If there’s one thing in this world that’s been able to unite people like Bill Maher and Ann Coulter, it’s the obsession some people seem to have with getting offended over every little thing people say. Being offended is the best way to change the subject in this country. Contraception? Nah, let’s talk about how Rush Limbaugh talked about contraception. Rush Limbaugh? Nah, let’s talk about Bill Maher instead. Assessing Obama’s abilities against the GOP candidates? Nah, let’s all complain about Robert De Niro instead.
In his final New Rule of the night, Maher made the same argument he did in a New York Times op-ed earlier this week: people need to stop apologizing for the things they say just because people take offense to them. And Maher made sure to emphasize that it applies equally to everyone all across the political spectrum, from De Niro to Hank Williams Jr. These apologies are generally insincere and crafted by PR strategists, corporate executives, or image consultants. There is no authenticity in any of it.
Maher bashed language police on both the left and right for always getting so outraged over things that did not warrant it.
“In the last few years, we have been shocked and outraged by the unbelievable insensitivity by Nike Shoes, the Fighting Sue, the White House Christmas tree, the White House Christmas card, burning the Quran, apologizing for burning the Quran, Don Imus, Tracy Morgan, Gilbert Gottfried, Ashton Kutcher, and the ESPN who used the wrong Chinese cliché for Jeremy Lin after everyone else used all the others.”
Maher said that we can easily coexist with people we vehemently disagree with by not listening to them and by ignoring them. And the argument that “oh, well he/she spreads his/her filth to thousands/millions/bajillions of people” just doesn’t hold up well. So what if people are exposed to these ideas? That’s the whole point of communication: that you make yourself exposed to ideas. And if you disagree with those ideas, don’t expose yourselves too them! Let others be!
But what’s most jarring is how hypocritical people manage to be on this issue. It bears repeating that many of the same people who would condemn Rush Limbaugh any day of the week would not dare say the same of Bill Maher. But it’s not just that. Conservatives always pile on liberals for being too sensitive and politically correct, but pretty much any time a liberal like Bill Maher says something that’s politically incorrect, SOUND THE ALARMS! WE MUST MAKE BILL FAMOUS! MAHER 2012!!! Remember how conservatives were hitting back against the language police when we were all talking about national discourse in the wake of the Giffords shooting? How much do you want to bet that many of these same people suddenly morphed into the language police themselves to rail against the comments Maher made about Sarah Palin? If you’re going to be outraged all the time, at least don’t be so transparent enough as to only do it when it’s the other guy in the field. Context matters, but so does consistency.
And even if you don’t think Bill Maher is the best vessel for this notion, discard the man and focus on the idea: getting offended and demanding apologies for every little thing is a waste of time and discourse. Are there times when it might be morally justified to get offended? Of course there are. But so much of what constitutes an “offensive” statement in American culture these days is often overhyped and overblown. Because as Maher said, if we as a society said nothing controversial or crafted everything we said based on what certain audiences wanted to hear, we’d basically all turn into Mitt Romney.
Watch the segment below, courtesy of HBO:
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