Oh, Great, Now I Have To Defend Bill Maher, The “House Nigger” [UPDATED]

When Bill Maher participated in the lowering of civil political discourse and the escalation of hate and ad hominem rhetoric in the culture by calling female Republican figures “cunts” and “twats’ as his leftist studio audience squealed with delight, there was no significant objections from NOW or other feminsits entranced by his anti-conservative fervor, nor were mainstream media liberals in the pundit ranks overwhelmingly indignant. After all, Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann didn’t deserve  civility, and besides, it was just a joke! Maher’s pass on breaching basic rules of decorum in public speech greased the slippery slope that led us to “cockholster” and beheaded Presidents today. In addition, the double standard was established that vulgar and gross gutter language was acceptable when aimed at conservatives, but only conservatives. Is there any question whether Maher would still be leaving his slime trails at HBO if he had called Hillary Clinton, Diane Fienstein, or Michelle Obama a cunt?

Nevertheless, the principle at issue is that we all have an ethical duty to extend basic human respect to our fellow dwellers on this planet, or civilization rots and falls apart in chunks. Indeed, this is the duty too many progressives and Democrats have been breaching in their treatment of the President of the united States for the past six months. Entertainers and comedians get some special dispensations, but they need to be sternly rebuked when they abuse the privilege by using it to express hatred and to spread intolerance. We do not ban words in the United States. We do reserve the right to regulate conduct in the interests of out democratic and pluralistic ideals, often by expressing vocal disapproval.

Which brings us back to Bill Maher. On Friday’s edition of Maher’s “Real Time,” Maher was verbally fencing with Republican Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse. At one point—the context doesn’t matter—Sasse facetiously invited the host to “work in the fields.”

“Senator, I’m a house nigger!” Maher said , quickly adding, in response to some audible gasps, “It’s a joke.”

It was a joke, and a pretty clever one. Maher was making a cultural reference with a virtual quote from “Gone With The Wind.”  He was not attacking anyone or denigrating anyone, and the film his quip referenced was on Turner Movie Classics less than a month ago. You didn’t get it? Then become culturally literate; it’s a life competency.  There was nothing wrong with Maher’s conduct in making his joke, either in intent or substance.

Never mind: since Maher wasn’t attacking a white conservative, his comment subjected him to immediate fire.  “He said ‘nigger’ with a HARD ASS Rrrrrrrrrruh, so that makes this extra offensive,” said The Root’s Monique Judge. “His show needs to be canceled.”

No, Monique needs to learn what freedom of expression means, and why it’s important. She also needs to learn why it is dangerous to ban mere words. You never know when a “bad” word has a legitimate use; in fact, Maher’s joke using a classic literature reference is a perfect example. If we ban words, we will soon be banning phrases, and then whole sentences and the ideas they express. Judge is the one in the wrong here. Oh, I’m sure she might be able to get Maher fired, and might try, since the ideology to which she is allied has recently begun flirting with totalitarian methods, like censorship. Maher’s conduct, in her view, is offending the wrong people, the same  “offense” that has turned so many universities into Free Speech Free zones.

No, Bill Maher shouldn’t be fired for using a word, no matter what the word was, or how he—can you believe that?–-pronounced it. Sure, let’s ban pronunciations now. Maher, like Kathy Griffin, needs to accept society’s shared responsibility not to spread anger, hate and division in an increasingly fragile political culture, but his joke to Sasse had nothing to do with that. Maher did nothing wrong and said nothing wrong. He not only just made a joke, it was funny, unlike, oh, just to make a wild comparison to something nobody would ever do, holding up a fake severed head of the President of the United States as if he had fallen into the clutches of ISIS.

There are no banned words in the United States, and there must never be.

UPDATE 1: Ann Althouse: “Ooh! Maher said a bad word, Mommy. Punish him!”  Exactly.

UPDATE 2: Maher, the hypocrite, apologized, because the wrong people were offended.

24 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners, History, Humor and Satire, language, Literature, Popular Culture, Race, Rights

24 responses to “Oh, Great, Now I Have To Defend Bill Maher, The “House Nigger” [UPDATED]

  1. Wayne

    “The Revolution devours its own children”.

