It’s Bad Enough Racist Bill Maher’s Used The NWord. The Media Shouldn’t Repeat It
After years of getting away with using the N-word, Bill Maher finally is in the sort trouble he can’t get out of.
Until last night, Maher piggybacked on other people’s racism to utter the word in public and get away with it. This time, however, there is no hiding behind Paula Deen or some other racist, in order to publicly say something no white person should ever say.
For those of us who are white or brown, the n-word is completely out of bounds, no exceptions. Which brings me to the New York Times’ coverage of Maher’s racist behavior last night:
Bill Maher’s unforgivable behavior is no excuse for the Times to repeat it. Writer Dave Itzkoff should have taken the advice given in his paper’s Editor’s Notebook piece, published in 2015, after President Obama’s own public use of the term.
“The Times, like many news organizations, generally avoids repeating racial slurs, obscenities and other potentially offensive language. It’s not that we think our readers are delicate or naive or easily shocked. We know they encounter such language in many contexts. But The Times strives to maintain a thoughtful, civil tone. We think that frequent or gratuitous repetition of such language, even in quoting others, risks undercutting that tone.
But we make exceptions when the word or phrase is central to reporting a newsworthy event. In those cases, paraphrases or euphemism could leave readers confused or uninformed or actually draw attention away from the substance of our reporting.”
Bill Maher, I submit, is nowhere near President Obama’s stature, nor his status, when it comes to who cannot use the n-word. Itzkoff should have followed Times guidelines of spare usage. Barring that, an editor should have intervened.
As for Senator Sasse? MSN reports that he has expressed regret for not having intervened.
“In a series of early Saturday morning tweets, Sen. Ben Sasse from Nebraska said he wished he had spoken up when Bill Maher dropped the N-word on his HBO show Friday night. “
Just as Maher’s racist comment naturally rolled off his tongue, so were Sasse’s silent nods and grins.
They hardly expressed the kind of disgust one would expect of a disapproving interlocutor. Mr. Sasse’s morning-after disgust and preaching are disingenuous.
"…The history of the n-word is an attack on universal human dignity. It’s therefore an attack on the American Creed. Don't use it.” https://t.co/kEZm5vPFHK
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) June 3, 2017
No one who truly believes this grins when hearing the n-word. No one. No one who is repulsed by its usage, reproduces the n-word, even in news reporting.
After the last eight years and the near constant chatter about usage of the n-word, it is infuriating to see how little progress we’ve made. What is so hard to understand about: “if you’re not Black, you can’t say the n-word?”
For those among you who may like to learn more about the history of the slur, I highly recommend this book: