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Maher On Free Speech: Doesn’t Take Courage To Be Punch Nazis, No One Being Thrown In Ovens

On activism against racism

On the Friday edition of HBO’s Real Time, Bill Maher his and panel talked about the First Amendment and free speech and the “courage” to call out racists. (Panelists: Tom Morello, April Ryan, John Heilemann)

Maher denounced people acting or believing in something because of the way they “feel.” He used Alabama Republican Senate nominee Judge Roy Moore’s decision to leave the Ten Commandments up when ordered to take them down and Antifa punching Nazis as examples of people acting based on how they “feel.”

“This is what bothers me about liberals,” Maher said. “There are no Nazis throwing Jews in the ovens now, in America. This thing about doing something that looks like it takes courage and it doesn’t.”

BILL MAHER: Let me talk about Roy Moore. I remember this character… I remember when he put the Ten Commandments in front of the courthouse and I was like, wow, that’s ballsy, because it’s a courthouse

You have to go by principles, just not how you feel… I’m just asking this because last week we did a new rule about this guy who is dressed up as a Nazi in Seattle. He may really be a Nazi or he may be a crazy person and maybe there’s not a big difference. But, you know, when people saw him there on the bus it went around the internet and some good Samaritan according to some people went up and punched him out and it got a lot of rave by liberals. And liberals should not be raving about this. I mean, we have a First Amendment. I don’t like Nazis either, I rooted against them on Hogan’s Heroes, but we have to go by principles and not by feelings — that’s what the other side does — you can’t just punch Nazis.

TOM MORELLO, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE: The First Amendment says the government can’t pass laws that abridge free speech. I grew up in a home with an anti-fascist, he was my uncle who was a World War II veteran who fought against fascism. And if he was riding that bus and saw a Nazi symbol on someone who wanted to throw all Jews into ovens and ethnically cleanse all colored people from the planet, my 90-year-old uncle, if he was alive, would have punched that son of a bitch in his face and I would’ve had his back.

MAHER: But then you’re —

MORELLO: Is throwing Jews into ovens violence?

BILL MAHER: But this guy was not throwing Jews into ovens. This is a nut on the bus in Seattle…

APRIL RYAN: He was intimidating using an insignia that breeds hate and death.

MAHER: So we get to punch him in the face?

RYAN: No, I don’t believe in violence. I don’t believe in violence. But there needs to be something.

MAHER: But the First Amendment —

[CROSSTALK]

MAHER: We don’t believe in the Supreme Court? The Supreme Court said they could march in Skokie (Illinois). And we just saw they were allowed to march. I mean this is what the First Amendment says. Even if something is odious, this is America. You are allowed to express it.

If you throw the principle out the window and just say it’s how I feel then you are just as bad as them.

MORELLO: I’m not as bad as them. Just because I want Nazis to be punched does not make me as bad as bad as people who want to throw Jews in the oven.

MAHER: We all want them to be punched. We all want them to be punched. But we live in a nation of laws.

JOHN HEILEMANN: They need to be confronted by better speech and more speech.

MAHER: Right.

HEILEMANN: That’s the kind of principle here. The notion is that, I think, obviously if someone is about to do violence or someone shows up with a torch or a club and is threatening someone punching that person is fine.

MAHER: That’s different.

HEILEMANN: But you should be allowed, again, according to Bill’s principles, the First Amendment, the Constitution, all the things we believe, you should be allowed to speak without being punched in the face.

MORELLO: Unless it’s Omaha Beach.

MAHER: Or sit on a bus.

HEILEMANN: So we should be allowed to say we hate Nazis, we hate Nazism, we had fascism, we’re against it without saying we like violence.

RYAN: There’s this dog whistle that’s been going around the nation and people are listening to the call. And the problem is some of these old laws need to be revisited because they just don’t fix some of what’s going on. And the bottom line — he has freedom of speech, yes, he was intimidating and inciting, and that is not right.

MAHER: This is what bothers me about liberals. There are no Nazis throwing Jews in the ovens now, in America. This thing about doing something that looks like it takes courage and it doesn’t.

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