He was discussing the recent mass murder in South Carolina. His thesis went like this:
Young people, perhaps up to the age of about thirty, have been inundated with negative messaging almost from birth. But unlike earlier generations, the messaging of the last few decades has focused increasingly on the likelihood that all life on the planet will end soon. That message is a far cry from fears over the spread of communism during the Viet Nam era. Far different than the fears engendered by World Wars I and II. This messaging speaks of total destruction and the end of humanity.
He argued today's young generation have heard stories about global warming, heralded by polar bears dying, ice caps melting and oceans rising to decimate coastal areas of every continent. They've not only heard such stories; they've sat quietly at their desks in school as teachers repeat the latest frightening statistics. They've heard stories about all the honeybees dying and leaving us hard pressed to find fruits and vegetables.
Young people in the last few decades have been told that pollution will kill the planet, beginning with the ever-increasing and verifiable extinction of animal and plant species. Those young people have been unable to avoid the terrifying threat of flesh eating virus pandemics, most recently evidenced with the Ebola crisis. The science channels on TV tell them of the possibility that Yosemite will blow its volcanic lid and plunge the planet into nuclear winter, ending all life. Of asteroid strikes that might crash into the Earth and raise killing clouds of dust that block sunlight to kill everyone in a miserable, drawn out, dystopian fashion. Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX fame and Stephen Hawking both warned that artificial intelligence could spell the end of humanity. Then too, there's always the risk of asteroid strikes, nuclear war and gamma ray bursts from distant super novas.
All this makes me wonder if the popularity of zombies, those undead bodes that threaten our civilization, might not be a natural outcome of all this negative programming. A kind of Freudian sublimation defense the ego puts up to allay the fears brought on by today's disheartening messaging.
The list is interminable. But the two crowning news stories about fear are these: “Mankind Will Be Extinct in 100 Years” and “The Earth Stands On the Brink of Its Sixth Mass Extinction and the Fault Is Ours.”
Limbaugh's wrapped up his thesis with a question: How often, how many times do young people need to hear these grim prognostications before they begin to believe them? What kind of zeitgeist does this create for Millennials and others raised in the past few decades? What effect does it have on their love for life? Their sense that life is safe, good, a happy, joyful thing. What impact on their psyche, on their hope for the future? Could this be the cause behind horrific murders and other forms of attack that grace the daily news?
I pondered those questions for a few moments, but then, with great irony, Limbaugh came to the commercial break and two of his pre-recorded commercials aired. The first was for Lifelock, promising a way to avoid identity theft; the second, for a home security system to prevent break-ins, theft and home invasions. Both are solutions designed to allay the fears peoples' egos carry with them as surely as their bodies breathe.
Those commercials reminded me of days past when I spent time in marketing, sales and advertising. I learned that writing an ad would often be more effective if it were based on helping the potential customer remove a fear, rather than showing him or her something desirable. (To read more about fear-based advertising, check here and here).
Did Limbaugh support a core principal of the Course intentionally? I don't know that he's ever heard of the Course. Yet I could only listen to him with my “Course ears,” recognizing once again that there are two worlds. One that is immersed in fear and needs our forgiveness, another in which there is nothing that could possibly be forgiven.