While Salman Rushdie struggles for his life in the wake of a stabbing attack, an angry Bill Maher decried the treatment of his good friend (and frequent guest) by a man whose name had the host guessing”is not Amish.”
Sal, as Maher called him, was planning to talk about how the US is a safe haven for controversial points of view. “Giving that speech is unthinkable in most Muslim countries,” Maher said, warning, “Don’t come at me with Islamaphobia. When you say ‘phobic,’ it’s just a way to shut off debate.”
Guest Piers Morgan, who has his own experience with controversial speech, drew applause when he noted, “The defense of free speech starts with something you can’t stand.” You may hate the opinions, Morgan said. “But you should be able to tolerate their right to have a different opinion.”
Morgan also pointed with alarm to the rise of anti-free speech sentiments in the US and UK, with calls for “trigger warnings” and in one instance, cancellation of a professor who gave a lecture on offensive speech. “It’s nuts,” Morgan said, when you see America moving that way. “It’s a very thin line between that and Salman Rushdie.” The harbingers of that are what happened this year to Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock for telling jokes. “When you stray into violence, it winds up with Salman.”
New York Post columnist Rikki Schlott, age 22, claimed her generation was “never taught the principles of free speech.” She astonished Maher by revealing her former NYU student ID had a “bias hotline” phone number to report things that made you uncomfortable. Such actions beget situations like Rushdie, she said. “The logical conclusion to people who believe words ae violence,” she said, is “You fight words that offend with violence.” .
Earlier, Maher’s guest was Ross Douthat, a New York Times columnist and author of The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Discovery. He revealed his struggle with Lyme disease, which was not diagnosed for some time.
Maher stated his belief that doctors don’t know as much as they pretend to, preferring an omniscent approach to diagnosis that often struggles when confronted with the unknown.
Douthat was diagnosed with stress initially, but then went through a nightmare of pain, heart attacks, and a weight loss of 50 pounds. He likened his struggle to the early days of the pandemic, when the information on the unknown disease was dispensed by authorities that offered advice that later proved bad.
His book says there’s a lab leak hypothesis for Lyme disase. But you’ll have to buy the book to find out the details.
Finally, Maher’s “New Rules” section took on the recent upsets regarding actors who must match the ethnic and racial profiles and sexual preferences of the characters they portray.
“Casting diectors have to pick the best actor for the role,” Maher said. “That’s what acting is, and why acting is called “roles.”
Of couse, there are problems with Ryan Gosling as Frederick Douglass or Shia LeBouef as Shaft.
But Tom Hanks saying he wouldn’t play the lead in “Philadelphia” if it were staged today set Maher off. “Does Forrest Gump get thrown under the bus because Tom isn’t mentally challenged?”
“This isn’t progress,” Maher said. “This is regression.”