When devotedly conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh — infamous for his racist, homophobic, and sexist rants — died last week at the age of 70, Tommy Marcus made an unlikely donation in his memory: $100 to Planned Parenthood. The gift was, of course, a tongue-in-cheek one; Limbaugh openly insulted reproductive rights advocates during his lifetime and lambasted the national nonprofit, accusing it of “sexual perversion.”
Marcus, who runs the immensely popular meme account @quentin.quarantino, posted a screenshot of his donation along with the comment, “Would be terrible if we raised $10,000 for Planned Parenthood because Rush Limbaugh hilariously is deceased?”
In four hours, his followers had raised $50,000 for Planned Parenthood. “When, for a brief moment, this fundraiser hit $666,666 – it was Rush sending a signal from down below to get this thing to $1 million,” Marcus tweeted as the donations rapidly increased. Within just three days, the fundraiser reached that milestone.
“I had this very strange, ironic fulfillment that came from channeling my anger and resentment towards this man into something so radically different and productive,” Marcus told Hyperallergic. “I wanted to push this reaction in myself further and figured that other people may feel the same way.”
“As it turns out, about 45,000 other people seem to share my sentiment,” he added of the many supporters who contributed a collective $1 million in just three days.
The progressive side of the Internet was already abuzz with memes on the day of Limbaugh’s passing. Many of them pointed out the hypocrisy and absurdity of respecting the dead indiscriminately, even when the deceased happened to be a terrible human while he was alive.
Marcus shared some of those memes as well as his own on his Instagram page, which has 638,000 followers, and they helped the fundraiser take off. What started out as an inside joke between thousands of strangers online became a veritable phenomenon that speaks to the power of memes and digital visual culture to mobilize change.
“It’s been unspeakably meaningful to me to see so much good grow from such a bitter and dangerous legacy,” Marcus said.