Rush Limbaugh called a law student, Sandra Fluke, a "slut" -- he says: taxes paying for contraception amounts to prostitution. I don't really expect much better from him. What are the consequences of this?
I want to get out of the way the obvious. Limbaugh is playing his usual game, which is to make his point but let people get distracted by another point. It's very sneaky and he's good at it. It's a fake-out. Bring up government's role, and then come up with a way to make everyone listen to him. You know he's following this rationale when he only apologies for his choice of words. It's why he has some quite stupid people agreeing with him, which is especially depressing. That means that the fact that Limbaugh is not actually exploiting anyone except people dumb enough to listen to him is the minor point. The major point is that he has dumb people listening to him, so he is an influential public figure and controls to some degree the spirit of the nation. He might even be rewarded with new advertisers for what he said.
Let's also get his logic dismantled. Limbaugh isn't the rebel. He's picking on a woman for asking the government to actually protect people. Limbaugh's perspective is protected (maybe) but it should be long gone from the present. The label of "slut" arguably made sense (maybe) before condoms were invented because if you slept around, you'd spread disease. It sure explains why sex is considered "original sin" and "taking foreign wives" is a huge sin in the Bible. But that logic works against Rush here.
This points to the most dangerous thing here. It is not Limbaugh's word choice, as he wants to believe, but his entire argument. The "get the government to stop paying for healthcare" crowd is probably small enough to be its own cult. Bad things happen in cults, you start to adopt a very narrow set of values and hatreds, and you just live in your own little world.
It should be noted that there's a larger cult than Limbaugh's following. It's called the whole country. The country is plugged into the media. It is estimated that Americans watch around blah blah blah, we all know, we watch an enormous amount of television. Not only that, we watch mostly our own television, that is, made by us.
I bring this up because what saturates the media are Limbaugh's very old fashioned gender roles. Viewers are expected to accept women as "passive" sex objects, with men more or less preying on them. In fact, when the roles are reversed, and a woman rapes a man, it's played off as humorous. This is the starting point of entertainment. So even recognizing that advertisers are fleeing Limbaugh, there are still problems.
When you have a culture that totally misinforms you of what women and men actually are, you have to expect terribly evil things to be said. For heaven's sake I used to think you just had to stare at a girl to make her like you, because that's how Bart Simpson did it.
When people ask me what do you want to do about this stuff, I say, "encourage people to challenge what they believe." That means start with yourself. If you're a liberal, read conservative opinion. If you're an atheist, read the bible. If you're a Christian, read Hitchens or something. Otherwise, you might even attribute the very act of prejudice, cult-like qualities, or others to a specific group and believe yourself immune. Don't be a Limbaugh.