Bill Maher at Berkeley: Why It's a Big Deal

Gary Fouse

Hat tip Daily Californian

As I have said before on this site, I am no fan of Bill Maher. I think he is an arrogant jerk. He has said many things that I find offensive and that have offended my values. However, I have never disputed his right to say them-in any venue.

In the wake of his dust up with actor Ben Affleck on the topic of Islam, an uproar has ensued. That uproar has gathered new steam at UC Berkeley, where Maher had been invited by a student club called the Californians to give the upcoming December commencement speech. Of course, it didn't take the club long to buckle under to campus pressure by Muslim groups and rescind the invitation. That would have been the sad end to the question of free speech at the school that is congratulating itself on the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech movement, but for the intercession of the normally cautious chancellor, Nicholas Dirks. He said, "No dice." Dirks says the invitation stands and Maher will give the commencement address no matter how controversial his views may be. That has unleashed a new firestorm as evidenced by the reader comment thread in the school newspaper, The Daily Californian. Even at this bastion of political correctness, there is a spirited debate going on in the student body, and it seems that the Maher supporters are carrying the day against a very vocal minority. Even yours truly has jumped into the thread

At this point, Maher says that he will go to Berkeley and speak. I hope he sticks to his guns on that. The issue is now much bigger that Bill Maher, the second rate comedian. It is about whether free speech really exists in academia. To date, Maher, in spite of his obnoxiousness, has shown courage in speaking out on Islam. He never risked anything but his fan base when he was insulting Christians and our military. This is different. Now he has put his life on the line. I hope he will continue to follow through on this courage and go to Berkeley.

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