Don’t Muzzle the Clown

What better way to celebrate free speech than by shutting down free speech?
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Spot on - years ago while I was at college (a Jesuit school no less), an invitation was extended, among others, to Edwin Meese and Louis Farrakhan to come speak on campus. A sizable number of students protested that they didn't 'deserve' to be heard. Fortunately, a larger number of students and faculty argued that the best antidote to speech that you don't agree with is listening and then responding. For members of the UC Berkeley community, of all places, to defend religions that harken back to the dark ages is regrettable.

10 2018-07-08 02:53:21 - Mark D. Emerson

California Man, ALL ideologies and ALL beliefs do not have a right to be paid hefty fees to speak at graduation commencements. Nobody is paying me to speak at Berkeley commencement. Does that mean my free speech is being violated? Maher got that gig because a UC Bureaucrat decided to give to him. Your idea of free speech is apparently that no student has the right to express their opinion about a decision made by this bureaucrat, even when it is their graduation and not the bureaucrat's. No one is trying to cancel Mayer's television show or ban his books. They are just saying I don't want to spend my tuition money on him, and I don't want to spend my graduation day with him. Surely they have a right to express that opinion.

0 2017-09-27 12:02:55 - Teed Rockwell

Readers can always count on you, Mr. Egan, to present an honest and rational look at controversial issues. Thank you for being a breath of fresh air in the midst of a whole lot of mean-spirited and nasty narcissists.

12 2017-07-29 18:05:08 - Joan

I blame social media and media media comments columns. Two generations of world youth believe they have the right of instant rebuttal to any thought.

Our politics has degenerated, famously since Elian Gonzalez and the 2000 Florida election, into a town hall shout-down. U-S-A, U-S-A, drowns out any pointed question.

Students at a public university must realize they are there in some measure, by public sufferance.

2 2017-07-21 06:05:00 - Occupy Government

You couldn't insert Jew or anything else - these actions, this poll are quite specific to the world's Muslims. Telling the truth is not hate speech.

27 2017-07-08 12:37:14 - Me


I suspect Maher would begin his show ridiculing St. Thomas' Summa.

1 2017-06-20 02:00:05 - Eric

Maher and many commenters should go to Berkley, but maybe less to speak or even to have a dialogue with those who disagree, no, he should go to learn about how to read a survey. The "overwhelming numbers of Egyptians", for example, who he said think killing apostates is justified turns out to be a misreading of the survey. Disturbing as the numbers are, they are not nearly so high as he relates simply because the percentage is not of all Egyptians, only of the percentage of those Egyptians who want religious law to be the law of the land. Therefore, he would need to multiply one percentage by the other, and then suddenly, the numbers are not nearly so overwhelming. But this is more than a problem of math or statistics: biased people (everyone?) do biased reading. So go to college and learn to read. Then, maybe, go ahead and speak.

0 2017-06-03 06:05:43 - Grandmaster kites

Of course, putting "Jew" wherever he says "Muslim" makes no sense. Jews don't threaten death for apostasy. Jews don't practice honor killings. And Jews don't threaten death to those who are not Jews.

24 2017-04-30 12:21:44 - Mnzr

Commencement is a solemn occasion, so why are they inviting a comedian of any stripe?

2 2017-04-30 11:47:47 - eric key

Actually, free speech does entitle him to insult anything and anyone he pleases. Being a comedian requires hyperbole. One of the things he likes to insult is RELIGION, and he is pretty indiscriminate in mocking all organized religion, including Christianity. So what? Freedom always means the freedom to say things that someone else doesn't like.

He says things I would never say, and I don't like to hear him say them. I wish he would lay off some topics. Nobody says you have to listen to him, believe him, or take him seriously.

The proper response is not to deny that he is entitled to say what he thinks. The proper response is to refute the allegations he make, and, if you are a Muslim, prove him wrong. The remedy for false speech is not censorship; the remedy is true speech.

