Earlier this week, Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly dedicated his “Talking Points” segment to the issue of free speech and censorship, focusing on the recent Rush Limbaugh/Sandra Fluke controversy:
O’Reilly has an unlikely ally here in the form of comedian Bill Maher, who wrote an op-ed in the New York Times called “Please Stop Apologizing.”
I have a better idea. Let’s have an amnesty — from the left and the right — on every made-up, fake, totally insincere, playacted hurt, insult, slight and affront. Let’s make this Sunday the National Day of No Outrage. One day a year when you will not find some tiny thing someone did or said and pretend you can barely continue functioning until they apologize.
If that doesn’t work, what about this: If you see or hear something you don’t like in the media, just go on with your life. Turn the page or flip the dial or pick up your roll of quarters and leave the booth.
Both O’Reilly and Maher make a point that is increasingly relevant for cable news, as so much content there now features analysis from extremely opinionated hosts or guests.
When a host or guest says something controversial, the network that airs it puts itself in the line of fire. As it happens, every network has taken action against people that made controversial comments… even if it wasn’t on-air (see CNN/Roland Martin or MSNBC/Pat Buchanan). Outside groups will always try to sway the decisions of network bosses, but as O’Reilly notes, the market can decide what crosses the line.
Obviously if it is something truly offensive, action can and should be taken, but for now, the opinions of Maher and O’Reilly should help remind to the fact that the only speech that needs protecting is controversial speech.