Bill Maher has certainly delivered his fair share of off-color humor at the expense of Republicans and conservatives. But his defense of free speech remains steadfast, something that was reiterated during a recent segment on his HBO talk show.
Maher discussed the recent purge of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his site InfoWars from various social media platforms, a clear attempt to stifle free speech no matter how vile or disagreeable the speech may be.
“I’m going to talk about free speech for a minute because Alex Jones, who is not my friend, who tells crazy lies about me, is thrown off Twitter, I think, and Facebook and a few other platforms,” Maher began.
The crowd interrupted by cheering the move, while one guest, former Michigan Democratic governor and current CNN contributor Jennifer Granholm, shrieked “Thank God!”
Maher, however, put the brakes on that line of thinking almost immediately, explaining that support of free speech has to be respected on both sides, no matter the source.
This clip from Bill Maher is excellent pic.twitter.com/AYzGbfQZdt
— Ben McDonald (@Bmac0507) August 18, 2018
“If you’re a liberal, you’re supposed to be for free speech,” he cautioned Granholm and his audience. “That’s free speech for the speech you hate. That’s what free speech means.”
“We’re losing the thread of the concepts that are important to this country,” Maher went on. “If you care about the real American s**t or you don’t. And if you do, it goes for every side.”
“I don’t like Alex Jones, but Alex Jones gets to speak. Everybody gets to speak,” he declared.
Everybody gets to speak, indeed.
Here’s something I’ve never said before: I agree w/ @billmaher He stood up to tech censorship online—which many on the Left are embracing & which his audience sadly applauded—saying “if you’re a liberal, you’re supposed to be for free speech.” He’s right. https://t.co/3gwbm78pTb
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) August 18, 2018
How important is the right to free speech in this country? Consider the words from “First They Came …” a famous rumination on the Holocaust that lambastes those who remained silent while the Nazis were rising to power.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Socialist,” Protestant pastor Martin Niemoller wrote in his poem.
His words eventually culminated with “Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Who will speak out? At least Bill Maher has for now.