorts of things, every day of the week.  Whenever one of those things has real consequences, we want to trace it backwards to Twitter and Facebook.  But what about the zillions of trending topics that don't go anywhere?

Dan Check: This is basically the shock jock black swan. Being terribly offensive works great until it doesn’t. Even though you're just doing what you always did to the people you always did it to, you're going to run into trouble.

Rachael Levy: Maybe it’s just the fact that among the many words in Limbaugh’s tirade, he said "slut." That was a big eye-catcher in the headlines.

Rachael Larimore: If that were the case, Bill Maher would have gotten more crap for calling Palin a cunt.

Manjoo: But there's the private person distinction. Maybe it's become acceptable to call public people whatever you want. It's still not OK to do that with a college student.