It’s been a weird couple of weeks where comedy and politics intersect. Rush Limbaugh calls Sandra Fluke a slut and is roundly criticized, and within a week, Limbaugh lost a staggering 141 advertisers. That should’ve been the end of it, but of course, it wasn’t. The right immediately shot back, claiming that a series of liberal comedians were guilty of worst sins than Limbaugh. Check out Fox News or Big Hollywood, and the story is not about Rush Limbaugh anymore. It was at first about the left’s crusade against free speech, and when that didn’t score points, the right began claiming the left is just as guilty as Rush Limbaugh.
Jon Stewart attacked Fox News for playing the victim card, then Big Hollywood attacks Jon Stewart for attacking Rush Limbaugh. Louis CK decides not host the Correspondent’s Dinner because Greta Van Susteren called him a pig, and then Michelle Obama is called a hypocrite for going on Letterman’s show after Letterman called the Palin kid a slut several years ago. It’s all getting kind of ridiculous and out of hand.
Earlier this week, Bill Maher — who defended Rush Limbaugh — was attacked for his own past “misogynistic” comments. Maher’s response:
“Of course if you take out of context over 10 years snippets inside comedy bits you can make anyone look bad – and sometimes, I have been!” he added. “Not perfect, but not misogyny. In general, this is an obvious right wing attempt to dredge up some old shit about me to deflect from their self-inflicted problems. They are the kings of false equivalencies.”
The question is: Is that a false equivalency? Is the left, as Fox News suggested, “hiding under the helmet of comedy”? It’s not like Bill Maher is that much different than Limbaugh? Should Rush Limbaugh have even been lambasted? Does the right get a bad wrap in this simply because they’re less capable of hiding behind comedy (because they’re not very funny). If you take politics out of the equation, is this the sort of slippery slope that will lead to fear among comedians and commentators alike to speak their mind for fear of alienating advertisers?
Look: I’m a liberal heathen, but I’m trying to see this from a neutral perspective. Is the left being overly sensitive? Is the right being a bunch of whiners? Is that a false equivalency? Why should Bill Maher get a free pass? Does Louis C.K. escape criticism because he’s awesome? Is there a right/left double standard?
Is it possible, on the Internet, to have a rational discussion about this? Let’s see.