Bill Maher
Credit: Real Time with Bill Maher/Youtube

So whose side are you on?

My aforementioned issues with Jimmy Dore notwithstanding, Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur makes at least one valid point in his questioning of HBO host Bill Maher’s remaining value to the left:

I’m not sure that Maher has as much scorn for progressive guests as Uygur seems to think, but there is no question that Maher’s obsession with right-wing crackpots like Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos is repulsive. I have a really tough time dealing with MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell’s flattery of George Will, but I recognize the devil’s advocate argument that Will has something to contribute to the public discussion. But what the hell do the wing nuts that Maher brings on have to contribute, besides falsehoods and fear?

I basically gave up on Maher after he attacked David Hogg, one of the survivors of the massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. Hogg struck back after being smeared by Fox personality Laura Ingraham, and Maher literally blamed the victim rather than acknowledge that Ingraham brought her troubles upon her own head. Maher’s dismissal of concerns about racial stereotyping in films and television was also far too glib for its own good.

As for Uygur’s contention that Maher has lost his fastball, I’ll say this: It’s hard to imagine the Maher of 1997 or 2007 making the horrific mistake he made in 2017. A year after that particular screw-up, one can’t help wondering: What was Maher thinking that night? Was he thinking?

Uygur has previously called out Maher for his profoundly questionable rhetoric about Muslims: When Maher finally retires, HBO would be well-advised to replace the Real Time host with a comedian far more sensitive to issues of religious tolerance. Even the biggest Maher fan has to question just how “woke” Maher really is when he starts implying that Islam is somehow more wayward than other major religions.

In a March 2012 New York Times op-ed, Maher observed:

If you see or hear something you don’t like in the media, just go on with your life. Turn the page or flip the dial or pick up your roll of quarters and leave the booth.

The answer to whenever another human being annoys you is not “make them go away forever.” We need to learn to coexist, and it’s actually pretty easy to do. For example, I find Rush Limbaugh obnoxious, but I’ve been able to coexist comfortably with him for 20 years by using this simple method: I never listen to his program. The only time I hear him is when I’m at a stoplight next to a pickup truck…

I don’t want to live in a country where no one ever says anything that offends anyone. That’s why we have Canada. That’s not us.

Six years later, we have a president who says things that offend everyone–and according to Uygur, we also have media figures like Maher who are ineffective at combating the covfefe. Is Uygur right? Is Maher really a spent force in American political culture?

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.