Saturday, January 15, 2011

Goodbye, Bill Maher

Watching him has always been a guilty pleasure, like taking your id out to the park for a backed-up dump of anger and hostility, but Bill Maher's season premiere at the end of a traumatic week persuades one watcher to take a small step for Mankind's civility by clicking off the remote forever.

All that hyperbole now induces more guilt than pleasure in a time when point-scoring seems more beside the point than ever.

One of the admirable public figures of our time, Elizabeth Warren, is on to talk about financial regulatory reform, but Maher keeps goading her to raise the rhetoric, which she calmly resists, but is the indignity worth it? In her position, there are other venues where people listen rather than laugh, whoop and applaud.

But it's the panels that take up most of the time and show Maher at his meanest, last night featuring the ragin' Cajun act of James Carville and a screeching young woman belaboring a Republican strategist as the host eggs them on.

What's really striking is the sudden drop in temperature during the "overtime" session when they stop playing to the TV cameras and answer questions from viewers. It's as if they had all taken tranquilizers in the minutes between.

In a time when Jon Stewart is offering civilized political satire. combined with mind and heart, it will be only a small sacrifice to forego Maher's "New Rules," wherein his gag writers often score hilarious points. But it will not come as news to most of us that Tea Party members are not like the Founding Fathers.

Putting up with an hour of aggressive oversimplification is just not worth it. Maher is smarter than Glenn Beck and I agree with him more often, but this is not the best time in American political life for those whose main purpose is to be clowns.

We have enough of them in Congress when it comes to that.


Fuzzy Slippers said...

I used to enjoy Bill Maher on Politically Incorrect, and maybe it's just me, but he seemed to be more thoughtful and less knee-jerk mean-spirited then. Because I don't watch him at all now and have only seen some of the clips of his more offensive and angry rants, I'm probably not qualified to assess him these days, so I'll take your word for it.

I do agree that in the ways that Maher was assessing the founders--based on class and privilege--that few in the Tea Party would meet their status. However, there is little doubt that today's left has drifted so far from the Democratic Party's previous focus on "the common working man" that the founders, who after all gave us a government of, for, and by the people, would be appalled by the big government involvement in every aspect of citizens' lives.

Class warfare is nothing new, of course, but it's really sad to see the Democratic Party abandon its role as champion of the working classes to revel with such condescension in being "like the Founders" in terms of education, wealth, and world travel, while ignoring the limits upon government that the documents they produced reveal were their ideological grounding. A grounding and ideology shared by the Tea Party.

Yellow Dog Don said...

Sometimes it is hard to distinguish "snark" from humor. Right now there is not much in politics to smile about.
The references did get me reading Thomas Paine again. That is not a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

i still enjoy bill maher. he makes me think about both sides. but then i always did because i am a libra or at least i was until the new zodiac came out. if glenn beck,limbaugh, scarborough,and faux news along with chris mathews can say what they want, why not a policical commentator/comedian. i like his show and have followed him since p.i. and will continue.

Anonymous said...

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity" (Yeats).

Bill Maher's rhetoric serves neither to incite violence nor hate but rather attention. I don't think he's trying to be mean when he lets his opinions loose. There is much wrong with the world, and politics is emotional.

And Maher is a political satirist. I admire Maher especially more than Jon Stewart because of Maher's inclination to be politically incorrect.

McGuire said...

Stein, right on the money, as usual. Maher just can't seem to get enough of himself. He has a gift for the obvious, delivered w/ sophomoric rancor.

You've been moving steadily up my favorite bloggers list. It's about wisdom.