Like all intellectual titans throughout history, Bill Maher has responded to his critics by coiling into a ball and whining that everyone who disagrees with him is a Nazi. “I’m the liberal in this debate,” he insists, excessively. After years of broadcasting his howling misogyny and racism, Maher has rightly earned a reputation for being a bigot. He’s in the news again for saying that Muslims have crazier, more violent tendencies than their faith-based counterparts. “They will fucking kill you,” the comedian told his audience last Friday. Truly, he is the FDR of his day.
Now Mr. Maher is going to go around decrying “illiberalism” — a dumb term with a ugly sound. So I think it’s appropriate to figure out what exactly liberalism is. Keep in mind that I was once caught in the thrall of that tedious imperialist cadre called the New Atheists and I’ve been watching Real Time for years. With great shame I confess I am one of America’s premier Maher researchers. Here’s what I can gather about the Party Line based on this shining beacon of liberal thought.
Islam Is “Not Like Other Religions”
This is the assertion that started the Great Debate Of Liberalism. At first it sounds like Maher is going to softball this one. Clearly Islam isn’t identical to Shinto Buddhism, say, or else it would be called Shinto Buddhism and not Islam.
“Islam is not like other religions, it is a unique threat … To claim that this religion is like other religions is just naive and plain wrong.” He means it’s more violent and fanatical. Christianity was bad in the 16th or 17th century, says Maher, but it sorta mellowed out since then. I guess he doesn’t count the Biblical defense of American slavery, the Protestant supremacist Ku Klux Klan, the Vatican’s collusion with fascists in South America and Europe, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, or the terrorist violence between warring Christian sects in Ireland. And aren’t the deranged settlers who evict Palestinians from their homes religious fundamentalists, too?
“That’s the silly liberal view that all religions are alike because it makes you feel good,” Maher responsed to Glenn Greenwald when he pointed out that Christianity and Judaism are responsible for just as many contemporary atrocities as Islam. But wait. What’s “silly” liberalism and what’s true liberalism? I’m already confused.
The Subjects Of Autocratic Regimes Share The Same Values As The Autocratic Regimes
Maher has a pet phrase that he likes to stun his detractors with. “Isn’t this just the soft bigotry of low expectations?” This is coming from the guy who muses openly about whether Arabs — as a race — are really “ready” for democracy.
When making the case that Arabs and Muslims — terms he uses interchangeably as if they are synonymous — aren’t as civilized as Americans, he inevitably resorts to talking about Saudi Arabia. The Saudi regime is a repressive and fundamentalist one. He therefore extrapolates that everyone who lives on there peninsula agrees with the government that oppresses them. Women can’t drive there. Therefore, no Saudis believe women should be able to drive.
It’s the same trick Maher uses when talking about ISIS. Why aren’t more Arabs and Muslims disowning the fundamentalists? Nevermind the fact that they are criticizing ISIS. A lot. A whole lot. Like, more than you are. It’s sort of like how Americans kept asking “where are all the good Germans?” while the Allies blew them all up.
The Israeli Occupation Of Palestinian Territories Is — Wait, he said what about Arabs?
Harold Abrahams remarked of anti-semitism that you can “catch it on the edge of a remark.” That phrase comes to mind with Bill Maher’s unctuous pronunciation of “Hezbollah” and “Said Nasrallah” in this clip from 2006 where he defends the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. (It reminds me of how that other liberal hero Michael Moore sneered Sanjay Gupta’s name during a CNN interview.) The tone of voice isn’t the worst part, though. It’s the actual content.
“Jews save a tiny piece of their mind for science, math, and writing sitcoms. Arabs, on the other severed hand, seem to spend all their time handing down grudges from one generation to the next. Oh sure, Jews carry grudges, but not like Arabs.”
Woah. You might want to chalk it up to him trying to be funny, but if you watch that six minute video you will be at a loss to find a single joke.
And Maher certainly wasn’t joking when he said on his show, “It’s fair to say that Muslim men have a bad attitude about women, in general … Talk to women who have ever dated an Arab man. The reviews are not good.” Yes, that’s so very fair to say. It would be unjust not to mention it, frankly.
Anyone Who Takes Issue With Bigoted Jokes Is A Fascist, Apparently
Bill Maher wants to get away with saying anything he wants but as soon as someone exercises their right to respond critically, he calls them a Nazi. “Political correctness Nazis hound me to censor every joke and apologize for every single slight.” As a rule, “politically incorrect” almost always translates to “White Men Defending Their Right To Say Awful Bullshit.”
Then there’s a real comedian, Andy Kindler, who hates that comics think they can get away with saying horrible shit just because they’re comedians. “If you’re a comedian and you’re not saying anything funny, you’re just a racist.”
What does Kindler think of Maher in particular? “He laughs before the joke, he laughs while he’s telling the joke, he laughs after the joke and he laughs all the way to the bank with his sad, sad act that he hasn’t gotten down after forty years. He literally can’t do standup comedy. He’s not good at it. We know he’s also not a good guy but he stinks at standup comedy.”
It’s Okay To Express Unveiled Contempt For The Trans People?
