COMMENTARY: 'Words mean things...' said Rush Limbaugh -- and so they do

By Joseph J. Honick
COMMENTARY: 'Words mean things...' said Rush Limbaugh -- and so they do

Not so very long ago, when faced with some criticism, Rush Limbaugh responded with “Words mean things,” to suggest people should be careful with how they use the language.

Well, now with the brutal attack on January 8 that killed several innocents in Tucson, wounded others and left Congresswoman Gabrielle 'Gabby' Giffords (D-AZ)  in critical condition, Limbaugh’s, Sarah Palin’s and Glenn Beck’s storms of character assassinating words have confirmed the claim that “words mean things.”

Beck and Limbaugh have been earning their big contracts with FOX allegedly fair and balanced network either helping to sell a variety of nasty accusations of the President of the United States or making lowly, not lofty, assertions about anyone and everyone who might support slowing downa questionable war or providing health care.

Of course, neither Limbaugh nor Beck have done a lick of public service when their age and experience might have made it possible. But, ‘words meaning things”, Limbaugh campaigned for misusers of drugs to be put in jail until he was found out himself and had all sorts of lame excuses. But that didn’t stop Rush from calling a young GI on duty in Iraq a “phony soldier” when the kid criticized that war.

Beck has spent all kinds of time trying to prove the President was and remains ineligible to hold the office, helping to inflame those who also resent a Black person or one of mixed heritage from serving in the White House.

Even a lame brain like Beck must assuredly know that service in the United States Senate does not happen without numerous clearances once there in order to vote or review any number of documents. Thus there are sufficient records to show where Mr Obama came to life.

Sarah Palin as well has prided herself as a hunter, gunslinger and generally tough lady. Of course, when a documentary was made to show her prowess with a weapon that even had sights for distance, not only did she not know how to reload, but missed a huge and beautiful elk at least once. Now she proclaims that the use of the tragedy in Tucson could help politicos to make things dangerous for our children and grandchildren.

Words do in fact mean a lot of things, and one wonders how many extremists might have gotten their starts at early ages to reach the levels they have today. For example, in 1985, the outstanding journalist Richard Reeves, recalled in a column titled “Why The Fuss” an event of even 20 years earlier when he covered the annual convention of the New Jersey Young Republicans where some held songfests.

One such tune to the melody of “Jingle Bells” went like this, according to Reeves:

“Riding through the Reich in a Mercedes-Benz

“Shooting all the kikes, making lots of friends,

“Rat-tat-tat-tat, mow the bastards down

“Oh what fun it is to have the Nazis back in town.”

According to Reeves, the same song sheet, including ditties about Black people, was used at the Young Republican national convention a month later,  in June, 1965.

What Reeves quite logically wondered about was how many of those “young” folks eventually rose to national prominence -- especially when much later it was announced that the President of the United States (Ronald Reagan)  was going to (and did) lay a memorial wreath on monuments to German SS soldiers. Given our sacrifices in WWII, many would blanch at the idea of such an act, but President Reagan’s men like Michael Deaver and Patrick Buchanan who promoted the deal no doubt would ask:”Why the fuss?”

And so today, as a young lady Member of Congress, elected to a third term, was shot down by someone who, however, mentally fragile, was a target of those words that darned well mean things. About all that Palin could immediately muster was the fact the young man read the "Communist Manifesto." Well, golly, most of us who have studied politics and history in college have also read that book, along with “Mein Kampf” and scores of other books in our efforts to understand those kinds of people and what nurtured their development. In fact, some of us also read a nasty anti-Semitic volume titled “The International Jew” by none other than a well known fellow decorated by Adolf Hitler for his support of the Nazi regime…that fellow was Henry Ford!

Many months ago, in several perhaps articles, I tried to call attention to not only the unrest arising from millions of Americans who felt left out of everything as the economy nosedived, homes epidemically foreclosed and not much promise of improvement….but also ignored by those proclaiming their patriotic support of two seemingly endless conflicts in the Middle East.

Worse, outstanding major media abroad like The Financial Times, have devoted large space to what not only the January 8 even in Tucson means but the run of assaults on political figures, innocent civilians and others implies for the nation that has posed as the leader of the world.

Unlike the Becks, Limbaughs and Palins, millions of Americans committed themselves to public and military service in times of need and emergency. While Palin did do some duty in the governor’s office in Alaska, the fact is she also quit in mid-stream for reasons yet to be explained as she was selected by Sen John McCain in the run for the White House.


But, if Palin and partners believe they are being unfairly tarnished by their own inflammatory actions and rhetoric, perhaps they should have asked Ms Giffords, who lies in very critical condition in Tucson’s University Hospital, why her Republican opponent found it effective to pose in dark glasses with a machine gun in hand.

Lest anyone think this commentary avoids those of the other extremes, do not be misled. Extremism is wrong, no matter where it comes from. However, when one extreme promotes solutions at the end of a gun, there is a difference.


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Joseph J. Honick is an international consultant to business and government and writes for many publications, including Honick can be reached at

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