  2. Let them eat themselves. Seriously, Jack, the only time I have seen a progressive leaning, otherwise sane person take a cold hard look at what they support is when the vile bullshit is turned on them or one they care about.

    These folks I describe accepted when a conservative, or Republican (NOT always the same thing) get excoriated unfairly because it benefits their lazy, unethical world view. We are all hard pressed to object when a situation benefits ourselves, especially if the harm to someone else is seen as deserved or minimal.

    Hard ethical stands mean correcting a wrong even if we lose a benefit when we do so. (For example, I once recommended withholding a bonus for a team I was Project Manager of because the project failed, and failed because of neglect on the part of the team. It was the right thing. Politics forced the bonus anyway, but my hands were clean, and I donated the money to charity)

    Anyway, it takes a jolt to their system for someone to understand that the treatment is wrong. Finding that the mob could turn on them, unfairly and viciously, can open their eyes. Burn and learn, progressives.

    To be fair, I do not believe someone deeply immersed in progressive sewage will change by being singled out, unfairly or not. The professor at Evergreen, being a Flaming Liberal Academic ™ will not change his mind unless he is forced to change his profession, as an example, nor is he a sane person by most common standards. His tolerance for extreme contortions simply was not as insane as his students, and he thought they would listen to him. He will be punished and redeemed, thought, so no changes are likely. Likewise the media: few if any see through the game and leave the stadium in disgust. It is their lives.

    No, our hope is for the moderates, the low information voter, and the politically lazy to wake up enough to take a stand.

  3. Mrs. Q

    I swear the “resistance” lately is all about taking a thing & turning it into something else (please note, I am aware all people & movements are capable of this). Maher’s use of the term house nigger, though crass & unnecessary, was in no way a racist remark. He used a term that quite frankly plenty of folks from the left use against POC who are not liberal. I should know as some white SJW called me that once…so tolerant!

    Tomorrow in PDX there is a free speech rally (Jack posted about our Mayor trying to cancel the event) which is organized by…gasp…a Hispanic guy. Guess what the rally has been turned into? It’s now being called a white supremacist rally by the Antifa groups & 4 events have been planned to counter the one free speech event. Yup, twisting anything conservative into white supremacy.

    Here’s some excerpts from an email my wife received from a co-worker (this was seen by every employee) about tomorrow:

    “This white nationalist group is the same one Jeremy Christian (the train stabber) was a part of.” -Nope. Mr. Christian was kicked out of that rally & denounced by Patriot Prayer. Also Mr. Christian supported Black Lives Matters & Bernie Sanders.

    “The rallies serve to intimidate POC, immigrants and other marginalized populations.” -No the rally FB page is clear racism has no place at the rally, especially since the primary organizer is not white himself.

    “They don’t want a light shone on what their advocating or how they operate.” -Really? Is that why there is a public FB page & public interviews saying exactly what their goal is?

    “We need as many people possible using *our* free speech to derail their efforts. We have a responsibility to the terrified minorities in the city. We need to make world news & take a stand because if we don’t it’s going to be a lot scarier in Portland.” -Hmmm, that sounds more like a threat than being helpful.

    These days truth, context, intention, and bald facts doesn’t matter to the modern left. Only suppression of any one or thing matters, even if the person is of color or a fellow liberal or whatever. The goal is to control by force & intimidation now. I hope both Mr. Maher & my town wakes up to what’s going on.

    • dragin_dragon

      Mrs. Q, I remember, well in pre-elections, Tea Party members being referred to as racists, bigots, homophobes and, yes, maniacs. ‘Course, the last was directed at Ted Nugent, so it may have been accurate. The proof? “Not a single black person was at their last rally. Which was false, by the way. So yeah, lying and hypocrisy are their stock in trade.

      • Mrs. Q

        Thanks for the tea party context as it reminds that this stuff isn’t new.
        Now I have to go listen to Cat Scratch Fever.

  4. Chris

    I don’t understand the argument that because it’s a classical literature reference, that makes it either a) not offensive or b) funny. If he had called someone else a “house nigger,” would your opinion be different? What if he had said it about a black man?

    You are right about the hypocrisy of some on the left–he should have been fired for his remarks about Palin years ago. But that doesn’t make his use of the n word here any better.

