Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Bill Maher and the False Barbarians

Some thoughts on the transcript of Bill Maher’s interview with the CBC.
[Maher] is a frequent guest on Larry King on CNN because of his no-holds-barred, politically incorrect style …
There isn’t anything politically incorrect about Bill Maher. Calling the American people stupid while lauding Europeans as deep thinkers is de rigueur for liberal elitists such as Maher. Moreover, the stereotype of Americans as ignorant rubes who don’t know a salad fork from a dinner fork is an old one—and it’s one we got over when Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote “My Kinsman, Major Molyneaux.”

Maher is one of those people who get a reputation for being smart simply because they can fire off acerbic, but superficial criticisms of the Way Things Are, criticisms that often play to the prejudices of those who fancy themselves to be critical thinkers. Example:

This is a fear election. This is an election that has been framed along the lines of – elect this guy or you'll die. Don't, don't vote for the wrong guy. Or you'll be dead. Johnny Jihad will drive a car bomb into your house if you elect a Democrat.
This sounds great—except for the picayune fact that it’s a straw man attack on the Bush campaign. The claim is that the United States will be less safe from terrorism if Kerry is elected. That claim is plausible, because Kerry seems to be more inclined towards paper diplomacy than military action, more inclined to appease world opinion than to prevent future attacks. But the most damning evidence that Kerry will be lax on terrorism is that the terrorists want him to win. We can argue about this, but it is a far cry from fear-mongering.

Maher loses all credibility when the interviewer asks why Americans think that another attack is imminent:

Well, it did happen. It happened once and we didn't catch the guy who did it. We have only exacerbated the situation and made more people in the Muslim world want to do it. So I think they have every reason to think another one is coming. I think another one is coming. I just don't think we're taking the right steps to prevent it.
It happened once. Think about that. Maher accuses Americans of being ignorant on both domestic and foreign issues, and he is utterly clueless about the history of Islamic terrorism in the last two decades. Did he forget the first attack on the World Trade Center? Stranger still, he agrees that another attack is imminent, but blames it on us. We messed with the Islamic snake, so now we’re going to get bit.

What he fails to see is a pattern of Islamic terrorism. The second WTC attack was an attempt to kill even more people than the first one and easily could have killed tens of thousands of people, if not a hundred thousand. That indicates persistence and an intent to kill as many Americans as possible, and that is why we can infer that another attack is imminent. If Maher thinks we “exacerbated the situation” by going to Afghanistan and Iraq, what is his explanation for the two attacks on the WTC? What is his explanation for the plot to fly an airplane into the Eiffel Tower?

And you know, we're all about the feelings here. Thinking, that's for the Europeans.
Yep. Those Europeans took the thoughtful, rational approach towards Hitler, and we emotional barbarians went and messed it all up by kicking his tush.

Here’s Maher’s imitation of how Americans think vis-à-vis Kerry’s explanation of why he voted against one form of a bill but for another version of the same bill:

I'm not a Harvard professor. Stay the course. Now there is something I can understand. It's three words. If you go past three words, we're dead, you know. No new taxes. Read my lips. Where's the beef?
Yep. “Hope is on the way” is so much more complex, nuanced, and sophisticated—it’s got five words instead of three!

The interviewer gets in on the act when she says:

But say that liberals are, classic liberalism is, to have a high tolerance for contradiction.
To which Maher responds:
Well yes, life is complicated, and there are two sides to issues sometimes.
There just aren’t two sides when it comes voting for Bush or Kerry. People who vote for Bush are stoooooopid.

Here’s Maher on Bush’s “theft” of Kerry’s wartime bravery:

That's what I was telling you, it's all about marketing. It doesn't matter what the truth is. It's what the marketing is. Black is white, and up is down. And John Kerry, who went to Vietnam, not a war hero. John McCain, who was five and a half years in the Vietnamese prison, not a war hero. Max Cleland lost three limbs on the battlefield in Vietnam, not a war hero. George Bush? Stayed in Alabama, in Texas? War hero.
Well, Bill, life is complicated, and you have to have a high tolerance for contradiction.

Finally, Maher opines on religion:

To me, to me it's a real dividing line between people of intelligence and – not that there haven't been some intelligent people who are religious. I mean, T.S. Elliott [sic] was a great poet and he became a very devout Catholic. But I always call religion a neurological disorder. I really do believe that. I mean it's not criticizing. I'm just saying if you took religion out of it and somebody went to a psychiatrist and said you know I believe in you know this crazy, illogical thing, the shrink would say, well you have a neurological disorder. And you need to really get therapy or take a pill.
Oh no, he’s not criticizing. He just thinks you’re crazy and need to take a little pill if you believe in God—and not only are you crazy, you’re dumb to boot. You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny, too. We could point out that Maher’s thinking isn’t quite consistent; people who believe in x because they have a psychological disorder and people who believe in x because they’re stupid belong in different groups. That’s not to say that there are no crazy people who are stupid and vice versa, but we generally don’t label mentally ill people as stupid for holding pathological beliefs. So Maher needs to stick with one criticism or the other and not go for a twofer.

To wrap up, what’s wrong with Maher is that he is completely given over to what might be called the false barbarian fallacy. That’s the fallacy of misidentifying who the real barbarian is. To Maher and much of the left, Americans are the real barbarians, the real threat to world peace. Meanwhile, the real barbarians are at the gate, and they don’t like anybody; they don’t like Americans, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, liberals, conservatives, homosexuals, women or blacks. They have declared their intent to kill as many Americans as possible, and they have succeeded. So we should worry less about supposed problems with our electoral college and worry more about the people who would destroy not only our electoral college, but our entire system of government.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"People who vote for Bush are stoooooopid."

I applaud your honesty.