Is Rush Limbaugh's vulgarity worse than Bill Maher's vulgarity – or vice versa?
Both Bill Maher and Rush Limbaugh feed hate, contaminate the public square and profit nicely, Parham observes. (Bill Maher photo: David Shankbone)
Well-known to most are the highly offensive words that Limbaugh used to discredit female Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke. She spoke about her school's policy on contraception, arguing that birth control ought to be part of a health insurance policy at faith-based institutions.
Limbaugh called her a prostitute and used even cruder language about Fluke.
The American Left swiftly attacked Limbaugh as a misogynist, bypassing the issue of offensive language itself.
Some conservatives distanced themselves from Limbaugh, saying he ought to apologize. He eventually did, although it failed the test of a moral apology, according to Baptist pastor Chuck Warnock.
By mid-March, 52 advertisers had dropped Limbaugh's radio show.
The controversy did not end with Limbaugh, however. The American Right pushed back, pointing to repeated misogynistic examples made by HBO entertainer Bill Maher, who has donated $1 million toward the re-election of President Obama.
As did the Left, the Right focused on the hatred of women, not offensive language per se.
ShePAC, a conservative political action committee, released a video: "Bill Maher: Obama's Million Dollar Man." It played a number of clips of Maher's demeaning references to women. The Republican National Committee launched an ad connecting Maher and Obama.
For those tempted to excuse Maher, PolitiFact.com posted an extensive list of Maher's misogynistic comments.
Some Democrats refused to criticize Maher, saying he was a comedian, didn't speak for the Democratic Party and was different from Rush Limbaugh.
Apparently, misogyny is only misogyny if the other side does it. Apparently, coarse language that expresses a demeaning attitude toward women isn't important.
The morality of the double standard is alive and well in American life. We hold accountable the wrong of the other side and overlook the wrong of our side.
We become outraged about the misogynistic vulgarity of Limbaugh and laugh at the misogynistic vulgarity of Maher. Or vice versa.
Such reaction says a lot about how, for some, political loyalty trumps traditional civility, how ideological self-righteousness vanquishes righteous morality.
Neither Maher nor Limbaugh appears to have much of a moral mooring, even if Limbaugh is the darling of many among the Christian Right.
Limbaugh's twisted moral vision allowed him to celebrate, at a 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference, a Christian school running up the score on a school for exceptional children.
At the same event, conservative Christians cheered when Limbaugh told a "joke" about how God was envious of the rival deity – himself.
Maher, on the other hand, is aggressively anti-Christian, as evidenced by his recent comments about National Football League quarterback Tim Tebow. Of course, his "documentary" on religion is but another example.
Both Maher and Limbaugh feed hate, contaminate the public square and profit nicely. Both are enabled by cable talk-show programs – CNN, MSNBC and Fox – which are more concerned about scoring points than advancing the common good.
Surely the faith community is the one community that ought to be able to transcend the ideological ramparts. The Christian Right ought to distance itself from Limbaugh as the Christian Left ought to move away from Bill Maher.
Both sides ought to challenge the hatred of women and the vulgar language that reduces women to sexual organs.
One would think that ought to be the case. Except the evidence is hard to find.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.