In a new interview, Bill Maher tells liberals that he is bothered by their inability to let Rush Limbaugh’s sexist attacks on women go.
When asked about the Limbaugh boycott by The Tennessean, Maher said, “I don’t think Rush Limbaugh should be stifled. I don’t agree with him, but he has every right to his opinion no matter how (expletive) that opinion is. And I think it’s a terrible trend that when anybody in this country says anything that you don’t like, you try to get rid of him. You know what, you don’t like Rush Limbaugh, then don’t listen to him. He’s been on 25 years, you know what this guy’s all about. He gave an apology. That’s it. It should be over. It bothers me the way that liberals cannot let this go.”
I don’t think Bill Maher is seeing the whole issue, and he is demonstrating a very narrow definition of free speech. No one is trying to take away Rush Limbaugh’s First Amendment rights. Limbaugh is free to attack anyone he wants, but advertisers are also free to pull their ads, just as consumers in the free market have a right not to support advertisers who support and fund Rush Limbaugh’s show.
Free speech is more than just allowing anyone to say what they want. Every American also has the right to exercise their own free speech rights and react to statements that they find offensive. In Bill Maher’s view free speech apparently only extends to the hosts, not the audiences. He was correct is saying that people have the right not to watch or listen to anything that offends them, but the great thing about our country is that it doesn’t have to stop there.
People have the right to protest, and what Maher seems to be ignoring is the fact that Rush Limbaugh’s advertisers also had the right to ignore the boycott. If the advertisers wouldn’t have agreed with the boycotters and pulled their ads, the boycott would have never been successful. The fact that the advertisers also chose to exercise their rights as consumers of the product Limbaugh is offering should not be ignored.
The issue isn’t whether liberals should let it go or not. Bill Maher is entitled to his opinion on that topic. The problem that I have with what Maher said is that he appears to believe that liberals are victimizing Rush Limbaugh and violating his right to free speech. I guess I never realized that having a radio or television show was a First Amendment right. No one is saying that Rush Limbaugh can never speak or voice an opinion again, but that he needs to be held professionally accountable for abusing his power and attacking a private citizen. Limbaugh makes his money off of his opinions. They are a commodity in the free market, so the market has the ability to determine the financial penalty when someone like Rush Limbaugh goes over the line.
I like Bill Maher. I have watched him since the earliest days of Politically Incorrect, but his definition of free speech as being a one way communication from the host to audience is simply wrong, and that is the great thing about the First Amendment. I am free to disagree with Maher on this issue, and his general attitude towards women, but that doesn’t mean that I have to dislike him or his show.
The First Amendment isn’t just for stand up comedians and radio talk show hosts. It is a right given us all, including those who are participating in the advertiser boycott of Rush Limbaugh.