Don Williams
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Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

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Rush on drugs give rise to modest proposal--we should drug-test talking heads
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   10/24/2003)

Not to pile-on in Rush Limbaugh's time of unraveling--after all he's always been so compassionate regarding misfortunes of others--but recent admissions of pain pill abuse give rise to a good question. Shouldn't talk show hosts take drug tests?

Bus drivers do it. Widget makers and bill collectors and airplane pilots do it. Why shouldn't opinion-makers of the loud-mouthed variety take drug tests too? After all, who's in a position to cause more pain and suffering than political talk-show hosts?

You're right, I should define my terms.

By pain and suffering I'm not just referring to pain suffered in wars promoted by talking heads who spread exaggerated claims or outright lies about stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and uranium deals going down in Africa and aerial drones poised to spread anthrax in OurTown, USA. Neither do I refer to certain talk show hosts' tendencies to repeat innuendos that lead a majority of Americans to believe Saddam Hussein brought down the World Trade Center.

Nor am I talking about pain caused by professional talkers who suggest it's O.K. for people to spend their prime in prison for--oh, I don't know--smoking pot. Don't think for a minute I'm referring to suffering caused by broadcasters who promote "Three Strikes You're Out" or other sentencing laws that send people to prison for filching Twinkies.

I'm certainly not talking about the suffering that talk show hosts promote by suggesting Israel should build more settlements in occupied lands or that every American should buy gas-guzzling cars, while in the next breath hinting that solar power and windmills are for sissies. I wouldn't dare bring up something so abstract as Rush's mockery of things like global warming--even if 20,000 or so Europeans died in heat waves this past summer. Nor am I speaking of certain pontificators' weird tendencies to blame trees for forest fires or to smear opponents with words like "socialist" and "femi-nazi" and "Stalinist" and "tree-hugger" and so forth. After all, these are matters about which reasonable people--I use the phrase loosely--might disagree.

No, I'm talking about the pain and suffering inflicted on people who tune in by accident--say, during drivetime. I'm convinced two minutes of Rush's blather or Ollie North's patriotic patter or Michael Savage's non-sequiturs are major causes of car wrecks. They oughtta do a study. It could be unsuspecting stations are sending a contact high out over the airwaves.

Rush's radio rants have prompted my wife to remark upon occasion, "He needs to take a pill and chill." She meant it rhetorically, but turns out he really DID need to take a pill. In the worst way. He's admitted as much.

But maybe Rush isn't the only one. Draw your own conclusions.

I mean--and these things really happened--when Bill O'Reilly yells "Shut up!" over and over at some stunned guest. Or Savage calls somebody a slut or a communist or a nutcase. When Ann Coulter suggests liberals should be shot for treason and Muslims slain or converted to Christianity. When Sean Hannity asserts we've ALREADY found WMDs in Iraq. When Oliver North rails against drug dealers or terrorists despite serious allegations that HE dealt with drug runners AND terrorists during the Iran-Contra affair, it makes you wonder--maybe such delusional talkers should be handed cups while we politely avert our ears. It could explain a lot.

I'm not saying drugs skewed Limbaugh's thinking, but listen to the farewell remarks he made on Oct. 10 and, again, draw your own conclusions.

"You know, over the years athletes and celebrities have emerged from treatment centers to great fanfare and praise for conquering great demons. They are said to be great role models and examples for others. Well, I am no role model. I refuse to let anyone think I am doing something great here."

Un-Be-Lievable. No ROLE model? Something GREAT here? Sly how he plants the seeds of how we should think of him when his obvious motivation for owning up at all is that HIS OWN MAID--whom he allegedly ordered to purchase drugs on the streets while he hid in the mansion--spilled the beans to the National Enquirer. Just imagine what Rush would say about such shenanigans in the abstract. But then, we don't have to imagine. Here's what Limbaugh said on Oct. 5, 1995, according to Newsday.

"And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up.... Too many whites are getting away with drug use. Too many whites are getting away with drug sales. Too many whites are getting away with trafficking in this stuff. The answer to this disparity is not to start letting people out of jail.... The answer is to go out and find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river, too."

How's that, Rush? Not a word about treatment? I wish him the best in his quest for sobriety, I really do, because the BEST that could happen is for him to have a change of heart and learn what compassion means. Imagine the civility that might fill the air.