Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bill Maher's Defense of Limbaugh Is Unfounded

Limbaugh and Maher - strange bedfellows
In the wake of dozens of sponsor pullouts resulting from his three-day tirade against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, loudmouth talk show host Rush Limbaugh has encountered an unexpected ally.

Left-leaning comedian Bill Maher has come out in defense of the right-wing radio personality, clearly disagreeing with the content of Limbaugh's message, but defending the talk show host's right to express it. Maher Tweeted that Limbaugh's specific comments about Fluke were "vile", but went on to say that he could not condone the idea of "intimidation by sponsor pullout."

In response to pressure from the public and from their respective consumer bases, more than thirty sponsors have decided to pull their advertising support from Limbaugh's radio program. Maher portrays these marketing decisions as hedging on Limbaugh's first amendment rights and as a consolidated attempt to make Limbaugh "disappear." In response to those who say this is just an instance of how American freedom of choice works, Maher argues that this is an example of the "system being manipulated."

Maher's basic defense of Limbaugh is off-base though, and the reason is simple. At its core, this is not a first amendment issue.

No one is arguing that Limbaugh should be stripped of his fundamental American right to speak his mind, and no reasonable people are arguing that Limbaugh has lost the right to host a radio show (wanting someone to be fired from a job isn't the same as saying they no longer have the right to do that job).

The angry public and Limbaugh's abandoning sponsors are simply saying - you can have your show, but we don't have to pay for it. This should be easy for Limbaugh to understand, as it is essentially the same approach Rush himself took to funding contraception for Sandra Fluke. It's not a matter of "rights," it's a question of payment. Just as he would have Sandra Fluke fund her own birth control, if Rush wants to have a radio show and no one wants to pay for it, then he can pay for it himself.

Most Friday nights I invest an hour of my time being entertained and intellectually provoked by Maher's HBO's program Real Time. Maher is a left-leaning, no-bullshit, atheist, and I'm more than fine with all that. I almost always agree with his logic, and I can't honestly remember disagreeing with any major political or religious position Maher has ever taken. Until now.

But it's okay, Bill - this is just an argument, not a break-up. I'll keep watching on Fridays, I'll still follow you on Twitter, and of course, I'll still laugh.

Related Post: Turn of Phrase - Limbaugh's Favorite Birth Control

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