I have a writing prompt on my blog’s dashboard reading: “Bill Maher’s latest repulsive comments.”
It’s a perennially useful prompt, even though most of what I write about him doesn’t see print.
The nominally liberal comedian uses his weekly discussion show on HBO, Real Time With Bill Maher, to pretentiously preen to a reliably sycophantic audience and spread xenophobic hate speech, barely veiled racism, and dismissive misogyny. It’s a nasty piece of work that enjoys a substantial influence in mainstream liberal circles.
Maher’s base is expanding out of the liberal mainstream, though, thanks to his virulent hatred of Islam and its adherents. Much like evangelical atheist Richard Dawkins, whose views on Islam and the Global South have won him fans across the rising right wing in Europe, Maher is enjoying something of a career renaissance as he garners praise from the American hard right.
Maher’s speechifying last week was at its most inspired when he was speaking with his new buddy Michael Hayden, the former head of the CIA. Hayden came on the show to promote his new memoir/torture apologia. Maher had a lot of fun squawking to one of the architects of the modern surveillance state about how Apple should give the FBI the tech to unlock the iPhone- tech the company claims it has specifically not designed in response to consumer concerns over privacy.
Bad enough, but the real horror show came, as it often does, on the internet-only post-show discussion called “Overtime.”
During Overtime on February 26, Maher and his guests debated the efficacy and wisdom of closing the extralegal Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp which houses upwards of seventy men who have never been tried for any crimes. Most men in the prison were scooped up in the aftermath of the immediate US invasion and destruction of Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks.
Now, Maher is on the right side here- he believes the prison should be closed and the prisoners given trials- but for the wrong reason. Maher thinks the US should give the Guantanamo Bay prisoners trials because “it works.”
This sounds reasonable enough. It’s not.
What constitutes the judicial system “working” in trying terror suspects in Bill Maher’s world? Why, it’s the fact that the trials have a 100 percent success rate.
That success rate is not necessarily an indication of guilt.
The trial process is heavily weighted towards the prosecution. Much of the evidence that is presented at these trials is deemed far too sensitive for the public and a threat to national security. The deck is so stacked against the defense that the entire process functions more as going through the motions; a military tribunal rather than an actual trial.
This is the system that Maher believes works- a system that is designed to maintain the power of the state to the detriment of the powerless, irrespective of their crimes- because it reliably returns the result he believes it should.
It’s the same logical fallacy that maintains inequality of power, access, and justice, promoted by the same kind of person the fallacy requires: An ignorant, well-to-do blowhard, untouched by the reality of the inequity, all too ready to trumpet it to his receptive audience.
Like Bill Maher.
I couldn’t fit the rest of Maher’s comments from this week into the story, but they can be found here.
A terrible crime has happened in North Carolina – three young Muslim university students were shot dead ‘execution-style’ in their Chapel Hill apartment on Tuesday.
Police have arrested and charged 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks with the brutal murders, a man known for posting anti-religion comments online and whose Facebook page is riddled with pictures of and quotes from his ‘New Atheist’ heroes Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher.
The cops are conveniently saying that the Muslim students were not targeted because of their faith, but rather a “parking dispute.”
“It was execution style, a bullet in every head,” the father of the two deceased girls told the media, insisting that “this was not a dispute over a parking space, this was a hate crime.”
The suspected killer was an avowed ‘anti-theist’ who admired Richard Dawkins, the famed British atheist author and poster boy of the ‘New Atheist’ movement. But police are reticent to link the suspected shooter’s anti-religious attitudes to the odious events in Chapel Hill.
Muslims cannot be portrayed as victims of a vicious hate crime – that would fall too far outside the boundaries of the neocon-induced popular discourse which always presents Muslims as violent, irrational aggressors. Muslims as victims of a lethal hate crime is not politically palatable at the present time when America and its subservient lackeys are executing a war of attrition against the Islamic world, which explains why the cops are avoiding that angle at all costs.
