September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

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From: xx
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2001 14:36:27 EDT
Subject: Fwd: Attempt to cancel Politically Incorrect

Date: Monday, September 24, 2001 3:42 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: Attempt to cancel Politically Incorrect

I know we've all been besieged with emails recently but I thought this one
was important to pass along. Please take a moment to read it.

Harry

From: Arianna Huffington

Friends,

As you will see from today's column, we need your help if we are to stop ABC
from canceling "Politically Incorrect." A small group of zealots have intentionally distorted comments made by Bill Maher, and succeeded in
putting the show's future in jeopardy. If you agree that we can
simultaneously rally around the flag and allow dissent and free speech to
flourish, please log on to www4.PetitionOnline.com/promaher/petition.html
and sign the petition.

Also, if you know anybody in the ABC or Disney hierarchy, please give them a
call. This is not just about one show -- it's about avoiding the first step
on a really dangerous slippery slope. Thank you so much.

Arianna

LAND OF THE FREE?

Since Sept. 11, we've been told again and again that our failure to act in a
certain way would be the moral equivalent of allowing the terrorists to win.
As in: "If we don't get back to work, they win"; or "If we don't go ahead
and play football this weekend, they win"; or "If this changes the way we think about Arab-Americans, they win."

And, in a way, it's true -- few us of are going to be fighting the battle on
the ground in Afghanistan, but there are ways in which we can all do our
part. Ways that include resolutely defending values that define our country.
But just as this new military battleground is going to be complicated and
risky, so, too, is the one at home. And in the last few days, there is one
front where it appears that our enemies might be winning: the First
Amendment. To the extent that we give up our fundamental freedoms of
expression and dissent, then, yes, "they" have clearly won.

One of those battles is going on right now. It involves Bill Maher, who has
been excoriated for what he said on "Politically Incorrect" last week. But
excoriation -- a valuable form of free speech -- is not a problem.
Censorship is.

Aren't "they" winning when three ABC affiliates, including the Washington,
D.C., station, cancel the show?

Aren't "they" winning when networks cave in to rabble-rousing,
self-promoting radio shock jocks like Dan Patrick from Houston who started
this tempest in a teapot, and who midweek called the show to suggest himself as a guest?

And aren't "they" winning when major sponsors like Federal Express and Sears put a higher price on their corporate image than on the essential democratic ingredient of free speech by pulling their ads? These companies have no problems defending capitalism, but they shrink from defending the values that make it possible.

When the country just learned with such penetrating anguish what real terror is, how can the corporate logo polishers fear Bill Maher? Particularly when
the point he was making was such an important one.

So what, exactly, was his point?

In response to guest Dinesh D'Souza's assertion that people who are willing
to die in service to their cause, whatever else they may be, are not
"cowards," Maher said: "We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly."

I was sitting next to Bill when he said this. And not only did I not object,
I wholeheartedly agreed. In fact, in the past, I've made much the same
criticism of a foreign policy that obliges our military to fight at great
remove from the theater of battle. It was a mistake when we bombed a
pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan, and it was a mistake when we killed the
very Albanian refugees we were trying to protect with our indiscriminate
carpet-bombing of Kosovo.

President Bush, himself, has been making much the same point that Bill Maher
did: "It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no
ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat."

Presumably, if Maher had made those same comments on Sept. 10, nobody would have batted an eyelid. But by uttering the same opinion seven days later, he put the very existence of his show at risk.

Have we all gone mad?

What becomes of a country when opinions considered perfectly legitimate --
and indeed uttered by hundreds of academics, journalists and members of
Congress -- suddenly become a crime worthy of the media death penalty?

If the attacks on innocent American lives end up making us more like our
attackers, don't they most spectacularly win? And don't the corporate
sponsors, the affiliates and ABC itself see the inconsistency in the fact
that, as a way of showing solidarity against the Taliban, they are using the
Taliban's trademark weapon -- the stifling of dissent?

Isn't freedom what we're fighting for? And isn't lack of freedom --
including freedom of the press -- the hallmark of our enemies?

"Cowardly" was the injurious word uttered by Maher. Well, let me use it now
where it really belongs -- to describe ABC if it decides to cancel a show
that is, after all, called "Politically Incorrect."

The show in question was the first since the attack. At curtain time, the
studio was electric with anxiety. "Politically Incorrect," though it deals
with serious subjects, is, after all, a satirical program. So we all held
our breath as Bill stepped onto the tightrope.

Maher's tone-setting opening comments, which took the place of his usual
monologue, were nothing short of brilliant and -- in light of the media
firestorm that followed -- remarkably prescient.

"I do not relinquish," he said, "nor should any of you, the right to
criticize, even as we support, our government. This is still a democracy,
and they're still politicians ... Political correctness itself is something
we can no longer afford. Feelings are gonna get hurt so that actual people
won't, and that will be a good thing." At the end of the show, the audience
rose in a standing ovation -- something I had never seen before.

As well as being the host of the show, Bill is my friend. And, as his
friend, I was really proud of him. Proud of how perfect a note he had struck
between rallying around the flag, showing grief and expressing dissent. How
he had shown that they are not mutually contradictory. And everything that
has happened since has only made me prouder of him -- and more disgusted at the politically correct cowards who are trying to stifle him.

We cannot let them succeed, for, as Benjamin Franklin put it, "Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech."

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