Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why Bill Maher Is Wrong About Rush Limbaugh


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.


Denise Michaels said...

The reason Limbaugh has never been strung up on libel charges is because part of the definition of libel is that it's "in writing." A radio show isn't in writing - it's verbal. Limbaugh's lies can certainly be defined as "slander" which is similar to libel - but spoken words, not written. Additionally, slander is much more difficult to prosecute in court then slander. As a result, Limbaugh - the lying liar - avoids legal actions decrying his malicious words.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Denise, thanks for your comment. I wasn't aware of this. This appears to be a loophole in the law that Limbaugh and his fellow right-wing talkers are exploiting.

PaGuy said...

With all due respect to Denise, while it is true that what Rush does is slander, not libel, it would not be more difficult to prosecute a slander case than a libel case against Rush. The reason, of course, is that Rush's slander is TAPED, everyday, so you have absolute proof what he says, whereas for the ordinary person whose every word is not taped, slander often can't be proven because a jury may believe that the plaintiff mis-heard the alleged slander. No risk of that with Rushie.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting this in writing. You have hit the nail on the head. I will listen to his show when I am in the car and I am amazed and sickened by what he says. I wish I had a link but I recently read about a company that hires actors to call these shows, in fact they are given scripts to read when they call Limbaugh, beck, ect. So not only is he a liar, but the black person that calls into his show to agree with him and blame Obama for all the worlds troubles and to thank Limbaugh for "opening his eyes to the wonderful world of conservitivism", is an actor or actress being paid $30.00 per call to continue the illusion.

ShadeTail said...

The real reason Maher is wrong about this is because he's pretending that people are taking away Mr. Oxycontin's freedom of speech, and we clearly aren't. Nobody grabbed him and tied him up and stuffed a gag in his mouth (mainly because that would involve touching the filthy prick, but even so). He can still say whatever he wants, he just won't have his nation-wide megaphone anymore if we get our way.

And what about our freedom of speech? What about our right to hold that vile bigot accountable for the crap he spews? What about our right to go to his advertisers and ask, "Do you really want your brand affiliated with this filth?" If Maher is correct that we are denying Limbaugh his rights, then Maher is trying to deny *us* the same.

The important point to remember is that freedom does not mean, "Do whatever you want!" It means, "You take responsibility for yourself." We are making Limbaugh take responsibility for himself, and we aren't going to stop just because it gives Maher flashbacks to the end of Politically Incorrect.

Anonymous said...

we need the Limbaughs to remind us where the edges of sanity are.

Anonymous said...

He isn't sued for libel or slander or defamation because the standard of proof is malice, when it comes to public figures.

Maher calls people names too: in fact, he is nastier because he is on late night cable. He isn't exactly a fount of factual information, either. They are the same, in many ways. Maher knows it. You're much of a sucker for Maher as Limbaugh's audience is for him, so you, like they, are lovers of double standards. At least Maher doesn't buy his own bs.

Anonymous said...

Tho aware of the distinction between slander and libel, I was unaware of the greater difficulty in proving a slander claim. Any elucidation?

The reason for litigation difficulty regarding defamation in this instance has to do with the defamed being public figures for which malice must be shown or a gross disregard for the truth. There also is the question of whether the remarks were for purposes of satire or humor. Of course, in the case of Ms Fluke, she was as Maher said "a civilian" which should allow her to sue on a much lesser standard. Regardless, the statements of Limbugh regarding her testimony clearly were malicious and without redemption either as satire or humor.

the bewilderness said...

He is making a specious argument. He calls it free speech when a man gets paid to tell lies but if millions of people exercise their right to speak in objection to the lies it is somehow a wrong thing. No. If Limbaugh is free to lie and get paid for it then the public is free to object to him getting paid to lie. Free speech don'tcha know.

Marc McDonald said...

>>>Rush's slander is TAPED,
>>everyday, so you have absolute
>>proof what he says

I'm not sure this is true. These right-wing scum routinely deny what they said, even if it is on tape. Limbaugh, no doubt, would simply claim that people misheard what he said, (just like Rick Santorum bizarrely claimed he said "blah" people instead of "black" people).

Anonymous said...

Marc McDonald:

Rush Limbaugh has a political "news" show three hours a day, and Bill Maher has a "comedy" show once a week, in a roundtable format, and a standup act. Maher almost never spouts off a fact or statistic, because of the nature of the show.

Rush isn't constantly "lying," as that term is commonly understood. I heard him last week, claiming that the reason that oil consumption, as a percentage of GDP, went down over the past few decades is that other things are more expensive. It didn't make any logical sense (I would think that whatever the stats were, they would be indexed for the cost of living), and even if it made logical sense, it had zero factual support. Not a lie, but certainly hot air. Limbaugh isn't stupid. He doesn't NEED to lie. He mainly spins hard. But, with the volume of time he needs to fill, he does lie outright, many times over his career - but not as often as you make it out.

Both Limbaugh and Maher carry water for the political establishment, by promoting the story of the day. There is nothing in depth about either of them. There is nothing original about either. Maher gets his storyline off whatever is on the front page of HuffPo; Limbaugh gets it from the RNC. People who want to be informed, and want to think, and want to be challenged, avoid both programs. People who want to feel members of a self-righteous tribe watch these clowns. Maher is a little more self-aware, and understands this. The fact that you give his opinion (which really isn't HIS, sucker, he's just trying to make talking points funny) credence is the root of your misconception.

If someone lies about statistics, or uses bogus terminology, that isn't actionable. If someone lies about a person, who isn't a public figure, there might be legal consequences. Rush Limbaugh doesn't do anything that is prohibited by the First Amendment, or that should be.

Neither of these guys add anything whatsoever to the public discourse or the education of the electorate. I wouldn't be sad if both left. But they aren't very different, and either one would be replaced if they did leave.

Jacobus 323 said...

Delighted C&L put me onto your site. Like the way you express your thoughts. Great blog.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Anon,
>>Maher almost never spouts off a
>>fact or statistic, because of
>>the nature of the show.

You have obviously never actually watched Maher's program. He routinely states facts and statistics to back up his arguments. In fact, he regularly brings note cards with him and sets them on the table to refer to, particularly when he is debunking a lie from one of his right-wing guests. (I still remember the time he smacked down an outrageous and persistent lie that was being peddled by Tucker Carlson. Carlson was claiming that European nations with single payer health-care systems pay spend more per capita on health care than the U.S. does---and Maher was ready with the hard stats and data to debunk Carlson's lie. It was one of those moments where I realized just how valuable Maher is in debunking right-wing bullsh*t. I have no doubt Carlson could have gone on CNN or any of the Sunday morning talk shows and spewed his B.S. and would not have been challenged on this point.

>>Rush isn't constantly "lying,"
>>as that term is commonly

Uh, yes he is. For a tiny, tiny sample of the outrageous lies Rush spews every day, check out this Media Matters piece.

>>Maher gets his storyline off
>>whatever is on the front page of

Once again, you're just trotting out the usual right-wing spin in your effort to smear Maher. The fact is, Maher is not a Democrat. He is an avowed Independent. Yes, he does clash with right-wingers from time to time. But that's not because he's carrying water for the Dems. And it's not because he's pushing a "progressive" agenda. It's because Maher hates lies, period. A true rebel, Maher is a loose cannon and he carries water for nobody. Maher kisses nobody's ass. By contrast, Limbaugh is nothing more than a Republican hack and stooge and he's a scum-sucking whore who would do anything for money.

Jack Jodell said...

It would appear that Maher is basing his belief from a subjective, rather than objective viewpoint.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Jack, thanks for stopping by and for your comment.