I’ve blasted Bill Maher on occasion here but this is one occasion where he nails it:
Wonder why Fake News resonates so much with Trump fans – because so much of it is fake. Just nonsense made to keep you perpetually offended with an endless stream of ‘controversies' that aren’t controversial. pic.twitter.com/pog5OO4ttL
I’ve been extremely busy the last couple of months. I’m teaching for the first time in years, which involves an epic amount of effort. I’m also moving to a new house and trying to maintain my research responsibilities. As a result, I’ve let Twitter, the blogosphere and this blog slide because I simply don’t have time for them.
One of the advantages of that is that little vacation is that it’s given me some perspective on the outrage cycle that has come to dominate social media and, by extension, our news. I knew of it before, of course, and have commented on it. But taking a step back from the day-to-day makes it jump out even more in that, if I skip Twitter for a few days, I can completely miss something that everyone was outraged over. These things don’t even have a half-life of a few days before we’ve moved on to the next outrage because, in the end, it’s usually over something incredibly trivial.
(This isn’t limited to liberals. Conservative gadflies have their fainting spells and pearl clutching fits just as often — which is odd, given that they control the entire government right now. We have seen one-day outrages over Hamilton, Keurig, Delta, Budweiser, Hawaii, Shakespeare in the Park, Amazon, Starbucks, Macy’s, badly reported news stories corrected within hours, etc., etc. Face it, you’d have to Google at least half of those to remember what the outrage was all about.)
The thing is … it’s not like there’s a shortage of real things to be angry about. We are back over a trillion dollars in deficit thanks to Trump’s tax cuts and spending hikes. We have trillions in unfunded liabilities thanks to decades of neglect by both parties. We have three wars going on with some people itching for a fourth (or even a fifth). Congress, right now, is considering an “anti-sex-trafficking” bill called SESTA that would basically gut internet freedom and potentially put thousands of consenting adults in federal prison.
But … those stories tend to be a bit more complex. The deficit, for example, is something that can only be addressed with unpopular proposals. Ending our wars would mean abandoning the peoples of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan to cruel predators. And rejecting SESTA would mean to coming to grips with our century-long national hysteria over sex work.
It’s just easier to have a shit fit because Jennifer Lawrence’s dress is skimpy or act like kneeling football players herald the end of the Republic.
It’s been a busy week for me but I’m wondering why I bothered with it all. Because I have news for you: the world is ending. No question about it. The Mayans were right and 2012 will be our last year. How do I know? Because I agree with Bill Maher about something. Yeah, weird, isn’t it?
In discussing Robert Deniro’s first lady joke (which I didn’t think was racist but also didn’t think was funny), he says:
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?
The Jeremy Lin thing, which resulted in an editor being fired for describing Lin’s first bad game as showing a “chink in the armor”, was bothersome. I had encountered that phrase in conversation just a day earlier and didn’t even think of the racial context. We were discussing Jeremy Lin as a phenom and pointing out that teams would soon break him down, figure out his weaknesses and exploit them. This is precisely what happened. To be a superstar, he’ll have to adapt back. But I totally missed any racial component until the ESPN thing exploded. And then I felt like an idiot.
It was an insensitive headline from ESPN. Not noticing that people might take it the wrong way is pretty much the definition of insensitive. But it was also, clearly, accidental. It was clear that the editor didn’t intend to be racist and was humiliated by what he’d done. But no one was happy until he was out on his ass. Even an abject apology wasn’t enough.
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.
I’m reminded of this glorious rant from Penn:
My outrage-o-meter maxed out several years ago. In a country of 300 million people and about as many cameras, e-mail addresses and social networks, you could pretty much spend your entire life finding things to be offended by. Everyone says dumb stupid shit. But today, we know about it instantly. And that’s fine. It’s perfectly legitimate to be offended when, for example, some late night bobblehead calls a former Governor and Vice Presidential candidate a cunt.
But at the same time, no one has a right to not be offended. And it is this sense of entitlement to an offense-free environment that is bothering Maher and I. It’s the old PC bullshit rearing its ugly head again. It’s not enough to condemn people for saying stupid crap or ignore; they now have to be hounded and silenced.
Offense is not always a bad thing. The Civil Rights movement sprang up because people were offended by institutionalized racism. And, in turn, their refusal to back down offended the racists. Offending and being offended is part of being human. It’s the natural result of people of different backgrounds and values clashing.
(Of course, it always bears pointing out that the PC police are only concerned about what offends them. If someone, say, writes an offensive op-ed about how wonderful abortion is, we’re supposed to lie back and think of the Constitution.)
