Rush Limbaugh

Maher Wants Controversy Without Controversy

Bill Maher wrote an editorial for the New York Times requesting one day a year when people can evidently say controversial things without accountability.

The answer to whenever another human being annoys you is not “make them go away forever.” We need to learn to coexist, and it’s actually pretty easy to do. For example, I find Rush Limbaugh obnoxious, but I’ve been able to coexist comfortably with him for 20 years by using this simple method: I never listen to his program. The only time I hear him is when I’m at a stoplight next to a pickup truck.

When the lady at Costco gives you a free sample of its new ham pudding and you don’t like it, you spit it into a napkin and keep shopping. You don’t declare a holy war on ham.

I don’t want to live in a country where no one ever says anything that offends anyone.

Where to begin?

First, I never pegged Maher as a pussy but this is really, really weak. It sounds like he wants the latitude to say controversial things without having to face the consequences -- the controversy. Yeah, Bill, I want to drink unlimited amounts of alcohol without eventually dying from sclerosis and disease. But, sorry, there are consequences to free speech. We can mostly say anything, but if we step on toes, you can rest assured the toes will shout back.

As for the lame ham pudding metaphor, the more appropriate metaphor in the case of Limbaugh, who is providing PR cover for heinous and misogynistic Republican laws, would be to say the ham pudding is poisonous and people are going to get hurt unless we stop the ham lady from passing out tainted ham. It's not that the ham simply tastes bad. It's harmful. Limbaugh's words are egging on Republican anti-choice, anti-contraception laws. That's not just obnoxious -- it's harmful to women. It's endlessly frustrating that a smart guy like Maher doesn't see this distinction. (And I repeat: I really like Maher, which is one of several reasons why this pisses me off so much.)

Further, smart people know where to draw the line and how far to carry backlash. Backlash against Limbaugh is proportional to 20 years of racist and misogynistic remarks in a political forum. Janet Jackson's nipple? Way, way, waaaay overblown backlash. Either way, if you deliberately engage in controversy, a free society is allowed, and in some cases obligated, to respond. There are no free rides. Likewise, if Maher wants to challenge me because I called him a pussy here, fine. I'll be happy to debate his points.

Limbaugh isn't going anywhere. He will never be fired. We can only hope his influence will be marginalized. Ignoring him won't make that happen. Maher hasn't ignored things he finds offensive about religion or the religious right. Instead he invested his time and effort into creating an entire film about it. He hasn't ignored things he finds offensive about the treatment of animals. Instead he served on the PETA board -- one of the most radical boycott-driven groups in the world. And his entire career on television has been about speaking out against wrongheaded policies and people.

So, Bill, if you want an America without backlash against dangerous or stupid people... you first.