On Friday, Rush Limbaugh explained that what he had said the day before was not racist, but just a joke. When discussing a fight between white and black kids, he explained he wasn't being serious but just making a "school bus riff." He explained that everyone criticizing him got it wrong. "I said jokingly, 'Segregate the busses to protect the black students so they wouldn't be taunted.' These guys literally have no sense of humor."
Yes, fine, I know Rush Limbaugh often has to do a lot of explaining after so many of his riffs. But it's still fair to take him at his word. If Rush Limbaugh says he was just joking, then probably he was just joking.
Okay, okay, simply because someone is just joking doesn't mean it's a good joke. I mean, how many times have watched a comedy monologue and thought, "Geez, you really suck eggs" or not laughed? But ... well, he was just joking.
And okay, okay, simply because someone is just joking doesn't mean it isn't a racist joke. We've all heard someone tell a joke and thought, "Geez, that's really in sucky taste." But... it was just a joke.
"I was just joking" is indeed sometimes a valid explanation. The problem is that it generally tends to be the last refuge of the thoughtless.
At least when others don't laugh at your jokes, your claiming that they "have no sense of humor" might be valid, too, on occasion. It might also, however, mean they have an impeccable sense of humor, and you just told a pathetic joke that wasn't remotely funny. Oh, to tell the difference!!
I say all this, by the way, as a sap who has been paid for writing jokes almost since I started getting paid for anything. And have accidentally received awards for it. Mind you, that doesn't mean any of it was good. Just that I understand the concept of what goes into crafting a joke. And not getting a laugh.
(Bonus tip: When you repeatedly have to explain you are joking, it's a general rule of thumb that your jokes aren't working. You should a) go back to rewrite them, and b) reconsider your decision to tell jokes.)
Still, Rush Limbaugh says he was just making a joke. And that it's our fault for (again) not getting it. So, maybe we should try harder to get it.
And y'know, looking again at the part of his joke that attracted so much attention -- it just might be a real hoot:
"I think not only it was racism, it was justifiable racism. I mean, that's the lesson we're being taught here today. Kid shouldn't have been on the bus anyway. We need segregated buses -- it was invading space and stuff. This is Obama's America."
Ba-dum-bump. Rim shot.
Okay, okay, admittedly it's not an "A guy walks into a bar..." kind of joke. Or a Seinfeldian, "What's the deal with school busses?" Or even at the level of "Knock, knock." But compared to an Ann Coulter quip about poisoning a Supreme Court justice ... hey, you bet, I can see on a GOP pundit level, it's much funnier than that.
Mind you, even with my experience, I still have had a hard time parsing the actual joke. But because I'm trying hard to come to Rush Limbaugh's defense, I refused to give up trying to figure it out.
And -- good news. I finally have!
Realize that it's not a normal construction of a joke. Like, with a punch line. Look at it like this is one of those rambling monologues you'd see at a college coffee house back in the beatnik era. Envision bongo drums thumping in the background. Imagine clouds of cigarette smoke filling the room. Picture Rush Limbaugh in a beret and with a goatee. Cool. Hip. It's a "riff," after all, as he said.
So, accepting that this is a joke (and a good, non-racist joke), that means this must be satire. And if it's satire, that means that Rush Limbaugh is goofing on what his actual words were. Just like he said. That he's turning it all on its ear. That he doesn't mean what he said (as he insists is the case)...but rather, the very opposite.
Everyone criticizing him got it wrong. He didn't mean those awful things. Right?!! It was just satire! Right? He didn't mean them.
So, taking this as a joke ... as satire ... as not what he means, but the opposite -- that means that Rush Limbaugh is actually for integration. For the rich, vibrant co-mingling of the races. For brotherhood and for compassion and for understanding. And that the violence that occurred on the bus is not remotely any part of "Obama's America." That brutality and racism is the exact opposite of Barack Obama's America. That what occurred on the bus has Absolutely Nothing At All to do with Barack Obama in the slightest.
You see, there are only two possibilities here. Either Rush Limbaugh meant what he said -- or he didn't. And Rush Limbaugh says he was just joking. That he doesn't mean what he said. Therefore the only other possibility is that he means the opposite.
And that means Rush Limbaugh is one, big, God-love-him, bleeding-heart liberal.
Give him a hug. Just as if he was a tree.