How to reflect on a deceased controversial figure

On Feb.17, infamous conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh died from complications due to lung cancer. Following his passing, the political world was divided on how to react. Some honored his legacy, others celebrated his death and many refused to comment altogether.

Limbaugh was one of the most prominent voices in American political discourse for the past few decades. He is credited with being the driving force for American conservatism on talk radio and had probably been the most powerful member of the same alternative media market that he pushed to the forefront. Limbaugh is also widely known for spreading misinformation, bigoted and hateful ideas about race, sexism, climate change, the LGBTQ+ community and more.

Many people on the left considered Limbaugh’s death a cause for celebration. Popular left-wing Instagram account, @quentin.quarantino not only posted a slew of memes making fun of Limbaugh but also ironically created a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood in his name, amassing more than $1 million in donations in just three days. On the opposite side, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (Republican) ordered all flags in the state to be lowered to half-staff on the date of his burial, an unprecedented decision for the death of a member of the alternative media.

Not only is there a divide amongst the public on Limbaugh’s rhetoric, but the reaction to his death has created an additional debate on how to properly reflect on someone’s life. Prominent conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro said, “You can tell the disgustingness of the left today by how they are reacting to Rush Limbaugh’s death.” 

Emma Vigeland of progressive outlet The Majority Report said, “This is the guy that pushed ‘Birther’ conspiracies and coined the term ‘Feminazi.’ He actively spread misinformation and conspiracy theories. Let’s not pretend he isn’t what he was. He was a monster.”

The debate also divides teenagers as WHS senior Dylan Berger said, “I don’t believe we should celebrate when people die. I assume he had a family and friends who loved him and will miss him regardless of his opinions.” 

On the contrary, WHS senior Ben Garceau said, “I think that it’s totally fine to criticize the viewpoints and actions of a controversial figure whether they are dead or not. If they chose to say something, they should be held accountable for their words even if they’re dead.”

This phenomenon is not limited to the political realm. For example, the “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson is another figure who divided the public on whether or not his music should still be celebrated after his death, considering the revelations regarding his inappropriate relationships with children. This sort of discourse continues to remain at a deadlock more than a decade after Jackson’s death.

At the end of the day, it comes down to individual morals surrounding death and accountability. It’s a tough task determining whether to celebrate a person’s achievements or fault them for their failures, especially for a divisive and influential political figure like Rush Limbaugh.

A meme making light of Rush Limbaugh’s death. (Photo courtesy of @quentin.quarantino on instagram)