Initially, my reaction was to question the veracity of the Times of London, which conducted a poll of the most admired people throughout 13 nations and determined that, among Americans, Rush Limbaugh is the ninth most admired human being -- in the entire world.
I thought, how can this possibly be accurate? Americans could choose from anyone in the world, and the ninth most admired human is Rush Limbaugh. Not Stephen Hawking or Captain Chesley Sullenberger or Michelle Obama or even a mega-star like Beyonce or George Clooney. Rush Limbaugh.
And then I realized that it makes perfect sense that Limbaugh is number nine. He's a lying, trolling, misogynistic, drug-addicted, overweight, bigoted, right-wing, chickenhawk, bully, thrice-divorced blowhard who might be making it all up for money and fame.
Limbaugh is precisely the kind of person too many Americans aspire to become. Generally speaking, Americans relish the idea of being self-indulgent, oafish, know-it-alls with huge audiences who "ditto" everything we say -- just peruse Facebook, for example. We also tend to regard the opposite of Limbaugh to be effete, weak, somehow European and, ultimately, not American.
Now, sure, it's encouraging that Hillary Clinton, the Dalai Lama, Pope Francis and Barack Obama made the list. But the existence of Limbaugh in the top ten says something really, really bad about us as a nation and we should be embarrassed by this poll, especially when we take a look at the results from other nations (the existence of Lady Gaga and Edward Snowden in the German top ten notwithstanding).
Limbaugh is indeed a reflection of our worst instincts, and people love him for it. And this is what makes me think, in my most pessimistic hours, we're screwed.