In a Wednesday op-ed piece for The New York Times headlined "Please Stop Apologizing," Bill Maher got some things off his chest about fake outrage and the culture of offense. The column caused a stir in the blogosphere, likely due to lines like, "If it weren't for throwing conniption fits, we wouldn't get any exercise at all."
Maher's piece has been called disingenuous by his many opponents, given that he's called Sarah Palin a "twat" and has made an entire career out of provoking outrage. But in a political environment where it takes a congresswoman getting shot to enact a temporary truce between parties, Maher does make a salient point.
Having been fired almost ten years ago from Politically Incorrect for being, er, politically incorrect, Maher is especially sensitive to the unlikelihood of ever fully expunging our puritan roots. Reviewing our recent history of outrage, Maher writes:
"In the last year, we've been shocked and appalled by the unbelievable insensitivity of Nike Shoes, the Fighting Sioux, Hank Williams Jr., Cee Lo Green, Ashton Kutcher, Tracy Morgan, Don Imus, Kirk Cameron, Gilbert Gottfried, the Super Bowl halftime show and the ESPN guys who used the wrong cliche for Jeremy Lin after everyone else used all the others. Who can keep up?"
And he doesn't even need to mention Rush Limbaugh.
People have rightly suggested that Maher — who once referred to Sarah Palin's family as "inbred weirdos" — hold liberal outlets such as Media Matters and Think Progress accountable as well, for their role in our current climate of incivility. It should be pointed out that Maher defended Rush Limbaugh a couple weeks ago on Twitter, scolding liberals for not accepting Limbaugh's apology for the Fluke fiasco.
So here was Maher's tongue-in-cheek proposal:
"Let's have an amnesty — from the left and the right — on every made-up, fake, totally insincere, play-acted hurt, insult, slight and affront. Let's make this Sunday the National Day of No Outrage. One day a year when you will not find some tiny thing someone did or said and pretend you can barely continue functioning until they apologize."
I like Maher's sentiment, but it's also hard to ignore the fact that people like being outraged, it seems to get the endorphins flowing, and for Maher, pushing too hard for a non-PC world would be engineering his own demise. Things would be much less entertaining if we didn't have Maher and Limbaugh to complain about.