I’m torn. I could happily live another 10 lifetimes without having to deal with phony, politically calculated, outrageously outrageous outrage. Ann Romney, in fact, did an elegant job on CNN last night urging everyone (ahem, Newt) to lighten up over Robert DeNiro’s lame but innocuous joke about America’s white First Ladies.

Just one question: What makes Maher think the outrage in his case is phony?

When did we get it in our heads that we have the right to never hear anything we don’t like? In the last year, we’ve been shocked and appalled by the unbelievable insensitivity of Nike shoes, the Fighting Sioux, Hank Williams Jr., Cee Lo Green, Ashton Kutcher, Tracy Morgan, Don Imus, Kirk Cameron, Gilbert Gottfried, the Super Bowl halftime show and the ESPN guys who used the wrong cliché for Jeremy Lin after everyone else used all the others. Who can keep up?…

I have a better idea. Let’s have an amnesty — from the left and the right — on every made-up, fake, totally insincere, playacted hurt, insult, slight and affront. Let’s make this Sunday the National Day of No Outrage. One day a year when you will not find some tiny thing someone did or said and pretend you can barely continue functioning until they apologize…

I don’t want to live in a country where no one ever says anything that offends anyone. That’s why we have Canada. That’s not us. If we sand down our rough edges and drain all the color, emotion and spontaneity out of our discourse, we’ll end up with political candidates who never say anything but the safest, blandest, emptiest, most unctuous focus-grouped platitudes and cant. In other words, we’ll get Mitt Romney.

Someone on Twitter today (I forget who) summarized his op-ed here as “Bill Maher comes out against Media Matters’s very existence.”

I’ll give him this much. Part of the anger at his “jokes” about Palin and other women is, clearly, a reaction to the left generally rather than to him specifically. In that sense it is political, but not political in the cheap “pretend to be outraged to score a point” way. It’s sincere irritation at liberals once again presuming to lecture the right on propriety — here’s the latest on the Rush boycott, for instance — while they tolerate all manner of similar improprieties within their own ranks. (A textbook example is smearing tea partiers as violent radicals while whitewashing every last bit of OWS cretinism.) Maher is a target of opportunity to some extent because he just dropped a cool mil on Obama’s Super PAC, which they accepted without a second thought, so from his perspective the reaction may very well look contrived. Why, he’s been doing “c*nt” gags for years and only now, when dear Rush is threatened, is there a sustained outcry about it. Obvious fakery.

But it’s not fake. People have grumbled about him all along, as he’s no doubt well aware. There just hasn’t been any sustained attention to him because ultimately who cares? His job is to tell the left they’re superior to the right; he’s just a little nastier and a little more entertaining about it (emphasis on “a little”) than MSNBC is. To some extent, in fact, precisely because he’s a provocateur, getting too angry at him plays into his hands by stoking his self-styled image as a bad-boy truth-teller who knows how to wound the other side. No one wants to feed a preening troll by showing him how much he irritates you, so usually we all just grumble for a day and move on. Doesn’t mean the irritation’s not real, though, and it doesn’t mean that wearily letting him slide time after time somehow waives the right to revisit that sincerely-felt irritation later. And even if it should — even if he’s right that we should all just mellow out a little already — I’m not sure how we’re supposed to celebrate “the color, emotion and spontaneity … of our discourse” after the left’s post-Tucson hysteria last year over civility and rhetoric. Palin put out a midterm election map using crosshairs as a metaphor for “targeting” certain Democratic districts on election day and was basically accused of being an accessory to murder for it. No one’s going to care about the glories of colorful rhetoric the next time the opportunity arises to smear someone on the right for it. That’s not Maher’s fault, but it is what it is. Go figure that people can’t mellow out.