Bill Maher on Mark Foley from Salon.com

In today’s Salon, Bill Maher talks about the Mark Foley scandal and suggests that perhaps we are all taking it a bit too seriously. I do enjoy Maher, even when I strenuously disagree with him. This isn’t one of those times, but its worth pointing out that whether I’ve agreed with his position or not, I’ve never seen an argument from Maher that wasn’t well presented, and well researched.

This piece is both right and wrong. Maher is dead on to point out the other, larger problems that face our youth today, and while its unlikely any of the entrenched interests he discusses will change in the near future, its nice to see someone standing up and pointing at the 800lb gorilla. We may not be able to get him to leave the room, but at least a few people are pointing at him these days.

But the other side of the coin is that Maher trivializes a very serious offence by Foley. Regardless of other problems, even far more dangerous ones, to dismiss Foley as unimportant is simply wrong. I realize its satire, and satire often goes overboard to make its point. That said, “Read the labels on your food. It turns out the healthiest thing you can put in your body is Mark Foley’s penis” is a quote that goes beyond the overboard that satire typically employs … this is actively saying that ANY food product is more dangerous than a sexual predator in a power position, and that’s a dangerous position to hold, even satirically.

Satire does involve exaggeration, and often that exaggeration is intentionally overstated. But at the same time, the satirist has a responsibility not to over-do his overstatement, and Maher has pushed it a step too far here. It certainly appropriate (and welcome) for Maher to stand up and point at the 800lb gorilla in the room, in the hopes that others will notice. The trouble is, goes too far in ridiculing the very real distress over Foley’s inappropriate behaviour. Its not right to say that Foley doesn’t matter because there are bigger issues at stake … he should have said Foley matters, but so do all these other things.

Having said all that … I did laugh my ass off …

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