WHEN will we see his like again? Hopefully, not very soon and preferably never again. Rush Limbaugh is dead, my eyes are bone dry and the florists is closed due to lockdown.

This week the death of Limbaugh, the American talk-radio star, has drawn attention to the noisy cult of right-wing radio in America and marked the death of a pioneer and a thoroughly detestable personality. When it comes to modern media there is always a space for bigots, racists, and coded hate-speech.

Limbaugh was only known by reputation in the UK, where higher standards of regulation determine what radio and television shows are deemed acceptable. But his spectacular success in America, relentlessly targeting liberals, feminists, and the environmental movement, made him the most popular radio talk-show in the USA. There are lessons in his popularity for our own media.

Limbaugh deliberately set out to offend gays; Blacks; liberals; feminists, whom he sometimes called “feminazis”; and the ecology movement, who he openly derided as “tree-huggers”. When challenged about his divisiveness he hid behind a cloak much loved by everyday bigots – he was only joking.

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Limbaugh’s frothing hatred of so many facets of modern life made him a wealthy man and drove the Republican Party into an ideological cul-de-sac that allowed Donald Trump to become President.

It was Trump that awarded Limbaugh with America’s highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom and Honor, which the then First Lady, Melania Trump, tied around his brassneck during the State of the Union address in February 2020.

In a statement on Wednesday, Trump said: “Rush was a friend to myself and millions of Americans – a guiding light with the ability to see the truth and paint vivid pictures over the airwaves.”

He was after all one of Trump’s most loyal mouthpieces, promoting until his death from lung cancer, the false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Limbaugh died as Trump’s lapdog. He raged against the double impeachments of 2019 and 2021 and despite the weight of epidemiolocal evidence, he ­allied himself with Trump during the coronavirus pandemic, insisting that the viral illness was no worse than the common cold.

Limbaugh’s provocative and polarising views brought him media notoriety and public visibility, but he was also responsible for the coarsening of public discourse and the cheapening of media values. His daily radio show was heard on more than 600 US stations and by up to 27 million people weekly and, according to Forbes magazine, Limbaugh’s vitriol earned him $85 million in 2020 alone.

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According to the Washington Post, his fan base was enthusiastic and easily led. “At the peak of his popularity, restaurants across the nation re-christened their empty overflow space ‘Rush Rooms’ and piped in the show, filling seats at lunchtime with fans who called each other ­‘Dittoheads’ because they agreed with every pearl of Limbaughian wisdom,” the Post reported.

It is coincidence but perhaps an ominous one, that Limbaugh’s passing has come at a time when Andrew Neil has brashly announced the launch of GB News, a news service that has assured the doubtful that it will be impartial. It is assurance that does not align with the broadcasters he has hired nor his intention to espouse populist and right of centre views. GB News has claimed that it will reflect opinions not reflected by mainstream services, especially out of London. It presumably means the north of England as it is difficult to imagine it will reflect the majority pro-independence opinion here in Scotland.

Scotland has never shown any great appetite for either shock-jock broadcasting or radio shows that skew to the moral right. Colin Lamont, using the character of Scotty McClue enjoyed brief success as a late-night provocateur on Scot FM in the mid-90s but it was clearly a characterisation. The views were not necessarily those of Lamont himself but rather his comic creation. Audiences understood the difference and the conceit was never likely to last.

Limbaugh had some of the same ­characteristics as the arch-Brexiteer ­Nigel Farage. Both advocated ideas that they knew they were economically inured from and both spoke as if they were battling the social elite when in fact, they were inextricably part of that elite and wholly committed to its preservation.

What is truly astounding about Rush Limbaugh’s media success was its sheer longevity. He paralleled the reign of 11 Presidents, dying as the toxic Trump was humiliated by Joe Biden.

Ironically, his career began in a local radio station in Austin Texas with the call letters KLBJ, indicating it was owned by Lyndon B Johnson in the days before LBJ became President. Limbaugh’s career, and talk radio in general, received a boost in 1987, when the US Federal Communications Commission repealed rules requiring broadcasters to provide equal time to both sides of political debates.

His big opportunity came with the right-ward lurch of American Politics under Ronald Reagan and the Bush Family, when emotionally charged issues like abortion, gun ownership and personal taxation shaped conservative America. His success helped spawn a new class of right-wing pundits.

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EVEN during the Democratic presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, Limbaugh had a divisive role to play, demonising liberals and pushing conservative elected officials to even harder stances on issues such as immigration, government spending and denial of global warming. He was not shy at spreading malicious and racist gossip about Obama.

Inevitably, Limbaugh was loathed by liberals. One of his major detractors was the Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, a one-time comedian who wrote a book entitled Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations.

Limbaugh traded in hate speech, which far too many people, even here in Scotland, still mistake for upfront honesty. As a young broadcaster in the 1970s, Limbaugh once told a Black caller: “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”

He raged against professional American basketball, spooked by the success of the towering African American superstars, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and argued that the NBA be rebranded the Thug Basketball Association. It was an inherent racism that lasted throughout Barack Obama’s presidency when Limbaugh, played the parody song Barack the Magic Negro, an attack on his popularity with middle-class white voters.

In a book on his impact in America, the author John K Wilson quotes Limbaugh as saying, “When a gay person turns his back on you, it is anything but an insult; it’s an invitation”. And of the women’s movement, he once wrote: “Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream of society.” And subsequently argued for a change to the the legal system arguing that “Women should not be allowed on juries where the accused is a stud”.

In a land where all broadcasters seek a diversity of opinion –some opinions should be confined to the morgue.