This tragic shooting brings the ‘New Atheist’ movement into focus. Other prominent ‘New Atheists’ include the aforementioned Bill Maher, Sam Harris and the deceased Christopher Hitchens. What all of these characters have in common is an unreserved and unabashed disdain for Islam in particular. Critics have noted that a very large portion of New Atheists’ criticisms of religion is aimed squarely at Islam, leading some to believe that they are political propagandists rather than true free thinkers.
The ‘New Atheist’ movement has little to do with encouraging skepticism and critical thought. It is in actuality an insidious offshoot of neoconservatism, hence the movement’s obsession with disparaging Islam and Muslims. Another notable characteristic of the New Atheists, which coincides nicely with their neocon antecedents, is their proclivity for philosemitism and pro-Israel evangelism – odd for people claiming to oppose ‘all religion.’
We dislike and disavow all religions, but we don’t have a problem with Judaism or the ‘Jewish State of Israel,’ the New Atheists whisper under their breath, hoping their followers don’t notice the brazen contradiction.
Bill Maher calls himself a “big supporter of Israel.” The Israeli war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu frequents his television talk show Real Time. Sam Harris, the author of a number of books on atheism and religion, has said that Jews are the “least of the least offenders” when it comes to acting on irrational religious beliefs. In a 2014 blog post titled “Why Don’t I Criticize Israel?” Harris tells us that the Palestinians are to blame for their own murderous mistreatment by the Zionist Jews. In the same article Harris concedes that Jewish religious texts, particularly the books of Leviticus, Exodus and Deuteronomy in the Old Testament, are “the most repellent, the most sickeningly unethical documents to be found in any religion. They’re worse than the Koran. They’re worse than any part of the New Testament.” While Harris acknowledges the obvious, he excuses it by saying that few Jews take those doctrines seriously or act upon them. He fails to provide any evidence for the assertion that most Jews disregard the Old Testament’s bloodthirsty edicts and he clearly hasn’t familiarized himself with the Babylonian Talmud, which also contains incitement to genocide against non-Jews. “Even the best of the Gentiles should be killed,” reads the Talmud. “The Jews are called human beings, but the non-Jews are not humans. They are beasts,” says Judaism’s ‘holiest book.’
Prominent rabbis have echoed these malignant Talmudic sentiments. Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the godfather of the extremist ‘Chabad’ sect, openly proclaimed that non-Jews have evil souls “with no redeeming qualities whatsoever… All Jews are innately good, all Gentiles are innately evil.” The difference between the souls of Jews and non-Jews is “greater and deeper than the difference between a human soul and the souls of cattle,” declared Rabbi Abraham Kook, a revered sage of the Jewish religion. At the funeral of Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish settler who gunned down 29 Palestinians in a Hebron mosque, a prominent Israeli rabbi said, “One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.” In 2010, Israel’s chief Sephardic rabbi, Ovadia Yosef, told his followers that, “Goyim [non-Jews] were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world – only to serve the People of Israel.” In his 1939 book A Program for the Jews, a rabbi named Harry Waton suggests that Jews are “the highest and most cultured people on earth” who have a right to “subordinate to themselves the rest of mankind and to be the masters over the whole earth.”
The New Atheists don’t seem to lose any sleep over the fact that the Jewish religion holds Jews up as a superior ‘chosen people’ above all others who are destined to accrue all of the world’s wealth, as stipulated most vividly in the Old Testament book of Isaiah.
In an April 2009 C-SPAN interview, Christopher Hitchens, the ‘New Atheist’ former Trotskyite and Iraq war enthusiast, attributed his bellicose neoconservative views to the fact that after the 9/11 attacks some people were saying “the American Jews or the Israeli Jews blew up the World Trade Centre.” Hitchens apparently sensed a career opportunity in coming to the defence of Zionists who stand accused of involvement in 9/11. On another C-SPAN program Hitchens bemoaned a caller’s suggestion that Israel has too much influence in American politics. In addition to shielding Zionists from charges of false flag terrorism and undue political clout, the posh ideologue routinely evangelized in favour of wars in the Muslim world that ultimately served to benefit Israel. It is not hard to understand why.