There’s nothing wrong with being offended. Hell, this whole blog is an exercise in being offended. The problem is people who seek it out, who scour the world for trivial things to explode over and, having found their offense, demand a speech code or something to prevent them from ever being offended again.
But they’re misguided, no matter how often they try to pretend that offensive speech creates offensive acts. The best response to offensive words is and always has been response. The solution to the problem of free speech is and always has been more free speech.
But, of course, responding to people who offend you and debating them requires competing in the arena of ideas. And it’s clear that the Perenially Offfended would do about as well in the arena of ideas as the Christians used to do against the lions. And so they are falling back, as we saw with the three-headed anti-Limbaugh screed of a couple of weeks ago, on the old reliable: boycotts, campaign and, in the end, government.
Memo to HBO (cc to Bill Maher productions) ,”We know about your hard on for Fox News (And with Maher, that is literal since he has an 8×10 glossy of Bill Hemmer in his dressing room), and although imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, don’t try to be fair and balanced yourself, it always comes off looking like a hussle, and like trying to teach a pig to sing, you look silly in the process”.
Little Pelosi and the big nose dick tried to venture into uncharted waters, the Sea of Objectivity, I guess for a laugh, but as usual, most of the laughs were the the right’s expense:
Alexandra Pelosi debuted a video she made for HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” last night. The video shows multiple welfare recipients in New York City proclaiming they were at the welfare office to get their “Obama bucks” and that they supported Obama because he “gives me stuff.” Pelosi reported that people at the HBO headquarters in New York had said to her “you can’t show this” even though just last week the ran a controversial video showing Mississippi voters saying inflammatory things against the president.
But even in the shallow end of the pool, Bill and the little Pelosi just could not help themselves. Notice that Bill accused all of Mississippi of being like these people, “This was organic, you did not edit out just the people that looked like that, everyone you interviewed looked like that”. Sure Bill, no educated, articulate, clean, non racist people at all in Miss., sure.
But they did show the other side, how noble, with the oh so predictable ,”This is apples and oranges”. But while patting themselves on the back it did not take long to make the welfare/defense spending equivalence (I think her numbers need checking), like those rednecks that are causing us to spend so much on defense.
We get the, “It’s so ridiculous because you and I are not racist”, we are liberals, liberals can’t be racist, Q.E.D.. And ,”But the black legacy is more real”, we can redeem the blacks, but those rednecks, forget it, too despicable to even bother. How funny that Maher thinks his donation to the cause should translate into the second coming of MLK, no Bill, it just tells us that you know what side your bread is buttered on, nothing more. How about spending another cool one million on helping the rednecks get teeth, like you said you wanted to do, or was this more smoke up the audience’s ass?
And no, the heads over at Fox news are not exploding, but there are some giggles and chuckles going on. You guys keep with this cutting news reporting with the man on the street stuff. How about another Howard Stern type piece where we see those intelligent liberals getting their facts straight?
So this aired on his show. Liberals, if you want to know why a lot of conservatives don’t like you, watch this and watch the reaction to it. Do you really wonder why people won’t vote for arrogant condescending twerps who look down on them?
Let’s set aside the condescending attitude toward the South and what was unquestionably a cherry-picked sample. Maher and his defenders are claiming the point of this is the old “What’s the Matter with Kansas” theme: they are wondering why people in Mississippi vote against their supposed economic interests. In their world, the poor people of Mississippi should be supporting massive welfare spending and gigantic tax hikes on rich people. And they would, were it not for the Republicans bamboozling them into voting on morality and religion. And now that Obama is President, their racism has only exacerbated this disconnect.
I have always despised the “Kansas question” because it fundamentally assumes that all poor people should have the same approach to politics: a burning desire to plunder their neighbors. It would never even occur to Bill Maher and Pelosi Junior that some people in this world, despite poverty, might see socialism as wrong and immoral. That they would rather be poor than rich on the backs of others. That they would rather live in a free market that gives them affordable goods and the chance, however small, of success than live in an unfree market that guarantees poverty. The manifest failures of socialism have obscured an important truth about it: socialism doesn’t just not work, it is immoral. It destroys the moral core of a nation, rots out its industry and replaces independence with dependence. Maybe you have to be a “dumb, uneducated southern hick” to understand this fundamental truth.
Aside from that, Maher manages, in a span of about 30 seconds, to spew an astonishing volume of economic, political and historical illiteracy. The idea that we do not already live in a heavily socialistic society is ridiculous. A massive fraction of federal and state spending is wealth transfer. Government pays over half the healthcare bills. Since the 1960’s, we have spent trillions fighting poverty. Under the evil poor-hating George W. Bush, taxes on poor people were reduce to zero or negative rates.
Socialist paradise? We already live in one. And here’s the thing. Look at those people and those homes. Does it look like our rampant socialism is doing them any good?
