Is This the Time Bomb From Which Rush Limbaugh Cannot Finally Escape?

Originally publish on The Huffington Post, March, 7, 2012

I have been researching and consulting with regard to major crises of all kinds (criminal, natural disasters, financial, reputational, etc.) for 30 years. During this time, I have seen individuals and organizations of all types become trapped in the same disastrous pattern from which they rarely escape, or at least not completely unharmed.

First of all, the fact that they have gotten away with over-the-top, outrageous behavior repeatedly only makes them believe they can do it indefinitely. In fact, the more times they have gotten away with it, the greater their belief in their invulnerability and righteousness.

Second, coupled with an over abundant amount of unhealthy narcissism and the fact that they have been supremely rewarded over the course of their entire career for what for anyone else is gross and despicable behavior, they believe that ordinary rules don’t apply to them. (Recall Eliot Spitzer and Tiger Woods.) Thus, they cannot only get away indefinitely with their shameful behavior, but they can continually up the ante over time with no harm whatsoever.

Third, they believe that they don’t have anything to learn from others who have suffered similar types of crises, e.g., Don Imus, Rupert Murdoch. Thus, even though Rupert Murdoch’s empire still exists, his influence is so diminished that UK politicians no longer fear him as they once did.

Fourth, the fact that they failed to prepare adequately beforehand for a series of crises generally keeps them from responding appropriately and timely once a crisis has occurred. To put it mildly, it’s not sufficient to say that one chose one’s initial words wrongly. This only makes the original crisis worse.

In other words, crises don’t “just happen.” Long before they erupt, there are clear early warning signs of trouble. Unfortunately, because of all the above, they are generally dismissed.

Still, given our culture’s insatiable fascination with and need for celebrities — how one becomes a celebrity is almost completely irrelevant — one would be wrong to bet against Rush’s demise. Given his proven ability to bring in the “numbers,” one would not be wise to bet against his returning. After all, the typical damage control is to lie low and let it “all blow over.” And, in many cases, it does.

Nonetheless, one never knows when one has reached the “tipping point,” i.e., when the sponsors and public finally say, “Enough!”

I predict when Rush does come back, he will only escalate his behavior. He will have really learned nothing at all.

The philosopher Santayana said it best: “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

In the end, Rush is his own worse enemy. His is also one of our culture’s worst enemies as well. As much as Rush assaulted Sandra Fluke — the innocent woman he so wrongly and viciously attacked — and women in general, the real tragedy is the continual assault of what is left of decency.

Originally publish on The Huffington Post, March, 7, 2012

About imitroff

Dr. Ian Mitroff is Professor Emeritus at the Marshall School of Business and the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He is the president and founder of Mitroff Crisis Management, a private consulting firm based in Oakland, California, that specializes in the treatment of human-caused crises. He is a Senior Investigator with the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management at the University of California, Berkeley.
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