Bob Garfield is the co-host of the NPR program On the Media where they discuss issues related to media around the world. This week’s show included segments on the FBI trying to get Jack Anderson’s personal papers before they are publicized, and the press coverage of the Chernobyl disaster 20 years ago. The most interesting segment was Bob Garfield interviewing the authors of two children’s books about politics, “Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!,” and “Why Mommy is a Democrat.” One thing you can always count on with Bob is that he never holds back during an interview. He can be very snarky and sarcastic but he never lets anyone pull any bullshit on him. He got on both authors about writing books that seemed to be less about giving kids a civics lesson than about indoctrinating them in the political philosophy of the respective books. He followed up the author interviews by talking to psychology professor Dr. Andrew Getzfeld about whether young children at whom these books are targeted are even capable of understanding abstract concepts like political ideology. Bob Garfield is a very thoughtful interviewer asks tough questions, listens and follows up on the responses. In many respects Bob Garfield is like the Jon Stewart of NPR.
Bill Maher on the other hand is a light-weight, spineless dilettante. He became widely known some years back when his original Politically Incorrect show was on Comedy Central. The show was eventually picked up by ABC and moved to the time slot following Nightline. The show did OK but ultimately canceled some time after he made an unpopular comment after 9/11. He said that what the terrorists did took more courage than pilots dropping smart bombs from high altitudes. As soon as people complained about and sponsors threatened to pull out, he backed down. Instead of standing up for what he said, he bailed. His ratings had been sinking for a long time anyway, and eventually the show was canceled. Eventually HBO signed him to do a new show Real Time with Bill Maher. Maher often has some really good guests on the show. Unfortunately, the weak link in the show is Maher himself. Frankly he is just not funny the majority of the time. When a comic laughs at his own jokes more often the audience does, that is a really bad sign. But the thing that irritates me more than anything about Bill Maher is that in the past year he has begun following up every joke about a member of the Bush administration with “but I kid the president!”. Well I say the this to Bill Maher. Fuck that shit. You’re a comedian of course you kid. But this is also a political show with opinions. This is America! No one should be apologizing for their opinion. If you are afraid of criticism for a joke, don’t tell the damn joke! Get out of the business if you are going to be like that.
Everyone in this country has a right to freely express their opinions no matter how unpopular that opinion might be. Bill Maher sets an extremely bad precedent by apologizing for his jokes. No one needs to apologize for their opinions especially when it concerns politicians that purport to lead this country. No one in America is above criticism, especially in “a time of war.” Leaders of this country should be doing what is best for America, and if they are not than it is the responsibility of the citizenry to criticize and change the government as necessary. This is at least theoretically still a democracy, not a monarchy. If the people are afraid of their government, then that government must go. Bill Maher is an unfunny lame excuse for a comedian.