It is also not particularly arduous to locate the cause of the pro-Zionist inclinations of many New Atheists – they harbour Jewish backgrounds. Maher, Harris and Hitchens all have Jewish roots. Dawkins is a classic example of a ‘Sabbath Goy,’ a well-paid lackey of the Zionists. The Brit showcased his aptitude at singing from the Zionist hymn sheet when he famously equated creationists with ‘Holocaust deniers,’ affirming his blind belief in and subservience to the West’s state-enforced religion.
While some prominent New Atheists occasionally criticize the more extreme elements within Judaism, their infrequent and feeble inferences in that direction reveal the hidden pro-Zionist agenda underpinning their incessant, narrow attacks on Islam. Apart from their ethnic biases, they all know that in order to procure riches by proselytizing anti-religionism to the masses one cannot afford to offend Organized Jewry in the process. “Jews totally run Hollywood,” according to the Jewish journalist Joel Stein. “I don’t care if Americans think we’re running the news media, Hollywood, Wall Street or the government. I just care that we get to keep running them,” Stein concluded in a gutsy 2008 column for the Los Angeles Times, affirming the “dominant” position of Jews in Tinsel Town and Wall Street. Stein forgot to mention the publishing industry which is likewise a Zionist dominated enterprise.
All of this clarifies the reality that the ‘New Atheists’ are lackluster intellectuals motivated purely by greed and opportunism. As ‘guardians of Zion,’ we can assuredly expect these dedicated ‘free thinkers’ to continue to deny the very real threat of Jewish extremism and continue to inflate the counterfeit menace posed by Islamic theocrats.
Beware the neocon ‘New Atheists.’
Copyright 2015 Brandon Martinez
In a recent interview with the Jewish Journal, unfunny comedian Bill Maher has once again praised Israel for its restraint in only committing rampant war crimes in Gaza rather than a full-scale nuclear genocide of a civilian population.
Two-and-a-half years ago, I wrote a lengthy post about Maher’s appalling anti-Islam bigotry and staggering ignorance regarding the factual history of his favorite colonial-settler ethnocracy, Israel. While Maher’s vitriolic attacks on Muslims, grotesque caricature of Palestinians in particular and unconditional fealty to Zionist propaganda has continued unabated in the intervening years, comments made in his Jewish Journal interview – conducted just days after the Israeli military concluded its latest criminal bombardment of besieged Gaza that succeeded in murdering over 160 people, including 42 children – concisely illustrate his warped understanding of reality.
Condemning religious people for ignorance of their own doctrinal scripture, Maher says, “I think if they read the bible, especially the Old Testament, I think they would be appalled,” adding that if biblical stories were de-contextualized and read only as a vengeful deity “wiping these people out and ethnically cleaning [sic] them for no apparent reason, how he does things on a whim and how he’s jealous; They’d go, ‘This is terrible.'”
While Maher may be correct on this point, he then claims that Judaism is “certainly not as dangerous as Islam and Christianity. Those are warlike religions.” One is left to wonder if Maher knows what the Old Testament actually is.
Maher finds elements of Judaism “insane” and “funny” and, in his world, the religion seems to boil down to kooky inventions like the Shabbos Elevator which “doesn’t really threaten anybody’s life.”
For Maher, who seems to be channeling the myopia of Jon Stewart here, every Muslim is a brainwashed terrorist, while every Jew is just a hapless nebbish – one part Catskills-era Jackie Mason, one part whining Yiddish Bubbe. Muslims are violent fanatics who blow things up, whereas Jews are more concerned with hikes in bus fares and guilt-tripping their children. Never in Maher’s mind could Jewish people be seen as racists, occupiers, ethnic cleansers, and colonists. Never could they level neighborhoods, attack civilian populations with the most high-tech killing machines and chemical weapons, or discriminate against communities based solely on their religion or ethnicity. They are victims – always – never aggressors.
It is therefore unsurprising that Maher stated, “Y’know, maybe Arabs and Jews are both crazy, but 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.”