The most successful anti-poverty program of the last 50 years was the Republican-led and Clinton-signed welfare reform of the mid-90’s. It saw the first serious drop in poverty since we began the “War on Poverty” and moved millions from dependence to work. And liberal fucktards like Maher opposed it vehemently. They denounced it as a plot by uncaring Republicans to leave people starving in the streets.
Maher also manages to forget that Southerners voted almost exclusively Democrat for 120 years. From the end of the Civil War to the mid-90’s, the South was a uniform block of Democratic voters. It was the Southern hatred of Republicans that enabled the creation of the New Deal and the Great Society. Fat lot of good their unwavering support did them.
Maher mocks one of the interviewees for saying the voting for Republicans might work someday. What a stupid thing for him to chortle about. Liberals like Maher have been making that excuse for socialism and anti-free-market ideology for half a century.
You want to help poor people? Break the education monopoly that condemns them to bad schools. End corporate welfare and regulatory capture that empower politically-connected business to steamroll the rights of poorer citizens through atrocities like eminent domain. Break the hyper-regulations that close off industries to competition (watch Stossel’s doc below on taxi medallions or read up on CPSIA). And overhaul our tax system so that jobs can be brought back to or created in this country.
But let’s not sit in our comfy studios and analyze poor Southerners like they are some species of unevolved ape. That might make someone feel good about himself. But I think he already feels way better about himself than he deserves.
Because he’ll take a seemingly legitimate point and drop into a vat of stupidity. Here’s the clip everyone is talking about:
Buried within that stupidity is a legitimate point that the Republican leadership and a large part of the punditsphere are campaigning against a partially imaginary candidate. I’ve pointed out before that the “apology tour” stuff was bull and that Obamacare, bad as it is, was hatched in conservative circles and is to the right of Nixon’s proposal. There are blogs I’ve stopped reading because they are entirely focused on what they think is going on inside the President’s supposed Marxist fascist Islamic atheist brain.
However, that is all beside the point. Maher isn’t really interested in who or what Obama is or what the Right Wing is thinking. What he’s interested in playing yet another round of Liberals Are All Reasonable, Conservative Are All Crazy. This is the favorite game of pseudo-intellectual liberal flakes like Maher and this is just his latest excuse to have another round.
All right. Fine, fucker. Let’s throw down, shall we?
First of all, not all of the complaints against Obama — not even a significant minority — are illegitimate. Obamacare is not a figment of the fevered Right Wing imagination; it’s an actual law that was actually passed and actually massively increases federal control over the insurance system. The crummy economy is not some specter conjured up by Rush Limbaugh. The massive deficit is not an illusion created by Fox News. We can argue over how much responsibility Obama bears for these things; but we can’t argue over whether they exist.
If you ask people why they don’t like Obama, I guarantee you that, except for a handful of pundits, the words “Saul Alinsky” will never pass their lips. They will cite bailouts, which Bush started but Obama supported and manipulated to the advantage of his political allies. They will cite the economy and the debt. They will cite Obamacare. They will cite Dodd-Frank. They will talk about a man who looks at our ridiculous tax system and proposes more complications.
These are not imaginary hobgoblins we attribute to some Barack X candidate who only exists in our diseased conservative minds (Maher, of course, thinking all conservative minds are diseased). These are things the President bears responsibility for.
And liberals only criticized Bush for stuff he did? Bullshit. During Bush’s presidency, liberals complained about him gutting spending on education, the environment and infrastructure, even though he did no such thing. During Bush’s presidency, liberals complained about him gutting regulation, even though the Bush Administration passed more and more costly regulations than any Administration in history. We heard that George Bush didn’t like black people. Michael Moore wrote an entire book about how the early 2000’s recession was a plot to keep the middle class down. We heard the tired old complaints about Republicans not caring about women, minorities, the environment, science, the world, etc. What is that but inventing your own Bushitler?
Fuck, Bill Maher in this very same diatribe accuses Bush of deliberately lying about WMDs in Iraq. Memo to Bill: you’re putting thoughts in Bush’s brain just like we are putting them into Obama’s. The conclusion of almost everyone who has looked at it is that we had rotten intelligence.
You want someone inventing his own candidate? Trip over to Charles Johnson’s blog and see what he has to say about Ron Paul, a supposedly vile racist scumbag who was recently praised by … the president of the NAACP. Look at the number of liberal blogs that repeat the lie that Gingrich served his wife with divorce papers in the hospital. Look at the liberals making the disgusting claim that Karen Santorum had an abortion when her son Gabriel was born premature or thinking Rick Santorum invented anti-gay bigotry in a 2003 interview. Look at the people saying Mitt Romney wears “magic underwear” even though the temple garments are no such thing (anti-Mormonism being the last acceptable bigotry).
