Saturday, April 7, 2018

Gasp! Bill Maher Is Clueless On Free Speech & Role Of Boycotts

For a guy who bloviates a lot about free speech and defending assorted people on behalf of their 1st amendment rights, it's incredible Bill Maher could blow it so completely last night. This despite  having three panel members (Elliot Spitzer, Max Boot, Heather McGhee) who tried their damndest to educate him on the valid role of boycotts dating back to the civil rights era. But Maher, probably on another weed high, dug in. How does that old cliche go? "Wrong and strong"?  That was Maher last night on Real Time.

As I posted before it's evident that sometimes when Bill Maher appears loopy or "bolshy" on his show (ranting against liberals, or last night against David Hogg as a "bully") he is really high - probably from too much MaryJane beforehand. Maher in a segment that turned highly argumentative, mainly because he adamantly refused enlightenment from his sober panel, accused Hogg of "doing an end run around the first amendment" in his altercation with FOX hate monger Laura Ingraham. See e.g.

Poor little Laura - who Maher was defending and who boasts a show (Ingraham Angle) with millions of dopey viewers  - a voice thousands of times louder than Hogg's - unloaded on the kid with a tweet:

David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it. (Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA...totally predictable given acceptance rates.) 

The ill-conceived attack instantly brought retribution including from Hogg's 14 year old sister, Lauren, and hundreds of others for beating up on a 17 year old kid.  Even the center right WSJ columnist Peggy Noonan, in today's piece  ('
If Adults Won't Grow Up, Nobody Will' p. A13) got the picture when she wrote:

"Ingraham is a successful and veteran media figure, host of a cable show that bears her name. As such she is a setter of the sound of our culture, as it discusses politics. When you're that person you don't smack around a 17-year old ..."

She went on to add "even if he is obnoxious in his presentation of his public self" - but that is her subjective take and most don't agree with her. I certainly don't. It was in fact Ingraham who was the obnoxious one,  resorting to ad hominem as opposed to challenging Hogg's actual positionBut Noonan's larger, "saving" point was that most 17 year olds can be "obnoxious" but when you're the adult you have an obligation to act your age, not like the kid's, i.e. "He's small, you're big, there's a power imbalance. Yuh think? 

Noonan was also amiss in asserting that "Ingraham was unjustly targeted for boycotts". Peggy, in fact,  would do better to take that up with Ingraham's advertisers.  They had the choice to follow Hogg's suggestion or not. He didn't point a gun to their heads or threaten violence to their companies. No force was involved.  Hogg had the free speech choice to appeal to advertisers' moral compass for a boycott, and he rightfully exercised it. They exercised their prerogative  to comply or not.  

The basis for proposing a boycott, which Maher made much ado over and actually attempted to diminish ("A boycott because you're attacked for whining over college rejections?") is immaterial. It's neither here nor there, and again, Hogg is exercising his proposal for a boycott irrespective of whether Maher believes the cause was sufficiently grave.  If Hogg saw it as grave enough himself to warrant his response to Ingraham's heavy -handed ad hominem attack, so be it.  Ingraham has her vast FOX media voice, the kid has hundreds of thousands of animated followers who can besiege advertisers for a boycott. I'd say it's a righteous free speech contest! We don't need Maher to put his weed-soaked thumb on the scales.

Maher's argument is that once you're "out there"  - reaching others in the public domain- then you have to cede the possibility of being a target, and that includes hate mongers (who put Hogg in with photo shopped images of Hitler) .  Thus, Ingraham was expressing her own opinion, never mind it targeted a 17 year old who'd revealed certain vulnerabilities regarding the difficulty of college entry for choice schools on a different media venue (TMZ) .  And as I noted regarding this, even the March 29 WSJ  (p.A3)  pointed out there is a crush now with college applications and the Millennials feature the biggest contingent ever- bigger in numbers than the  Boomers.  So Hogg was  perhaps a victim of too late applications, but would definitely gain entrance to a good school, just perhaps not his first choices.

But the consensus was that Ingraham went full bore  'mad dog' on the kid, capping it with the odious  nonsense that "because it's Holy Week" she'd make amends.  WTF has that got to do with anything? As Lawrence O'Donnell put it "So for all other 51 weeks you'd not have apologized?"  Referring to her subsequent tweet:

Any student should be proud of a 4.2 GPA —incl. . On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland. 

Which Hogg rightly perceived as insincere given she only proffered the apology to save her sorry tail, i.e. advertisers.

Hogg's response was to simply call indirectly for a boycott, tweeting to his 600,000 followers:

Pick a number 1-12 contact the company next to that #

Top Laura Ingraham Advertisers

1. @sleepnumber
2. @ATT
3. Nutrish
4. @Allstate & @esurance
5. @Bayer
6. @RocketMortgage Mortgage
7. @LibertyMutual
8. @Arbys
9. @TripAdvisor
10. @Nestle
11. @hulu
12. @Wayfair

The tweet was flooded with replies from Hogg’s supporters, some of whom pasted images of their messages to the companies in question.  Contrary to Maher's "bully" B.S.  Hogg at no time put a gun to the heads of any of the advertisers to coerce cooperation. And, in fact, only two did agree to the boycott in the immediate aftermath.  Also,  contrary to Bill's bollocks,  there was no "chilling effect" on free speech -  especially commercial speech as Heather McGhee noted. In other words, NO one - not even Ingraham - has a first amendment right to advertisers. That's a privilege she needs to earn, and I would add, sustain.

As we saw when corporate entities bailed on Trump after  his defending the Tiki torch bearing Neo -Nazis marching in Charlottesville   ("some very fine people"), it doesn't take too much to  vamanos when an intensely bad actor risks damaging corporate brands or issues. 

But that was THEIR choice! So Maher was wrong to insist Hogg was "bullying". No, he merely responded in a robust way to what was actual bullying by Ingraham. That Maher couldn't tell the difference perhaps shows how many tokes he lit up before the show.   And as all his panelists tried to impress on his weed-besotted head, there was no "end run" around the first amendment. 

If Maher wanted to be given an example of a real end run, he'd have needed to look no further than the example of former Univ. of Colorado professor Ward Churchill.  After his essay 'On Roosting chickens' came to light, dug out by a little twit with nothing better to do after 9/11, all hell broke loose.  Namely, fascist, anti-free speech lackeys at the University of Colorado  rummaged through all of Prof. Ward Churchill's drafts, academic papers and communications - which they did with no other prof - to find him guilty of "plagiarism" .  

The end result? There was such a chorus demanding his termination from  CU as rapidly as possible, that he was given the heave-ho. No way could a critic of government policy in the wake of 9/11 be allowed to continue to publish his work without hyper-scrutiny and kangaroo academic courts. THAT was Maher's "end run around free speech" example: the use of selective and phony opprobrium - and cafeteria-style  ethics - to get a prof fired from his post for exercising his actual free speech.

But perhaps Maher was too benumbed by weed to recall it, or maybe he never even processed it when it happened. But one thing we do know: In no way is David Hogg's boycott analogous to what the Univ. Of Colorado Board of Regents did to Ward Churchill.   Besides, Ingraham can always get other advertisers, or a new gig.  For Churchill it was all over.

See also the Maher segment here:

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