Maher has apparently never stopped to wonder what the world would be like without coffee, carpets, windmills, parachutes, soap, fountain pens, romantic poetry, algorithms, trigonometry, rose windows, pointed arches, scalpels, forceps, dissolving stitches, anesthesia, cataract surgery, cameras and the science of optics – to name just a few – all products of Arab and Muslim minds. And where would we all be without Khalil Gibran, Steve Jobs, and 1980’s pop sensation Tiffany, whose last name is Darwish?
Because he is generally seen as “liberal” in mainstream discourse, the inconsistencies and ignorance in Maher’s conception of world religions and his passionate attachment to Israel are cause for concern.
To his credit, Maher is honest about his proclivities. “I’ve never hid the fact that I don’t think it’s a conflict where both sides are equally guilty,” he told Danielle Berrin, who writes the “Hollywood Jew” column for the Jewish Journal. “I’m more on the side of the Israelis; that’s why Benjamin Netanyahu did my show a few years ago, before he was Prime Minister.”
Is Maher saying here that Netanyahu will only do interviews with Zionists? Maher also neglects to mention that his interview with Netanyahu was in 2006, soon after Israel had decimated southern Lebanon for a month, killing 1,180 people (about a third of whom were children), wounding over 4,050, and displacing about 970,000 others as direct result of the more than 7,000 air attacks by the Israeli Air Force and an additional 2,500 bombardments by the Israeli Navy that deliberately contravened international law and targeted civilian infrastructure.
Maher repeatedly praised the assault in which Lebanese men, women and children were being blown to pieces, claiming that condemning Israeli war crimes (which he benignly referred to as Israel being “forced to kill people in its own defense”) was the same thing as anti-Semitism. Maher seemed blissfully oblivious to the facts, including evidence that Israel had actually instigated the conflict and willfully continued the “widespread destruction of apartments, houses, electricity and water services, roads, bridges, factories and ports… even when it became clear that the victims of the bombardment were predominantly civilians, which was the case from the first days of the conflict.”
At the end of his fawning interview with the once-and-future Prime Minister, Maher quotes a Jerusalem Post article: “The Foreign Ministry would do well to watch Bill Maher to learn how to sell Israel’s case to a TV audience… ,” then asks Netanyahu, “What do you think? I could roll that way!”
Netanyahu’s response? “Hey Bill, watch it, if I’m Prime Minister, you’ll get the job.”
Clearly, they both got their wish.
Maher’s original admission that he is “more on the side of the Israelis” acknowledges that he finds Palestinians – an indigenous population that was dispossessed, displaced and all but destroyed by militarily superior Zionist forces and which has lived as refugees under perpetual occupation, deliberately denied sovereignty, self-determination and self-defense for over six decades; a people demonized, dehumanized and traumatized who are routinely condemned in their desperate resistance to subjugation, colonization and collective punishment for not taking enough care to protect the lives and collective identity of its oppressors and occupiers – far more culpable for the persistence of a century-old “conflict” than the Israelis – a nuclear-armed, superpower-backed, settler society that institutionally discriminates against the non-Jewish communities whose lives it controls.
And this guy is called “liberal”?
Maher’s take on Israel/Palestine boils down to this: “It’s not that complicated: Stop firing rockets into Israel and perhaps they won’t annihilate you,” he told Berrin. Perhaps. Annihilate. That Israel might cease its occupation, blockade, night raids, airstrikes and land theft is obviously not the problem here. No, it’s the futile and frustrated reaction to such trifles that is beyond Maher’s pale. Again, one hundred years of history is erased and replaced by an invented narrative of violent Arabs endlessly attacking innocent Israeli Jews. Maher is obviously unaware that, according to a 2009 study, “it is overwhelmingly Israel, not Palestine, that kills first” following a ceasefire, thus instigating retaliatory rocket fire from Gaza. “Indeed,” the study concluded, “it is virtually always Israel that kills first after a lull lasting more than a week.” The recent Israeli bombing campaign against Gaza is no exception.