    • OK, you don’t get the joke; that’s fine. I do. Maher was quick: the senator referenced working in the fields. In GWTW, Scarlet asks one of the plantation’s former slaves to help her pick vegetables, and gets essentially that answer. Maher was referring to himself as the facetious “house nigger.” He wasn’t denigrating a race or an individual—it was funny, at least to me, because he picked up on Sasse’s words and made an immediate film reference—as I do all the time.

      • deery

        While the book Gone With the Wind is rife with the epithet, it is completely, and deliberately, absent from the film. This was a major point of contention between the director and the studio.

        So Maher is not drawing on the film for that quote.

  5. Spartan

    He can make the same joke without having to use a racial slur. I make a similar one all the time. Now that organic farming is all the rage, I have progresselive friends (who don’t know the first thing about farming) eager to chuck it all and start a farm. When asked if I would join them, I have replied with, “No thanks. I went to college so I could stop raising crops.” Mayer could have made a similar reference about going to Cornell.

    For the record, I can’t remember the last time he used the word cunt and I watch him regularly. Also, his audience turns on him every time he crosses the line. He obviously did here.

    • He’s professional comedian, and he knows that much: the shock and incongruity of the word he used is what makes it work. The fact that it’s politically incorrect doesn’t mean it crosses a line. Is it denigrating? No. Is it aimed at any individual or vulnerable group? No. Is its antecedent obvious, yes, and if it isn’t that’s not his problem. Is the word taboo or banned? No. Was it a joke? Yes.

      100% benign.
      Just as if Samuel L. Jackson had said it. Which he might have.
      I’m surprised at your reaction.

      • http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2011/03/29/maher_not_sorry_for_calling_palin_the_c-word_bachmann_a_bimbo.html

        I assume he’ll have the integrity to refuse to apologize for calling himself a nigger when he wouldn’t apologize for calling two Republicans cunts and twats. If not…well, we’ll see.

      • deery

        He’s professional comedian, and he knows that much: the shock and incongruity of the word he used is what makes it work. The fact that it’s politically incorrect doesn’t mean it crosses a line. Is it denigrating? No. Is it aimed at any individual or vulnerable group? No. Is its antecedent obvious, yes, and if it isn’t that’s not his problem. Is the word taboo or banned? No. Was it a joke? Yes.

        Well yes, it is denigrating, that was part of the “joke.” It isn’t as if being called a field or house “nigger” is a compliment.

        Is it aimed at a vulnerable group? Well, it is making light of the enslaved laborers from a population which has suffered from historical structural oppression, so…yes.

        Is it’s antecedent obvious? No. I know you think it’s a GWtW reference, but I doubt highly he’s drawing on a 1930s notoriously racist book to crack jokes. And if he is, I’m not sure why that would be a good defense for him to use.

        Is the word taboo? Of course it is. It is considered probably the most taboo, transgressive word for Americans to use. Which is why he used it.

        Though with all that said, I’m surprised at all the fuss. He’s another of your Julie principle. He’s gone over the line time and again, and each time everyone reacts likes it’s the first time he’s done something like this. While he occasionally makes good points, he’s an ass, and will continue to be so. This is just the latest example of such. There will be another.

        • Words cannot be taboo if one race gets to say them all the time. Just sayin’

          This is a typical example of early virtue signaling by white progressives. Blacks call each other nigger all the time.

          • deery

            You might call your wife “sweet cheeks” all the time. Why should her boss be forbidden from saying it to her? You might complain about your mom all the time. Why get insulted if someone else says something bad about your mom? Words mean different things in different contexts, and often differ radically depending on who is saying those words. That’s something we all intrinsically understand in pretty much any every day situation, but somehow pretend we don’t when it comes to the n-word.

          • Though not without criticism.

            The use of the word as a weapon of racial denigration is always wrong. Like all words, context and motive is everything. By that standard, the right one,Maher was 100% in the clear.

  6. Mm

    Stupid… defending anyone using the “N” word that mocks slavery quote or not. Best to never put that quote in your ready to pull at any moment…

  7. Mike

    Don’t understand the outrage here. If it’s offensive to ever say, should GWTW, To Kill a Mockingbird, and so on, all be banned?

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