HBO’s Real Time host Bill Maher decried “cancel culture” on Friday’s show, telling his guests that “we need a pushback” on the movement.
Maher held a panel discussion with Bari Weiss, a former New York Times Opinion editor, and Thomas Chatterton Williams, a columnist for Harper’s Magazine. The pair discussed the open letter they, along with other progressive personalities — including author J.K. Rowling and feminist Gloria Steinem — signed, which warns that the “free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.”
“As a guy who did a show called Politically Incorrect and another called Real Time, thank you, because we need a pushback on cancel culture,” Maher said.
“What strikes me about it is the pushback is coming from liberals and almost everyone who signs this letter … is a liberal!” Maher exclaimed. “Bari, the fact that you — they call you a centrist or right-winger! I mean, if a hip, millennial, Jewish bisexual girl living in San Francisco is not a liberal … who is these days?”
Weiss, who resigned from the Times last month after accusing the paper of intolerance, explained how cancel culture differs from criticism.
“Criticism is great. What cancel culture is about is not criticism. It is about punishment. It is about making a person radioactive. It is about taking away their job,” Weiss said.
“It’s not just about punishing the sinner, it’s not just about punishing the person for being insufficiently pure. It’s about this sort of secondary boycott of people who would deign to speak to that person or appear on a platform with that person. And we see just very obviously where that kind of politics gets us. If conversation with people that we disagree with becomes impossible, what is the way that we solve conflict?… It’s violence,” she added.
Weiss also praised Trader Joe’s, which recently announced that it would not follow the steps of other brands and companies that have changed their names or images in the name of social justice.
“You’re right. That’s what we need more of,” Maher said. “Being able to speak freely is the lifeblood not only of democracy, of really just our way of life.”
Maher has long used his platform to denounce cancel culture, referring to it as a “cancer on progressivism” in March following Chris Matthews’ departure from MSNBC.
“MSNBC used to run this thing, ‘This is who we are.’ Well, I didn’t like who you were this week, and I don’t think a lot of people who work there liked this either, and I think this cancel culture is a cancer on progressivism,” Maher said at the time. “Liberals always have to fight a two-front war. Republicans only have to fight the Democrats. Democrats have to fight the Republicans and each other.”