Tuesday, March 15, 2016

My Dinner with Rush

Killing Limbaugh

By Sean R. Shealy


Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform 

Pub Date: August 27, 2012

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Marcus Gray is a history professor at Oregon State. He has a wife and child and is pretty much living the American dream until he writes an article criticizing military action in South America. The anger of Right Wing America descends on him led mostly by the rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh. A lunatic, fueled by the hateful rhetoric from radio talk show hosts burns down Marcus' house which eventually leads to the death of both his wife and infant son. Gray is consumed with anger and depression. He eventually comes to one conclusion. He must go to Limbaugh's West Palm Beach Compound in Florida and kill him.

If one is familiar with Sean Shealy, it is probably due to his clever Facebook/YouTube rants and his prank called BundyFest where he half convinced many that there would be a huge rock concert on the property of notorious rancher Cliven Bundy. His humor is absurdist yet it has a serious undertone that reveals his deep concern in what is happening to this country. Killing Limbaugh continues that trait in a story that is part moral allegory and part socio-political dialogue. Shealy's novel happens in a hypothetical America circa 2012 when a conservative president has been elected and the right wing talk show pundits are declaring victory. The background to how Republican President Rust is elected shows Shealy at his most absurd but frankly it becomes a distraction since the author will soon be referencing from real history. It makes the chronology a little messy for the reader. Marcus takes a detour in his travel to complete his fatal mission and ends up in a alternative city called Kabul situated next to a very conservative and religious town called Krohn. This is where we start the moral allegory. I couldn't help thinking of the movie Billy Jack where all the good guys are noble and all the bad guys are repulsive. There is little subtlety here . But it also sets up the tension for the coming stand-off between the ideologies.

And this is where it gets interesting. Marcus eventually gets to West Palm Beach. He breaks into Limbaugh's studio and holds him at gunpoint. While still broadcasting, they begin a dialogue about what has gone wrong in America. Soon millions are listening and reacting to the responses. Marcus begins to put forth what he sees as the deceptions and lies spread through conservative talk radio. He goes through where he think America went wrong and the perceived evils that talk show pundits like Limbaugh and Glenn Beck can do. He explains the problem with their political jargon that demonizes ideas like socialism and he explains how our history is actually many ideologies that work together for the individual rather than corporations. And he tells how, in our contemporary society, that has been turned around.

This is not a neutral or even fair and balanced dialogue. Actually it is often a monologue. Shealy, like his fictional counterpart Marcus, is angry and it shows. But it is an intelligent anger that references much of our history and politics to illustrate what is happening in our own time. Near the end, it reverts back to Shealy's hypothetical universe with climatic action that, in my opinion, is just too strange to bring it together. Yet it is that dialogue with a reluctant Limbaugh that makes this book interesting. Even if I feel the setup and the end tends to be weak it does reinforce the dialogue with an entertaining gimmick that propels us through the meat of the matter.

An interesting thing here is that the author is doing to Limbaugh what Limbaugh has done to our country. When Limbaugh came to media popularity and power, it was after the demise of the Fairness Doctrine which forced the media to provide both sides of an argument. That simple and logical request disappeared and it enabled some, like Limbaugh and later Beck, to monopolize their shows with one opinion and cater to only those who shared that opinion. They created a media and a listener who thrived on only one side of the coin and became unable to flip that coin over. In Killing Limbaugh , Shealy through Marcus turns that very method against the talk show pundit. With Limbaugh as a hostage, Marcus become his own one sided advocate. When show's listeners hear the other side it becomes a revelation. Does Marcus eventually kill Limbaugh? You have to read the book to find that out but we know how the author wants to kill Limbaugh and his cohorts. He wants to kill him with words and this book is his weapon.

Killing Limbaugh has some serious issues. Being an independently published book, it has its share of typos and is in dire need of a professional editor. I found much of the action far too artificial to be believable and felt it would have worked better if he left out what could be called a dystopic plot and kept it in our real world. Yet overall, I found the meat of the book in the dialog and the ideas, which are both intelligently and emotionally laid out, to be entertaining and insightful. It should be obvious that most conservative readers will have issues with the book. I found myself agreeing with most of Shealy's accounts of history and politics yet not all of them. But there is a lot in this book that needs to be said and the author should be commended for doing it in such an unusual way. Finally, if one is disturbed by the title which suggest killing a person that actually exists, please remember that celebrities are often more idea than man and the way to kill the idea is by presenting the truth.

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