9 2017-04-22 02:48:20 - Bejay

But that's just it. Western society has changed. It doesn't excuse the past but there would be little enthusiasm for a Crusade by mainstream western religion- well except for George W and he did backtrack on that.

2 2017-04-12 21:42:44 - Katie

And what about the majority (presumably) of students at the school who see Maher as an intelligent, open-minded individual who is not afraid to speak his mind, even if it means violating politically correct conventions? Should they not get to here Mr. Maher because of your sensibilities? Should your sensibilities serve as standard for everyone?

4 2017-04-06 22:42:12 - Number23

Maher didn't "insult" Islam; he was simply quoting damning statistics regarding the intolerance of persons nominally adhering to "Islam" or what they think it is. But I think most NYT readers get the drift of your argument, and also where it leads.

6 2017-03-28 03:06:21 - thanuat

Anything worth saying will offend somebody, somewhere, sometime.

15 2017-02-26 05:13:44 - ACW

The truth has never been popular, and those who spend years in elite colleges are taught how you are supposed to think which is just like a religious cult. Take the example of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. For months, experts in both Africa and Europe assumed it was cholera even though cholera is not noted for fever, because those countries had never had Ebola. This from an investigative piece on Ebola in the October 2014 issue of Vanity Fair. So Ebola got out of hand, because of a lack of common sense in thinking. Somehow, common sense is not considered academic intelligence. However, I disagree, and I am glad that I place commons sense first in front of all of my thinking. Education at universities is not unlike religion in that you can easily become brainwashed and deceived by false truths. A false truth is that the global warming is not caused by an overpopulated earth and what its citizens are doing. That is not popular to say, nor would most of those on elite campuses believe, even though it is true. The false truth is that these university people would be taught that it doesn't matter how many people there are on earth in regards to global warming.

1 2017-02-23 13:30:03 - Mary Kay Klassen

Katie, yes and that change happened as the citizenry became more prosperous and diverse.

Sciencewins - and yet we continue to change. There really aren't that many of them, relatively speaking. They just make a lot of noise.

Brad, yes it will take a while, but what you describe would apply to the bulk of the population in the Christian west in the 18th century. A century later the big changes had already begun. I suspect that it won't take that long in the modern world, but it will still take decades.

I live in a small town (Clarkston), which was designated by the UN as a prime refugee destination. The local mosque here may well have a larger congregation than the baptist church at this point (it's a delightful place to live). I was stopped at a traffic light while driving through town a few months ago. On the corner was a young muslim girl - probably high school age. With her were two other girls, probably class-mates, one African-American and the other Vietnamese. The three of them were pointing at something on one of their I-phones and giggling about it.

In retrospect I wondered - will her daughters cover their heads? Her granddaughters? The pressures of cultural conformity should not be underestimated.

0 2017-02-21 16:13:54 - Rich in Atlanta

Is Maher obsessed with religion, or is religion itself obsessed with intolerance? Religion is often viewed as a "theological" system of beliefs, but in practice it is a congregation of individuals who seek to set themselves apart from others - fertile ground for developing intolerance for others.

1 2017-02-17 04:56:19 - Pete

Really, New York Times? This response merits being chosen as an NYT Pick? I take particular issue with the reader's remark, "it's not like he actually has clever things to say on any topic." Actually, Maher has clever things to say on just about every topic. While some may disagree with him, none can accuse him of not being clever.

6 2017-02-15 03:48:50 - Kate Jones

Thomas Jefferson said it best: "Error of opinion may be tolerated when reason is left free to combat it."

24 2017-02-07 05:39:37 - hmgbird

Where were these Berkeley "protesters" when we were bombing the crap out of Iraq and killing innocents? Where are these "protestors" when Israel is taking out a whole neighborhood because someone threw a rock? Language doesn't kill people, guns kill people.

3 2017-02-02 02:14:55 - The Observer

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