Moreover, Maher seems to be unaware that four years have passed since Israel’s massacre in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009, claiming that Palestinians “lost over 1,000 people” in the recent Israeli offensive. Keeping abreast of facts, of course, isn’t Maher’s concern when describing a week of devastation wrought upon a caged population of 1.7 million with nowhere to run and no viable means to protect itself as Gaza gets, in Maher’s words, its “ass kicked.” One can assume that, in his childhood, Maher spent many an hour kicking the asses of ants with a magnifying glass.
But all this is merely prologue to where both Maher and his interlocutor Berrin were about to go. Berrin posed a leading question to Maher about proportionality and the vast discrepancy between Israeli and Palestinian death tolls and got the answer she was hoping for:
Its obvious that Israelis, in all of their battles with the Palestinians, show restraint. Because they have nuclear weapons. And if the situation was reversed, I don’t doubt for a second that Palestinians would fire them immediately. They’d use the maximum of what they have available and the Israelis don’t.
Ok, ignore the hypothetical nature of role-reversal (how would an indigenous population occupy and colonize parts of its own land?) and leave aside the sheer stupidity of assuming Palestinians in Gaza would launch nuclear weapons at a state in which 20% of the population are themselves Palestinian or that Tel Aviv is roughly 50 miles away from Gaza meaning that Palestinians would essentially be dropping a nuke on themselves. Or the weirdness of suggesting that the Palestinian goal of self-determination, statehood and equal rights in their historic homeland could be achieved by physically obliterating that very homeland and making it literally uninhabitable. And forget that the “restraint” Maher lauds in Israel’s recent round of murder is a casualty ratio of 33-1.
Maher actually contends here that Israel shows “restraint” merely by not engaging in the complete nuclear holocaust of Palestinians, a desperate refugee population Israel itself created through ethnic cleansing and continued occupation. The fact that Israel’s conventional military might and capacity for lethal destruction far surpasses that of most countries on the planet is obviously irrelevant, as is the tragedy that such “restraint” in late November included the murder of ten members of the al-Dalou family, including four children, crushed to death when Israel bombed their three-story home in Gaza. Such is the Israeli conception of “restraint” and Maher’s explicit endorsement of excessive Israeli force against a civilian Palestinian population.
Maher has said similar things before. A few years ago he suggested that, if rockets were fired into the United States from Canada, “we would have nuked them a hundred times by now,” despite the fact that the analogy literally makes no sense. In fact, Maher’s penchant for recycling material is nothing new. On November 21, when a ceasefire was announced, Maher tweeted:
Glad Hillary was able to get a cease-fire in Gaza. Otherwise known as Stopping to Reload.
Obviously, for Maher, those “reloading” are the Palestinians and not the Israelis, who are annually gifted with $3 billion in military aid from the United States, have their own booming arms industry, and have some of the planet’s most sophisticated and deadly weaponry in its own perennially loaded arsenal. Maher used the same line on March 18, 2011 during an obsequious Real Time interview with Israeli ambassador Michael Oren because, hey, when it’s disingenuous and not funny the first time, why not roll it out a year-and-a-half later?
Before wrapping up the Jewish Journal interview, Maher resorted to tossing out some hackneyed hasbara talking points. While it should be remembered that “the Palestinians do have gripes,” he said (yes, gripes), the real threat to Israel is “becoming a minority Jewish state within their own country.” Whose country? Oh, and, yeah, calling for demographic engineering isn’t particularly progressive, Bill. It’s just racist.
Maher of course can’t let the interview end without interjecting the mother of all hasbara canards: that Israeli actions against the Palestinians in Gaza (aka war crimes) are motivated primarily by “self-defense.” As always, the occupied indigenous refugees with homemade rockets and smuggled AK-47s are transformed into eliminationist aggressors while the colonizing occupiers armed with drones, Apache helicopters, F-16 jets, tanks, warships, white phosphorous and nuclear bombs are the innocent victims of senseless anti-Semitic violence. It goes without saying that, for Maher, Palestinians are never entitled to defend themselves.
But remember, as Maher told the Jewish Journal, Judaism simply isn’t a “warlike religion” like the others – despite the fact that a self-proclaimed “Jewish State” was established atop Palestine, its native inhabitants massacred or driven from the land by Zionist militias, its towns, villages, groves and orchards razed and reduced to rubble by Israeli bombs, tank treads and bulldozers.
