Last night, Rush Limbaugh was awarded the “Author of the Year” from the Children's Choice Book Awards, and declared, “It was a big deal.” No, it’s not. The award is not fake. It’s the notion that it represents any kind of merit that’s phony.
As Erin Gloria Ryan notes on Jezebel, the nominations are based on book sales, and the award is given to the book that receives the most votes online with no way to restrict who votes or how often, and nothing about the award represents merit.
These scam awards were created by the Children’s Book Council (CBC), a trade association of children’s book publishers who seek to promote literacy but especially like to sell more books. And this is an award that requires no work to produce because quality has nothing to do with it, that draws attention to the organization, and that promotes book sales. All these awards do is take the best-seller list and hand out awards based on it. According to the CBC, “The Author and Illustrator of the Year finalists are determined by the bestseller lists with an emphasis on Bookscan.”
Ryan’s only mistake is writing that Rush “probably won it by prompting his fans to vote for him.” No, Rush definitely won it by prompting his fans to vote for him.
On March 24, Rush announced the nomination and declared, “It's totally democratic. The nominations are determined by sales, not by choice or any other kind of bias. It's strictly by sales.” Welcome to Rush Limbaugh’s notion of democracy: It’s strictly by sales. Nevertheless, Rush declared, “We're very proud. We're very honored here.”
Then, the next day Rush devoted a segment of his radio show to the contest and urged his fans to go online and vote for him. Then, the day after that Rush again went on the air begging for listeners to vote for him: “We are in the second day of voting for the Children's Choice Book Awards. I just mentioned this a couple of times yesterday….” Rush placed a link for voting “right at the top of our home page.”
Rush said, “To win this award, I'm telling you, it's a very humbling thing because the readers -- kids -- vote.” Of course, if only kids had voted, Rush would have never won. Rush wasn’t promoting the contest during his show because he thought kids would hearing him and go vote. Rush has almost no kids listening to him. His audience is incredibly old on average, and his show airs during the middle of the school day. So when Rush pleaded for his listeners to vote for him, he knew it was the adults, not the kids, who were going to do it.
Rush even appeared at the Awards Gala in New York City last night to accept his award and said, “This is unexpected.” “I’m so honored by this…I’m honored and humbled.” It’s doubtful that Rush would ever fly from his home in Florida for the evening unless he knew he was going to win. It’s even more doubtful that Rush feels humbled by anything. Rush played his acceptance speech twice on his show today, because he is so humbled.
Limbaugh declared today, “I sent notes out to people last night saying that I'd won the award, and they said, ‘Oh, you won a Bookie,’ as in a Grammy, as in an Oscar. The Children's Choice Award, a Bookie.” Yes, it’s just like an Oscar — if the Oscars were tossed out to the highest-grossing movies based on an internet poll. It would be like nominating The Hunger Games, Iron Man 3, and Man of Steel for best screenwriting Oscars because they sold millions of tickets.
The irony here is that even though this scam award is just a popularity contest, three of Rush’s fellow nominees in the category (Rick Riordan, Veronica Roth, and Jeff Kinney) actually beat out Rush by a wide margin in 2013 sales according to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks 80% of all book sales (and Kinney also beat Rush in sales on Amazon). So Rush didn’t have the most book sales. He would never win a real popularity contest among children. There are no children begging to read the infantile musings of a talk show host about a time-travelling horse. No kids are asking for Rush’s books. It’s his adult fans who are buying them. So why did Rush win the award? It’s simple. It’s the conservative bias of the media. No other author has a mass media platform to promote voting by fans. And in an internet poll with unlimited voting, Rush’s ability to command his Dittoheads to do his bidding mattered more than anything else.
Rush noted on the second day of voting, “we had a link up to the direct voting page, rather than the home page of the Children's Choice Book Awards….we have changed the link, and the link now just takes you to the home page of the Children's Book Council.” Rush may have been trying to game the system by directly linking to the voting page, not trusting the ability of his elderly listeners to navigate to the correct page. But he didn’t need to worry. Rush’s millions of listeners, voting multiple times, can easily win an internet poll.
After being abused by critics for his numerous errors and bad writing in Rush’s previous two (ghostwritten) books in the 1990s, Rush resisted the easy money of putting out another political book. But the prospect of a children’s book gave Rush the chance to cash in on something that couldn’t be dismissed for its dumbed-down rhetoric. By targeting 10 year-olds, Rush can finally write at an intellectual level that doesn’t strain his abilities, while being certain that all of the old folks who listen to him will buy any book he writes, even if he doesn’t actually write it. And the Rush Revere character is the embodiment of Rush’s devotion to product placement, since the book is based upon the logo for Rush’s bottled tea company, Two If By Tea, which he founded in 2009 as a cynical attempt to profit from the Tea Party movement.
No one doubts that Rush is financially successful. Like so many scam artists, he is skillful at extracting a good living from his gullible fans. This latest “award” is just a reflection of that ability to convince his devoted followers to buy his garbage, whether it’s sugar water or children’s books or conservative ideology. But Rush will use this "award" in the same way that he regularly claims to have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (which, as I note in my book about Rush, apparently never happened and doesn't mean anything): as a way to pump up his enormous ego while fooling his audience into thinking that anyone knowledgeable endorses his ideas.
I think Jon Stewart has the best response for the new Author of the Year, Rush Limbaugh: