I remember being genuinely and naively shocked when Rush first showed up on the air. It was like, wow, here comes the John Birch Society again, I thought that monster was in its grave for good -- but here comes the undead hand grabbing our ankles and the zombies are walking. And then he stayed on the air (somewhat with the connivance of the ACLU and other free-speech absolutists, may someone forgive them)... and then there were more, and then there was Faux News, and then it got worse, and Alex Jones, and Qinsane, and... well, here we are.
Here we are in the friggin' middle ages again, with people honestly believing that all Frenchmen have tails and Jews worship the devil and eat Christian children (yes, that weary old Blood Libel is out on parole and having a ball). Tens of millions of people, not just in the US but other countries too, seem hell-bent on being, er, hell-bent. Demonstrating proudly that despite the iPhone and the internet, despite universal education (of a sort), despite global trade and all the rest of it, we're still ignorant, parochial, xenophobic gossipy peasants who believe and repeat any wild story we hear so long as it tickles our bigotries.
Rush was one of the first to kick big ragged holes in my youthful idealism. See, I thought people learned from history. I thought that the tragedies and triumphs and sacrifices of the civil rights era actually accomplished something permanent, that a nation could grow and change and get better just like a person can learn and grow up, or choose sobriety. I thought we had done the boss fight and vanquished the dragon and the rest was just civilised disagreements over best practises. I'd dance on his grave for sure if I thought the evil that men do was interr'd with their bones, but clearly as the Bard warned us, it's the other way around.
BTW, back in 2010 the New Yorker was talking about the historical continuity between the Birchers and the Tea Party. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/10/18/confounding-fathers
Wm F Buckley, who looks good in hindsight and who woulda thunk I'd ever say that -- basically kicked the Bircher nuts out of the Republican Party.
(paywall warning!) But the Tea Party opened the door again; and they are now not creeping back in, but marching on the Capitol with weapons. What I mean is, this white nationalism stuff is a chronic American disease like malaria, it resurges periodically and serious intervention is needed to prevent the fever from overwhelming the body politic and killing the democratic experiment.
We need another WFB moment, and again I can't believe I'm hearing myself saying this. When WFB looks like a defender of civilisation and decency, you know you're in dire straits...