I never thought the day would come when I disagreed with Bill Maher over a free speech issue. I've been a big admirer of Maher for years and I feel he speaks brave truths that can often be heard nowhere else in America.
But I think Maher is wrong to oppose the ongoing efforts to remove Limbaugh's program from the airwaves.
On his Real Time with Bill Maher program on HBO, Maher said he is no fan of Limbaugh, who he called a "stupid fat f*ck." But he decried efforts to silence Limbaugh.
"I don’t like it that people are made to disappear when they say something, or people try to make them disappear when they say something you don't like. That's America. Sometimes you're made to feel uncomfortable, okay?"
In a way, it's understandable that Maher would defend Limbaugh over a free speech issue. After all, Maher's previous program, Politically Incorrect was canceled over controversial comments Maher made after 9/11. Free speech is an issue near and dear to Maher's heart.
But on this issue, I disagree with Maher. I strongly support efforts to remove Limbaugh's program from the airwaves.
The problem that we progressives have always had with Limbaugh has little to do with his politics. In fact, our main gripe with him isn't even the sexist, bigoted, racist remarks that he regularly spews on the nation's airwaves.
Rather, our opposition to Limbaugh is that he is a serial liar, who routinely poisons the nation's airwaves with his outrageous falsehoods.
Personally, I never have understand how Limbaugh can spew out his toxic filth year after year and not get slammed by a libel lawsuit. I worked as a reporter for newspapers for years, and I recall how we all walked on eggshells and lived in constant fear that anything we wrote might attract a libel lawsuit. Libel lawsuits, after all, have shut down many newspapers in the U.S. and ended the careers of many journalists.
But Limbaugh is able to spew out his toxic lies and nonsense and viciously attack and smear people, day after day--and bizarrely, he's able to somehow escape libel lawsuits. I don't claim to be a libel law expert. But frankly, I can't understand how Limbaugh doesn't regularly get sued. Perhaps would-be suers are intimidated by the powerful corporate broadcasting interests behind Limbaugh.
I fully agree with Maher that in a true democracy, we need a wide range of viewpoints. Everyone needs to be able to speak their minds. In fact, I believe the U.S. political spectrum is actually way too narrow. There are a lot of viewpoints that Americans never get exposed to: including actual, real progressive viewpoints. (On the other hand, we do get constantly exposed to the Crazy, Extreme Far Right that is the today's Republican party).
My own opposition to Limbaugh has nothing to do with his political views, or the fact he's a "Conservative." It has to do with the fact that he is a f*cking liar. He routinely makes up lies to promote the Republicans and he routinely makes up lies to viciously smear the Democrats.
He is not a political commentator. He is a liar.
He is not even a "Conservative." He is a Republican party hack.
Political viewpoints from a range of sources belong on our nation's airwaves. But bald-faced outrageous lies do not. As Maher himself has said in the past, democracy simply doesn't work when people vote against their own interests. And nobody has conned the working class in this country to vote against their own interests than Limbaugh. (And it's not because he has any great oratory skills, or powers of persuasion---it's simply because he's a f*cking liar who gets away with it).
As far as I'm concerned, this is much more serious an issue than simply a bunch of gullible, working-class half-wits being conned into voting for the party of billionaires. It is an issue no less serious than the resulting decline and fall of America itself.
As long a fascist pigs like Limbaugh get to spew their lies, the increasingly extremist GOP will control more and more aspects of American life. This hurts America in numerous ways: from the decline of science and education standards to our nation's crumbling infrastructure to endless budget-busting tax breaks for billionaires to the endless insane trillion-dollar wars that the GOP keeps launching.
As far as I'm concerned, this is not a "free speech" issue. It's a Truth vs. Lies issue.
If you're fed up with Limbaugh and the daily toxic nonsense he spews on the nation's public airwaves, I urge you to take action.