Bill Mahar/Politically Incorrect Controversy --Who's the Coward?

Has anyone else been following the storm of controversy which has erupted around Bill Maher and his Politically Incorrect talk show?

Apparently a guest quibbled with the use of the word “cowards” to describe the terrorists, and referred to them as “warriors.” Bill then pointed out that the US could be considered cowardly for sending cruise missiles to hit targets, and concurred that, whatever else the terrorists were, they were not cowardly. More information here.

As you might expect, conservative talk radio hosts have jumped all over this little exchange. Federal Express, responding to telephone calls, has pulled its ads from the show.

I didn’t catch the show where this happened, but on last night’s show, Maher was close to tears as he defended himself. He talked as if there was a chance his show might get cancelled. (Does anyone know if that’s true?)

So who’s the real coward here? I say the coward is Federal Express, which doesn’t seem to have much of a commitment to the American values of free speech and dissent. Maher makes a valid comment, it gets blown out of proportion by rabid talk-show hosts, and Federal Express panics.

If ABC or the producers of Politically Incorrect pull the plug, then I would also view that as a cowardly act.

Anyone else have any thoughts on this controversy?

Freedom of Speech doesn’t mean that people are forced to endorse speech they disagree with. Rather than look at Federal Express as cowards, its easy to see this as a success of the marketplace of ideas. Federal Express heard speech they didn’t like. By advertising during that show, they appeared to support that speech. Pulling commercials shows that they do not support that speech.
If others pull their support of Maher and his show, it merely demonstrates that his idea has no value to the marketplace of ideas.

This is why we allow crackpots to say whatever they want - if they find support, so be it.

The first I heard of it was on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” yesterday morning, where I heard that (note for the sarcasm-impaired: please avert your eyes) great political analyst Brian Kilmeade note that it “proves how much Bill Maher hates this country.” He also noted that the U.S. has spent a lot of money “developing PCs that can control a missile” and that we should use those when we can. The other two doofuses expressed similar sentiments. (Steve Doocy described Maher as “out of control.” )

I think Maher is getting the shit end of the stick concerning an unimportant semantic point regarding use of the word “coward.” I doubt that I could muster up enough cowardice to fly an airplane into a building with me in it. Similarly, while it might technically not be “cowardly” to launch a cruise missile from offshore, it did prove to be ineffective.

In the event, I find it incredibly amusing to see libertarian Bill Maher advocating the “Send our troops in there and blast their asses!” position, while hawkish, uber-right Fox News advocates the Clinton “Launch a missile at them that doesn’t accomplish our goals” position. Sheer ecstacy.

I heard Sears also pulled ads, and I agree that both FedEx and Sears are cowards. I don’t believe they should be “forced to endorse speech they disagree with” as Robb implies, but they are cowards because they are most likely pulling ads out of fear, not because of their disagreeing views. Would they have bothered if they were not beset by angry calls?

I also agree that the terrorists certainly were not cowards. Cowards don’t give their lives to their cause.

I don’t agree with Maher that the US military is cowardly with their use of cruise missles. They would be stupid not to use them, since they have them. I doubt the terrorists would have hesitated to use cruise missles to take out the WTC from a safe distance, if they had had access to them.

I knew someone would trot out the old “marketplace of ideas” argument, and make the (frankly trite) point that Federal Express doesn’t have to subsidize Mahar’s speech.

Of course Federal Express has the right to pull its ads. That’s not the question. The question is whether it is an act of cowardice to do so. I think it is. A look at the transcript will reveal that this whole mess has been blown waaaaay out of proportion. Does Federal Express acknowledge this and take a stand for free speech? No. They cravenly run away.

A smile just crossed the face of Joe McCarthy’s corpse.

Interestingly enough, Rush Limbaugh stated on his show yesterday that he supports Maher, and understands the point that Maher was trying to make- that Maher was not attacking the U.S. or the military, but the political leaders who decided that rather than confront a problem, we would throw a missle at it and hope it went away.

