So, does Maher contribute to civility in the public discourse? Does he fuel a climate of hate? Should bookers for O’Reilly or Leno or CNN be seeking him out except to shock and enrage their audiences?
Maher says and does what Maher says and does not to make arguments or points, to persuade or engage, but to shock. He’s not a bright fellow, not well read, not interesting, and “witty” only in a crass, low and sneering way. But he shocks and thus attracts eyeballs and hits.
Anyone who has condemned the quality of public discourse this week cannot defend Maher, but neither will they cancel their HBO or stop booking him. Because they either really don’t believe a word of what they said or they are so limited in their analysis as to not connect Maher with the problem they are worrying about.
Pete Wehner concluded a typically thoughful piece ysterday by asking how one should conduct themselves in public debate. One short answer: Exactly the opposite of Bill Maher.