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It tells you something about the state of debate in our country that Bill Maher has become a voice of reason. Maher says a lot of ridiculous things and some awful things, but you have to say this for him: he has always been tolerant of true diversity — that is, the diversity of opinion, the diversity of minds. This is as opposed to the usual leftist idea of tolerating diversity: being wonderfully tolerant of people who look different as long as they all think the same thing. The usually leftist Maher always welcomed Andrew Breitbart and Ann Coulter on his show, and though his idiot audience would beleaguer them — on the principle that booing the truth magically makes it false — Maher would go out of his way to let them have their say.
Maher recently stood up for Paula Deen, a TV chef unkindly and unfairly fired from her show on the Food Channel for… well, I’m not sure for what exactly, to be honest. A southerner in her sixties, she gave a couple of interviews in which she spoke awkwardly, though not hatefully, about race, and during a trial deposition she admitted that she had privately used what we are now constrained to call “the N-word,” though not for a long time and not necessarily in a negative sense. She apologized profusely but this did not keep her head off the chopping block.
Maher incited the ire of the self-righteous left-wing panel on his HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher by asking, quite reasonably, “If you’re 66 years old, and you were raised in Georgia, and you were a child before the civil rights movement, do you get a bit of a pass?” He further commented: “I… think people shouldn’t have to lose their shows and go away when they do something bad. It’s just a word, it’s a wrong word, she’s wrong to use it, but do we always have to make people go away?”
Well, right. In fact, do we even have to make such a fuss about it? Can’t people express outlying opinions without being lynch-twittered to death? Maher himself recently caught some flack for calling Sarah Palin’s Down Syndrome child “retarded” while making a joke about him. I don’t think he should have done that. I think picking on a handicapped kid is about as low as you can go. Do I think Maher should be fired? Of course not. Let him speak. Let him show us who he is.
Another example: tennis player Serena Williams recently came under massive on- and offline fire after an interview with Rolling Stone in which she was asked (for some reason) about a rape case involving a drunk 16-year-old girl. She said:
I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you—don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.”
I’m no fan of Serena’s. She’s a great tennis player, but a lousy sport with a big mouth. And she certainly didn’t express herself very cleverly here. But come on, we know what she meant. Rape is evil, but a girl getting drunk around a lot of drunk guys is foolish. That doesn’t make rape any less evil, but the evil of rape doesn’t make getting drunk like that any less foolish either.
And if you disagree — so the hell what? So a southern chef in her mid-sixties has issues with race. So an athlete speaks inelegantly about a heinous crime. It’s not that we shouldn’t react or disagree or respond. But do we have to play the villagers in the last reel of Frankenstein whenever anyone steps two inches south of some imaginary line? All it is is a way of making ourselves feel righteous, of displaying our righteousness to others: “You can see what a good person I am by just how hard I kick Paula Deen when she says something wrong.”
Let people talk — let them talk without fear. They’re interesting. They’re, well, diverse. They say things we disagree with. They say things they shouldn’t. They use bad words. They make mistakes. It doesn’t kill us. It doesn’t even hurt us, if we have our heads on straight. We can just chalk it up to — oh, I don’t know — being alive with other people.
And by the way, you’re not that righteous and we all know it. You’re not fooling anyone.