Maher did state in his apology that he was referring to “politicians” as cowardly, not the military.
Can’t say I disagree on that point.

I’ll admit I always rolled my eyes at the knee-jerk use of the term “cowardly” to describe the hijackers. Knowing that they faced certain death or possible imprisonment for life, and armed with nothing but small knives, they took control of airliners and crashed them into buildings. What wimps! What pussies! My grandmother could do that. A real man would stay home and stew in his resentments.

Denying that they were cowards doesn’t deny that they were evil.

Not a trite point at all. FedEx (whether they were truly outraged or making a preemptive move to stem off negative association) didn’t want to have its corporate image harmed by sponsoring Maher’s comment. How dare they!

But ABC has shown its support for Maher. One exec pointed out that the name of the show is politically incorrect for a reason. (Aside: I too think the comments are being blown out of proportion.) To put the impact of this “controversy” in perspective, the local ABC Station Manager here in Houston said that they received 100 angry callers about the show. He said he receives 3x as many when they preempt a soap opera.

This is the important point. And the reverse (or converse - whatever) is also true. Cowardice is not necessarily a bad thing, if it means that you are not willing to put yourself in harm’s way for little reward.

watsonwil wrote:

Yes, of course you’re right. They acted in the proud tradition of the Hollywood blacklist! What was I thinking when I dared to criticize them?

(Fight sarcasm with sarcasm, I always say…)

Semantics police: Attempting to denigrate an idea by calling it trite completely misses the point. So the “marketplace of ideas” is trite. Big deal. Appeals to freedom of speech are hackneyed, and “I don’t agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is a hoary old cliche. The mere fact that an idea is old and often-used does not in any way indicate it is valueless.

We now return to our regularly scheduled great debate.

I’ve already mentioned elsewhere that when I hear that the terrorists were cowardly, I think not of the hijackers themselves, who may or may not have been, but of the puppet masters behind the scenes, who certainly were.

While it’s true that diving your plane into a building knowing you’ll die does not, at first glance, appear cowardly, if the pilot in question confidently believes that this act guarantees him entrance to Paradise, then I can make a case for cowardice. He’s afraid that living his life in a more normal way may not get him into Paradise, and so has chosen this “shortcut” to remove all doubt. I don’t know this to be true – I merely suggest an interpretation.

That the puppet masters who planned the attack, observed it from a distance, and left safely, are cowards, is a much safer assumption.

  • Rick

Yes, that is why they did it. Are you arguing that this act is not cowardice? Cowardice = lack of courage, or actions as a result of lack of courage (paraphrased from the Encarta dictionary).

It would have taken courage to continue to support PI in the face of the complaints. Yet, even what meager complaints they got was enough for them to FEAR losing business. That is cowardice defined.

sqweels: A real man would stay home and stew in his resentments, rather than slaughter thousands of innocents. It takes courage to control your darker impulses.

But there’s another thread for this:

Wumpus wrote:

No, I think you’re missing the point. The debate here is not whether Federal Express had a right to pull its ads. The debate is whether it was cowardly for them to do so.

If they truly believed that Maher’s comments were correct and appropriate and failed to back up their convictions in this regard, you might be right. But you don’t know that this is the case.

*Originally posted by IzzyR *

It is that I don’t know for a fact the reasoning behind their lack of support for PI. But I think probability is on my side.

Surely there is an advertiser out there with the guts to sponsor a forum for free and open debate. (Note that I said sponsor a forum. See how that is different from sponsoring the viewpoint espoused by one of the participants in that forum?) Surely there is a sponsor which is not so cowardly as to try to shut down a show when unpopular views get aired.

spoke, my point was simply that calling an idea trite genrates plenty of heat, but no light.

I will defend to the death your right to make your argument, but I reserve the right to nitpick the way you make it. :slight_smile:

*Originally posted by Revtim *

This shoulda been “It is TRUE that I don’t…”