Saturday, November 18, 2006


Much as I enjoy most of what Real Time has to offer, occasionally Bill Maher will lapse into saying things that he seems to think are incisive and politically incorrect in their rather counterintuitive stance, but really expose him as an intellectual poseur in those areas.

Last night's season finale was no exception, as there were two rather blatant examples that I caught right away. One came mere seconds after Maher excoriated WaPo reporter Dana Priest for the shallow, diffident political coverage of the mainstream media, which was true enough, despite Priest's strident attempts to refute.

Maher went on to launch into a tirade over how the networks are more interested in covering sensationalist crap like Scott Peterson, and now O.J. Simpson's upcoming quasi-confession, cynically being pimped by publishing hack Judith Regan as some sort of "closure" for her own history with abusive men.

(Incidentally, where are the legions of gang-faxing evangelicals now, or do they only muster their dudgeon for silly shows that happen to pinch their Jesus nerve with a tad too much iconoclasm? Showcasing a double murderer, not so much. As the good book says, we shall know them by their deeds. Me, I don't think I'll be watching Fox anymore, not even for the real [animated] Simpsons, and I would hope that other than K-Bar, they had trouble finding advertisers. Seriously, fuck all these people, fuck everyone even tangentially involved with this. It's repulsive.)

Anyway, as Maher abruptly dovetailed into ranting about this abysmal sideshow, he averred that he, despite his misgivings about it, would at least check in to rubberneck at the car wreck. This, while he simultaneously rants about the wrongness of the project. Well, make up your mind, motherfucker. Either it panders to the ugliest, basest of lizard-brain impulses, or it's merely kitschy fun.

If you're going to "tune in", even just to "check it out" momentarily, then don't blame the crack pusher. He's just giving the crackheads what they want; if they don't have the goddamned dignity to turn down that glass dick, then the hell with them. I just don't want to hear from someone who "checked out" this atrocity how awful it is that it got on the air in the first place. How the fuck did you think it was going to be?

The other bit that got to me was when Maher interviewed Norman Lear via satellite. It was going fine, when suddenly Maher (rightly) started in about how the word "liberal" had been so falsely, unjustly demonized that genuine libs were reluctant to identify themselves as such. Once again, true enough, and a decent encapsulation of how a couple decades of radio screamers and talk-show thugs have not only hijacked the airwaves, but have co-opted the language to suit their agitprop needs.

Where it went south was when Lear not only readily acknowledged that he is, indeed, a liberal and proud of it, but added that some of the principles he holds dearest are actually conservative. This should have been a slam-dunk for anyone paying attention, but Maher went off on another tangent, thinking that Lear had somehow equated himself with the usual carny barkers and circus geeks.

The obvious corollary to how these people have demonized the "L" word is how they have also calumniated the "C" word. These people are not conservatives, they are authoritarian cultists, they are permanent revolutionaries. They are anything but conservative, in what used to be the conventional sense of that word, with its emphases on fiscal responsibility and leaving people the fuck alone. They have leveraged what are commonly referred to as "social conservatives", but are actually anything but, to drive the red-meat issues they perpetuate to keep their machine going.

The ultimate goal for true liberals should not just be to reclaim their defining characteristics and embrace them, but also to clarify who their opposition is and what they stand for. Getting the government out of the wallets of rich people, and into the personal lives of everyone else, is not and never has been remotely "conservative". It is merely institutionalizing the worst busybody tendencies people with self-righteous certitude tend to exhibit in the personal arena.

Until they're caught snorting crank off a gay hooker's cock, that is.


Susan said...

In the final episodes of Real Time this season, Bill Maher seemed to be pulling his punches on the big issues. There were several times in the season finale where it seemed like he missed the chance to get some real insights. It was annoying when he changed the subject with his guests several times just as they were ready to get to some new information.

Lear's abbreviated comments on the reasons liberal and conservative are virtually meaningless as they are used was one example.

One thing I would have liked to see on Real Time was the video to which Norman Lear referred of his 1981 interview with Dan Rather.

Given the show's topic was the role of the media and Dan Rather had been on earlier, it would have been a great fit. We could have watched him ask the 4th estate followup questions one more time in low-def.

Heywood J. said...

Good points, Susan. Though Maher's interviewing skills are stronger than Dennis Miller's (pre- and post-dark side), they have the same problem -- even when interviewing or discussing, regardless of format, they don't entirely turn off their comic lizard brain. They're focusing on timing and impact more than substance. They have to. So if they're hanging on to a riff or punchline, either waiting to drop it at the right time, or they stumble across one, that becomes their focus, and they gloss right past the other person's point.

That seemed to be especially the case with the Lear segment. Maher had packed the segment too tightly with his own questions and pre-conceived observations, and he left himself no time to consider and react to the profound knowledge Lear was trying to drop on him.

It didn't help that Richard Dreyfuss, as insightful as his civics lecture truly was, threw the pacing of the round-table segment completely off, as well as sucked a significant portion of the oxygen out of the room. Still, he was right, and they were vital points that need to be iterated mroe often, so he deserves credit for that.

I actually feel bad criticizing Maher, because I like him, and I think he's right far more than he's wrong. And even his occasional dilettantism is light-years ahead of most "serious" news people on their best night. But sometimes when he's wrong, it's just a big ol' punch-bowl floater, and this was one of those times.