HBO, A Platform for Hate

I have been active on various social media platforms for a long time. My Twitter account goes back over 12 years now. I’ve engaged with experts and those simply with shared interests from around the world. But there has been many calls recently for the “social media giants” to clamp down on those who would use their platforms to spread messages of hate. Maybe it’s time to include the old-guard media, such has HBO, in this sweep as well.

HBO has given a platform to Bill Maher, a man who has a history of presenting hateful messages under the guise of “editorials”, for over a decade now. This history includes things such as the use of the n-word in what he claimed was “a joke”. Harsh comments about those with opposing political views, such as nearly celebrating the death of conservative David Koch, even stating he hoped “the end was painful”. He also has a history of bigoted comments targeting numerous groups.

Then there are his comments about obesity, or rather those out there dealing with it. From using the word “fat” as an insulting descriptor of others to comparing those with obesity to a killer whale or a sumo wrestler, Maher’s history of denigrating people with obesity goes way back. Most recently, he use his Real Time program to call for more fat-shaming.

“We shamed people out of smoking and into wearing seat belts. We shamed them out of littering and most of them out of racism. Shame is the first step in reform.”

I will admit, I do not watch his show. I only have seen a few clips of him here and there over the years. But he does seem to be a impassioned advocate when it comes to climate change, so why this choice ignore the true science around obesity? And it is a choice on his part, because nearly everything he said in this recent diatribe has been disproved by reliable science.

I am not going to link to the video, I truly believe a driving force behind his comments is simply to garner attention. Attention he can use to line his pockets. Keeping his brand relevant is what pays his bills. If you are truly curious, you can find the video easily enough.

I’m not even going to ask you to respond to his videos, be it on YouTube, the website for his show, or on his social media. Again, I do not wish to give him the direct attention.

may be only one person, but I can be one person who makes a difference.

Instead, I’m going to start “speaking out” to HBO directly. Unfortunately, my voice on it’s own may not do much. While I have subscribed to HBO in the past, I currently am not. I can not threaten to cancel my own account over this.

But I can promise this; as long as “Real Time with Bill Maher” is the type of program they wish to air, I will not become a subscriber again. They will get none of my money, and I will continue to actively let people I interact with know why.

The attention a controversy such as this brings to Maher seems to only feed into his image, improving his position as an entertainer. It is not the kind of entertainment I will subscribe to, so I am letting those who are responsible for his paycheck know as much. They will not get any money from me as long as he gets it from them.

Please, feel free to let HBO know how you feel about their allowing one of their programs continue to promote hate in the name of entertainment. Add your voice.

HBO On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

For more information on weight bias and how to become an advocate against it, visit the Obesity Action Coalition. Portions of my response here were inspired by my fellow OAC member, Ted Kyle and the thoughts he shared on his blog, ConscienHealth.


Things continue to evolve as celebrities and media and more respond to Bill Maher's bullying rant. I will add additional updates and resources as I come across them.

Sep 6: The original clip airs
Sep 7: Insider posts an article about some of his history of other hateful comments and some of the Twitter follow up. 
Sep 11: James Corden responds on the Late Late Show. The clip on YouTube is approaching 2 million views in just 3 days since it was posted.
Sep 12: The Obesity Action Coalition publishes an open letter to HBO regarding Bill Maher's comments.
Sep 13: I post a thank you to James Corden for his thoughtful response, on Twitter invite him to join OAC for our national convention next year in Vegas.
Sep 14: Newsweek posts an article about some of the various celebrity and media personality responses
Sep 15: The OAC posts an article What You Really Need to Know About Bill Maher's Fat Shaming Comments 
Sep 15: Forbes.com posts an article dispelling much of what Maher claimed about shaming and obesity.
Sep 16: Good Morning Britain has a debate on the issue where Piers Morgan and Danni Levy toss out made up stats on how fat shaming works.

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