It of course goes without saying that the war on Rush Limbaugh is continuing apace. Democrats are nothing if not committed to untenable positions. The more untenable the better, in fact. As we’ve endeavored to point out here at Redstate, this is all a White House distraction tactic, and it’s being executed by friendly media taking directions. The left online, naturally, jumped on board faster than a Democrat on a filmmaker. It’s simple to understand, really. They don’t want you to think about Obama’s broken campaign promises and inept first month. So they need a distraction. They have replaced the B with an R in their favorite distraction action: hobgoblinery. (Well it sounds like a real word!)

So it should come as no surprise that they would be anxious to dismiss as false the news that Limbaugh is benefiting greatly from their assault. Their narrative only has teeth as long they believe that they are marginalizing Rush and, therefore, Republicans and conservatives everywhere, as cartoonish and grotesque creatures. As soon as Rush says he is gaining audience the petulance sets in. The “nuh uh” impulse, particularly in the blogs and the Oval office, is strong.

So, leave it to Tommy Christopher to give the liberal blogs just what they were salivating for: a story in which he accuses Howard Kurtz of making the whole thing up.

Here is what Kurtz originally said:

By one measure, Rush Limbaugh is a clear winner this week: His ratings have nearly doubled since his feud with the White House burst into the media limelight.


Now Christopher:

This is a specific, measurable claim. The word “ratings” is not some kind of pliable, esoteric concept. It refers to a specific type of measurement. So, what ratings was Kurtz using? Arbitron? Nielsen? Zagat?
snip
Here’s how strong Harrison’s “research” is: His own magazine wouldn’t cite it without sourcing the quote to Kurtz’s article!

Christopher argues that the circular references call the data into question. He then produces an email exchange with Talkers Magazine‘s Michael Harrison, the original source of the information.

The follow up article in today’s Washington Post basically says it all.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/06/AR2009030603435.html

Keep in mind, I was only referring to Limbaugh’s numbers this past week during the extraordinary media frenzy about him and that Talkers magazine is not in the business of selling ratings. They are only our thumbnail estimates based upon our contacts in the field, tracking of Arbitron estimates and understanding of the business. We make no claims as to “scientific” accuracy. The act of listening to the radio is not connected to any meter or box office. Radio listening is thus unmeasurable in precise quantifiable terms. Thus all estimates are just that, estimates.

Michael Harrison

P.S. Perhaps the following link to a page on our website will be helpful as well…

http://talkers.com/online/?p=71

And so it is that Christopher has determined that the whole thing is a lie. Predictably the left-o-sphere is abuzz, and I’m sure we can expect Kurtz to make “Worst Person in the World” Monday.

Frankly, however, I find a number of problems with the left interpretation. First, let me say it’s clear that Kurtz was not correct when he referred to the numbers as ratings. Ratings are a specific thing, and as Tommy Christopher correctly points out, the estimates quoted by Kurtz are not that specific thing. They aren’t, in other words, official. They aren’t ratings.

Now that the technical error is out of the way, the question that really matters is whether or not those numbers are an accurate reflection of what benefit Limbaugh is gaining from the White House led death charge. Is not the whole point of the Kurtz quote that Rush is gaining popularity? Does the fact that the information isn’t some official “ratings” somehow prove the whole premise false? Well … no. Of course not! Christopher has merely proved that Kurtz was a klutz who called something ratings which was not, in fact ratings.

I’ve seen this strategy of marginalizing Rush’s popularity before. Over at the Daily Beast, Max Blumenthal published a story claiming that Rush is less popular than Bill Ayers or Jeremiah Wright, something I thoroughly debunked here and here. I spoke with Blumenthal on the phone, in fact, and he agreed that his story was wrong, and that Limbaugh was actually not less popular than either of those two. Of course, it doesn’t matter. It’s a Known-Fact™ still in use by the other side. Lies becoming truth is a specialty on that side of the political spectrum, as they continue to prove.

In this case, the problem isn’t one of facts, but conclusions. Talkers Magazine is widely respected. When they talk about what the market is doing they are received authoritatively. A quick Google search shows the magazine is frequently cited as a reliable source. From Tommy Christopher’s article:

Michael Harrison: Yes, they are not “ratings” per se (as in Neilson or Arbitron). They are Talkers magazine’s estimates of audience figures based upon our interpretation of Arbitron ratings and other marketplace factors. You see, Arbitron needs to be “interpreted” when dealing with the complex task of estimating nationally syndicated hosts.

“Based upon our interpretation of Arbitron ratings.” The case that Harrison presents is very simple. No, it’s not a census. Yes, we think we are in the right ballpark. Yes, Limbaugh seems to have benefited. Pretty straightforward to me. He’s big in the headlines this week, makes sense more people are listening, no?

I asked Mr. Harrison if he thought that his numbers weren’t very accurate, as is implied by Tommy Christopher’s story. “If I didn’t believe that they were an accurate estimate of whatever the elusive truth about radio listenership actually is, I wouldn’t publish them,” he said. “It comes down to this — Arbitron does not do national rankings because it is complicated and not cost effective for them to do so. We do our best to do it for them based on their local surveys which have to be translated through a somewhat complicated process to represent a national list.”

The left hates Rush. They can’t stand him, and they can’t stand that people like him and listen to him. So it must be killing them, then, that the only good gift Obama has been able to wrangle up this month was more listeners for Rush Limbaugh.

Me? I’m loving it.

– Caleb Howe