I see that Bill Maher has apologized for dropping the n-word on HBO Friday night. This from a guy:
- who didn’t use the word as an epithet directed at anyone (context matters!);
- whose “Real Time” airs on a premium network with no commercials and thus no sponsors to pressure;
- who has an audience that probably doesn’t include many African-Americans;
- who has never felt the need to apologize for his anti-Muslim rants (granted they were slur-free).
Considering how Maher chastises his liberal audience for being too soft on some matters, why is he — the former host of a show called “Politically Incorrect” — now bowing to the free speech police? Did HBO make him issue the apology? If so, why?
Perhaps it’s because of the predictable outpouring of overreaction from every corner of the internet, including some calling for HBO to fire Maher. I’ll bet that less than 5% of those whiners saw the show when it aired Friday night, which — of course — didn’t keep them from joining in the ginned-up social media outrage. HBO says it has edited the controversial segment out of future airings. As his employer and distributor, it has every right to do that, but Maher shouldn’t lose his job over this — unless there’s proof he hurls that epithet at African-American employees and others regularly, like a racial Bill O’Reilly.
I’m a free speech absolutist who believes there is no such thing as a “bad word.” I taught my daughter that when she was young, and despite my frequent use around the house of words I can’t say on the radio, she seems to have grown up as a fine human being. As for whether Maher’s utterance was offensive, that’s a wholly subjective decision each of us have to make, but there’s no constitutional guarantee against hearing words that sting your personal sensibilities.
As with anything else on television, radio, or the internet, if you don’t like the content — for whatever reason — stop consuming it. So, if you’re thin-skinned enough to be offended by anyone’s use of the n-word, don’t watch Maher. And by all means, avoid Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix special.