Enough? Oh, I haven’t even begun to fight. Let’s take this a step further: a lot of the policies liberals criticized Bush for: indefinite detention, drone strikes, war in Afghanistan, tax cuts, opposition to gay marriage — are policies they have fallen thunderously silent about now that Obama is continuing them.
Oh, they may occasionally make some noise about these things. But it’s a token gesture at best. Barack Obama has gotten more money from Wall Street than any president candidate and in his recent SOTU said we should investigate the mortgage bubble …. three years into his presidency. But it’s Republicans who are the tools of the 1%. The recently passed indefinite detention provision was greeted with maybe a hundredth of the outrage that was unfurled when Bush went on a golfing trip.
Oh, golfing trips. Yeah. All you lefties who bitched when Bush hit the links: where’s your outrage when Obama hits 18 holes?
Barack Obama has been worse on medical marijuana than Bush ever was. He’s been worse on criminal justice issues than Bush was. He’s been almost as bad on basic civil liberties. But you’d never know it outside of Glenn Greenwald’s blog.
If we’ve invented Barack X, the liberals have invented Barack the Bold, the man who, simply by his innate goodness, can continue Bush policies without criticism. A front-page article on Newsweek recently argued that even the mild criticisms the Left has made of Obama simply miss the big picture; that he’s playing this brilliant long game for change. We’re just too stupid to see it.
In this clip, you see perfectly why I can’t watch Bill Maher’s show. Because for every smart thing he says, he says ten stupid things. Every fact is sandwiched two pieces of bullshit.
In the end, he is what he is: an arrogant liberal troll.
I went into the polls voting for the black guy, and what I got was the white guy… – Michael Moore quoting Bill Maher
You can see the full interview with Moore here as well as some of Maher’s commentary that Moore is referencing. It really is pretty unpleasant. This is not a quote taken out of context. It eclipses anything the Right Wing has said.
The look on Sherri Shephards’ face when Moore repeats this line is priceless. She knows exactly what he’s saying. So does Ta-Nehisi Coates:
In fact, it’s racist, and Michael Moore would do well to stop repeating it. It really is no better than the Kenyan anti-colonial bit, indeed it is a good deal worse. I said this yesterday on twitter, but it would be as if my Jewish accountant messed up my taxes and I said, “Dude, you’re Jewish, what the hell?!?!”
In fact, I’d be getting exactly what I deserved. If you paid more attention to Obama’s skin color, than to his speeches, the voluminous amounts of journalism noting his moderation, his two books which are, themselves, exercises in moderation, then you have chosen to be ignorant.
You are now being punished for that ignorance. No one should feel sorry for you. Try not being racist.
Exactly. Statements like this reveal an underlying racial color-coding. Moderation is the white man’s vice; radicalism is the black man’s virtue. This is not only racist but profoundly ignorant of history, civil rights, race, politics and reality.
It’s the logical extension of the racial animus that people like Moore have frequently shown toward African-American conservatives, especially Clarence Thomas, whose legal accomplishments are only just now becoming apparent to the Left. How often have we seen this “black people should be liberal” bullshit? This is just the next step: black people should not only be liberal, but radical.
I’m not surprised to hear Bill Maher saying this; he’s made a career out of stupid offensive statements. Nor am I surprised to see Michael Moore repeating and expanding upon it. The man has spent a career dealing with the world as though it were drawn in crayon — with a simple moral and racial color scheme. Conservatives evil; progressives good. White people racist; black people progressive.
But what it really reveals is just how low an opinion these idiots had of Barack Obama. They expected Barack Obama to play the Angry Black Man and push for socialized medicine, 50% tax rates, a Krugman-sized stimulus and dismantling of the Pentagon. What must really grate is that Barack Obama has shown himself to be smarter than they are. He is pushing for doable change rather than going down in flames on the alter of pure progressivism. And as a result, he’s getting stuff done. Stuff I mostly oppose, but stuff the Left should be joyous about.
As the Left grows more disenchanted with Obama’s failure to become FDR Mark II — a failure that was inevitable, given how big government already was when he was elected — we’re seeing more of this. Daily Kos has gone so far as to publish a guide to criticizing Obama without coming off as racist.
This incident illustrates why liberalism will never be a true governing philosophy. There is too much color-coding, too much viewing people as members of groups rather than as individuals, too much focus on ideological purity over practical politics. To the extent that I worry about conservatism — and I do — is it to the extent that it has ingested these damaging and damning traits (a subject for a future post).
Put on some extra popcorn, friends. It’s going to be fun watching these self-styled progressives make fools of themselves.