One of Maher’s favorite slurs to use is the one that aims to make people feel like inhuman sexual curiosities. He hates trans people so much that he barely bothers making it seem like a joke. “I also for example think it’s ridiculous that Facebook has now decided that we have to choose, in our profile, from 56 genders, including transgender, cisgender, and, of course, brucegender.” He finds it ridiculous, I assume, because he doesn’t like them.
A punchline during one of his monologues on Real Time went like this: “I just hope they don’t start asking for their own bathrooms.” Even the crickets in the audience were silent on that one. Maher floundered. “Is this thing on? Fuck it, never mind.”
I have consulted with a team of humorists to try to figure out what the joke is here. Please email me if you have any ideas, because I’m not seeing it. For what it’s worth, I was quite pleased to hear that my old school published a list of single occupancy bathrooms on campus “to assure safety and comfort for the transgender community.” I’m guessing that will make Bill Maher shit himself.
Well, This Is Just Plain Old Misogyny
Bill Maher is incensed about the oppression of women when brown people do it. He’s claimed that in “19 of 22 Arab countries” women don’t have the right to vote. Never mind the fact that that’s completely untrue. Sometimes his roiling prejudices overlap and he can demean two groups of people at once, like in this tweet from this past summer. “Dealing w/ Hamas is like dealing w/ a crazy woman who’s trying to kill u – you can only hold her wrists so long before you have to slap her.”
“Bill Maher has opinions on the situation in the Gaza Strip and they are loaded with sexist bullshit for some reason,” said Rebecca Rose at Jezebel.
Amanda Marcotte put it succinctly, too. “His Israeli-Palestinian conflict commentary is dumb … But he’s also trading on the the tired stereotype of woman as irrational children who need to be brought into line by more stable men.”
And like the ever-charming Richard Dawkins, who recently said that drunk women have no legal standing to file charges against their rapists, Maher deflects criticism of American patriarchy by saying it’s way worse for women elsewhere. “Vast numbers of Christians do not treat women like second class citizens,” he told Tavis Smiley, to the riotous laughter of feminists worldwide. (Smiley, on the other hand, nailed it: “If you think that the way we treat women in this country, with the patriarchy still alive and well, sexism still alive and well, is demonstrative of how well our democracy runs? I think you don’t understand how mistreated women still are in this society.”)
Oh God, He Thinks Vaccines Are A Corporate Plot To Make Us All Sick
I sincerely mean it when I say that if we all listened to the liberal lion Bill Maher, we’d all be a lot more like Franklin Roosevelt. In that we’d all be disfigured by polio.
“Western medicine misses a lot,” Maher told Dr. Bill Frist during the Swine Flu epidemic. That term — “western medicine” — rankles. Could it be something about the “soft bigotry” of fetishizing the Other? Surely any exotic cure from the Orient must work better than science-based medicine, a great deal of which doesn’t come from the “West” at all but, as you know, from those anti-science Arabs.
“I had horrible allergies as a kid. Was it because I was vaccinated? I don’t know.” Like any crackpot, he can rest on the defense that he’s ‘just asking questions.’
Despite his aversion to illiberalism, he can’t remember if he’s liberal or conservative. I can’t remember anymore either. “I think on this question, I’d probably be more with conservatives … Conservatives always say about healthcare especially, you’re gonna let the government run healthcare? They screw everything up! So why would you let them be the ones to stick a disease into your arm? … I would never get the swine flu vaccine, or any vaccine. I don’t trust the government with my health. And that seems to be a conservative opinion.”
Bill Maher “can stave off [germs and viruses] better with proper nutrition” than with medicine. “Maybe there are some occasions where an inoculation is a wise thing to do. I hope not. I hope I would never have to have one, because, you know, to present it just as this genius, medical advancement, no, it’s actually a risky medical procedure that begs long term cost-benefit analysis. If you don’t believe me, look at the CDC website.” Since I don’t believe anything Bill Maher says anymore, I looked at the CDC website. Regarding flu vaccines in particular, it says
“With a vaccine, like any medicine, there is a chance of side effects. When side effects happen, they are usually mild and go away on their own.”
Most other vaccines listed on the CDC’s site say that their risk of “causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.”
Or it’s an extremely risky medical procedure, whatever, gross, they’re ‘sticking a disease into your arm.’
I Don’t Even Know What “Liberal” Means Anymore
I thought of liberals as people who are trapped in a paradox. They care about poor people but they defend capitalism. They complain about the political establishment but cheer like soccer hooligans for the blue political party. I began to chafe under the liberal label when neanderthal congressman Alan Grayson was elected with considerable fanfare, as if what the Left critique really needed was more screeching intellectual dishonesty. The unhinged playacting of Olbermann and his crew started to grate on me, as did the accompanying insistence that one cable news network is any smarter than another cable news network. My liberal comrades were too ready to embrace crackpot conspiracy theorists like Michael Moore and Oliver Stone. I don’t identify as a liberal because it seems to me like a boring ideological no-man’s-land — pro-corporate conservatism on one side, real anti-establishment radicalism on the other.
But I guess it’s even worse than I thought. To be a liberal, according to Maher, is to be a transphobic, racist, anti-science woman hater who reflexively calls anyone who disagrees with him a crybaby Nazi. And I guess extra liberal points if you look uncannily like Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.