Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
June 12, 2019
Turning off Bill Maher

So, not a novel gripe, but I continue to be annoyed with people who decry the rise of "identity politics" when they really mean that they're frustrated at being made to consider issues involving people who are not them.

Another not-novel sentiment: I'm really sick of Bill Maher. I admit that I used to kinda like the dude, and in any case I found his show worthwhile -- I mostly could've done without the "comedy" bits (some did land), but his New Rules weren't entirely lacking in insight and the panel discussions were generally informative exchanges. What I especially liked about Maher there, though, is that he often seemed aware that he was the least informed participant in those conversations and therefore served less as an active interlocutor than a moderator whose goal was to prevent the content from getting too esoteric. He'd say something like, "Whoa, this is a comedy show! A little context for the viewers at home," and then the panel members would explain what they were talking about so that the conversation was more accessible to someone who wasn't a policy wonk or a political insider. Since I was really watching the show for those exchanges -- and since during those moments I sometimes found myself confused (and I generally try to keep abreast of political news) -- I appreciated Maher's input there all the more.

And like I said, Maher seemed to know what he didn't know. When he was made aware of various criticisms of his comments by the punditry, he'd answer that he was a comedian. I don't think that entirely absolves him of responsibility, mind you, but it does provide cover of a particular kind: he wasn't angling to be a thought-leader on the Left; he was cracking jokes and providing a forum for discussion. So when conservative pundits and publications criticized him as an exemplar and architect of liberal ideals, it came across as patently ridiculous. Not only did liberals clearly not march to the beat of his drum; he *himself* wasn't acting as if they should.

That's the part that's changed. It's not as if Maher's grown any more thoughtful or better informed in the last few years -- if anything, he's gotten less so -- but now he's actively lecturing Democrats on approach and policy and insisting that*his* way is the way to go (and weirdly patting himself on the back when current proposals echo throwaway comments he made in the past, as if those comments alone were the impetus for the current plans). And... he's not a serious thinker. Shit, just last year he was seriously urging Michael Avenatti to run for the Democratic nomination. Now -- obviously -- that plan was a dud, but it was a dud then too because -- apparently not obviously to everyone, but still obviously to anyone serious -- Michael Avenatti lacks the experience and knowledge to be fucking President of the United States.

And so does the current president, wherein lies the rub. That's what's really changed. Back when the president was actually required to understand issues and policy -- and back when the president surrounded himself with people who understood issues and policy -- it was obvious to people who didn't understand issues and policy that they didn't understand issues and policy, and so they behaved with the humility of people who knew that they didn't understand issues and policy. But if understanding issues and policy is no longer a requirement for the goddamned president, why should it be one for anyone else? And so Bill Maher stomps out and says dumb things and insists Democrats should follow his lead and scolds his audience for not cheering wildly and is no longer willing to entertain the notion that maybe he hasn't considered what he's saying as deeply as he should.

It's a widespread problem, and I'm not optimistic that it will improve anytime soon.

-posted by Wes | 4:32 pm | Comments (0)
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