This will be a commentary which I feel compelled to write. I have strong opinions about everything. I am seldom wrong, but when I am I admit it and often reverse my position. Friday, October 31st, ‘Bill Maher, Real Time’ broadcasted several allegations about which I have previously written. The host, Maher, chastised Democratic candidates for not supporting their party’s leader President Obama for his successes in multiple areas, including health care, the economy, and unemployment. I have previously stated this position. Maher and I both agree that Democrats will lose elections because of their cowardice to denounce the right-wing-created polls and campaign on the positives of his six years in office. My complaint is when he shows his ignorance about the facts of other issues which are related to foreign affairs and displays his arrogance and ignorance.
The Constitution guarantees free speech, even if what is spoken is offensive and ignorant. I watch Bill Maher’s show because of his guests who are generally treated with respect by Mr. Maher. When he mimics Bill O’Reilly and interrupts them he becomes rude and displays his lack of knowledge on an issue about which he is ill-informed.
Friday night’s show became an extension of the much publicized heated debate between Maher and Ben Affleck. His singular female panelist was Rula Jebreal. Ms. Jebreal is a soft-spoken yet energetic advocate of the rights of people all over the world. She graduated from the University of Bologna with a degree in psychotherapy. A few years later she returned to obtain a master’s degree in journalism and political science. Ms. Jebreal was born in Israel and raised in East Jerusalem. She is a Muslim.
Mr. Maher has been invited to make the December commencement speech at the University of California Berkley. Following his debate with Affleck, Berkley students voted to rescind his invitation. Faculty denied their request.
One of the principal reasons Mr. Maher was asked to speak at this particular commencement is the fact that it coincides with the celebration of the University’s free speech movement which began 50 years ago.
Maher faced the camera and retold the situation. He directed his remarks at the Berkley students, telling them that he would be there in December, because free speech is the issue.
Ms. Jebreal commented that there was a distinct difference between his television show and a commencement speech. Viewers can simply change the channel if they don’t like what he says, but that is not a possibility when he is delivering a speech; there is no opportunity for rebuttal.
Maher countered saying that free speech means just that; no restrictions.
When Ms. Jebreal attempted to continue the discussion which evolved into the subject of Islam, he said ‘we have to change the subject.’
Maher attacked the entire Muslim religion in his past exchange with Affleck, calling it a Mafia, declaring that it would kill you if you say the wrong thing, or ‘draw the wrong picture.’ He claimed that liberals ignore the fact that women are mistreated in the Islamic world.
Although there are far too many accounts of Muslim extremists who deny women their personal rights, the Quran teaches the words of Muhammad that women should be admired and respected; treating them gently.
I will find it very interesting to read the transcript of Mr. Maher’s December speech; to read his ideas and their tone.
The reality is that Mr. Maher is correct about free speech. Voltaire once said; “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” There is little doubt that Maher will be at Berkley in December. I doubt that I would be somewhere I wasn’t wanted. But Maher is smug and self-centered, and will be there to make the point that he has the right. He will likely encourage derogatory responses from the graduates. I suppose the students could walk away; that would also exercise their free speech rights, and equally make their point.
Commentary by James Turnage