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'The country is falling apart at the seams': Bill Maher speaks out against censorship

'I think the answer to bad speech is more speech,' said Maher, who identifies as a classical liberal.

'The country is falling apart at the seams': Bill Maher speaks out against censorship
HBO/Bill Maher
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Bill Maher is one of the few liberals with a massive platform who says the quiet part out loud and what many liberals are thinking, but not saying.

Currently on tour in the south, the comedian says that he refuses to write off former president Donald Trump’s supporters because doing so would require him to hate “half the country.”

Ahead of the anniversary of the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill, Maher said he believed American democracy was at a crossroads.

Speaking to AL.com, Maher said,  “January 2025 is going to be where the rubber hits the road in this country. We’ve been heading towards this cliff for a very long time, and we always think we’re the country where it can’t happen. Well, we thought that about terrorism. We thought that about everything. We’re not exempt. We are the country where it can happen.”

In the interview, Maher addressed a number of hot topics including political correctness in comedy to Twitter censorship of conservative politicians. He also explained why he loves to perform in conservative states, particularly in the post-COVID-19 world.

“This country is falling apart at the seams,” said Maher. “Half the people are not going to self-deport. You see these tweets and memes about owning and destroying the other side. Get over it. You’re not owning or destroying anybody. No one’s going anywhere. We have to learn to live together again.”

“San Francisco, that’s going to be a little problematic for me,” said Maher, referring to how people in ultra-liberal cities were far more eager to split with conservatives than those living in red states. “They’re a little too politically correct. There’s going to be a lot of groaning at some of the things I say, and that’s not what a comedy show is supposed to be. Political correctness has always been the enemy of comedy. That’s been my banner from the beginning.”

Speaking to the interviewer, the comedian explained that even though he attracts a mostly liberal crowd, he understands that “liberal is different than woke.”

“To me, woke, if we want to use that broad term, is something that is not an extension of liberalism,” Maher explained. “It’s very often the opposite of what an old-school liberal like me believes. I’ve never been someone who was part of any specific party, per se. I usually vote Democratic, but it depends on the person. Certainly in the age of Trump, they’re never going to get me there with the Republicans. But there are many Republicans who are not Trump Republicans. And they have a good point, that there is that faction of the left that we will call woke who’s gone [off] the deep end.”

In reference to Twitter’s censorship of Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, Maher said that if she, or anyone else, said something crazy or outlandish on the public platform the response should be for others to call it out — not censor them.

“I think the answer to bad speech is more speech,” said Maher, who identifies as a classical liberal. “I’m certainly not the first one to say that. You can find that from esteemed people on the Supreme Court over the years, mostly liberals. That is the answer to bad speech. It’s not to stop it.”

Maher cited Twitter’s move to shut down conversations on the lab-leak hypothesis of COVID-19 as an example of speech that should not have been censored.

“They, for example, shut down debate on the lab-leak theory and had to walk that back, so did Facebook. Now there’s no political dimension to how the virus started,” he said. “It is outrageous that they said you can’t even talk about the idea that this virus may have started in a lab. Why? It may have. It was always a possibility. Everyone now agrees that could be the origin of the virus. So just put that up as your lodestar.”

“This is the company that said you can’t even talk about that,” he continued. “That’s dangerous. I don’t want that company making the rules about what we can and can’t hear. If Marjorie Taylor Greene said something nutty, then let people swarm her on Twitter and point out how nutty it is. And let’s let a thousand flowers bloom. But I’m never going to be the one who lines up with censorship, no matter who it is.” 

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