Never mind that, during the 2008-9 massacre of Gaza known in Israel as Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli military rabbinate actively called upon Jewish soldiers not to “show mercy” towards its “enemy,” comparing Palestinians to ancient Philistines, ripe for righteous slaughter. It disseminated material declaring “a biblical ban on surrendering a single millimeter of it [the Land of Israel] to gentiles, though all sorts of impure distortions and foolishness of autonomy, enclaves and other national weaknesses,” and insisting, “We will not abandon it to the hands of another nation, not a finger, not a nail of it.”
Never mind that chief army rabbi, Brigadier General Avichai Rontzki, made it perfectly clear that the rabbinate’s goal in relation to Israeli soldiers was “to fill them with yiddishkeit and a fighting spirit.” In that campaign, the Israeli military killed over 1,400 Palestinians, the majority of whom were non-combatant men, women and children, and wounding thousands upon thousands more in just over three weeks. Despite the worldwide condemnation of Israeli war crimes in Gaza, Rontzki remained convinced that “[i]n Israel’s wars, warriors are God-fearing people, righteous people, people who don’t have sins on their hands.”
Never mind that, in November 2009, rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, an Israeli settler who lives in the illegal West Bank colony of Yitzhar near Nablus, published The King’s Torah, which “describes how it is possible to kill non-Jews according to halakha (Jewish religious law).” According to the Israeli press, “the book contains no fewer than 230 pages on the laws concerning the killing of non-Jews, a kind of guide for anyone who ponders the question of if and when it is permissible to take the life of a non-Jew” and states that, as non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature,” even children are legitimate targets for murder. “One must consider killing even babies,” the book says, “because of the future danger that will be caused if they are allowed to grow up to be as wicked as their parents.”
Never mind that during the most recent Israeli attacks, with the Biblical moniker Operation Pillar of Cloud, Gilad Sharon, son of former Prime Minister/comatose war criminal Ariel Sharon, declared in The Jerusalem Post that – because Hamas won a majority in Parliamentary elections in January 2006 – “the residents of Gaza are not innocent,” urging the Israeli military to “flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza,” just like the United States decimated the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. “There is no middle path here,” Sharon concluded, “either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip.”
Never mind that Knesset minister Michael Ben-Ari echoed Sharon’s sentiments, saying, “There are no innocents in Gaza,” imploring the Israeli military to “mow them!” Referring to Gaza as the Biblical Sodom, Ben-Ari addressed soldiers directly, asserting that “there are no righteous men, turn it into rubble. Paint it red! We are worried about you and rely on you. We all do, all of the Nation of Israel,” an unmistakable reference to all Jewish people worldwide, not merely citizens of the State of Israel.
Never mind that, on November 21, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon declared that “most of the people” in Gaza killed by Israel “deserved it,” falsely claiming that those killed and wounded “were just armed terrorists,” when in fact the vast majority were unarmed civilians, including dozens of women, children and babies.
Never mind that more than 90% of Jewish Israelis supported Israel’s November 2012 bombardment of Gaza. Never mind that roughly 94% supported Cast Lead. Never mind that, according to a recent study, Israel remains the single most militarized nation in the world, a distinction it has held for nearly 20 straight years.
Back in September 2010, Maher told Larry King that, along with Saudi Salafis and the Afghan Taliban, he thought “Hamas is crazy.” When King asked how “a civilized world” should “deal with crazies,” Maher replied, “I would say, first thing is don’t use the Army.” Considering his obvious affinity for and justification of Israeli violence against Palestinians in Gaza, either Maher somehow exempts the Israeli military from such a prescription or, more appropriately, he doesn’t find Israel to be part of the “civilized world.” It is doubtful Maher would pick the latter option.
To make the point that Maher is uninformed on the topic of Israel and Palestine is obvious. That his enthusiastic promotion of Zionist propaganda and apologia seems not to affect his reputation as a mainstream liberal mouthpiece is considerably more alarming.
- Oh Bill Maher, There You Go Again… (randomrationality.com)