Maher: Indicative of an Asshole in Real Time.

11/13/2011

Update: Thanks to reader @ribletsonthepan for tracking down the clip in question. I’ll try and find a more stable version, given that it may not remain on YouTube for long.

A viewer who is relatively well-informed on American political and social issues can watch Real Time with Bill Maher and almost always ascertain when Maher has ventured into oversimplification, especially when it comes to the topics of race & culture.

This week is, of course, no different. My own observation:

Maher gets a lot of love from the world of comedy. His acerbic wit, when focused on targets of reasonable culpability, can be quite enjoyable at times. And it’s no surprise that he’s also taken quite a bit of flack from the political community for his glibness and over-simplification of issues.

On the season finale of Real Time this Friday was a prime example of why he should be considered worthy of that criticism. A few times over, really, but I’m only going to focus on one.

His post-panel guest was the noted artist/actor/poet Common, who is no stranger to the political infotainment climate in which we live. Common was initially introduced for his acting role on the AMC show Hell On Wheels, about which I must admit I have only cursory knowledge. Given that it deals with issues surrounding the Civil War era, I think it’s fair to assume that it covers American Slavery and the attitudes thereabout, and I got the feeling that Common was there to discuss that.

After an introduction by Maher noting some of Common’s recent political notoriety à la FOXNews’ reaction to the White House Poetry Jam and inclusion therein to the “Chicago Political Machine”, which accurately highlighted quite a bit of the “liberties” with respect to race taken by the modern Conservative movement in this country, he [Common] mused about how racially charged issues haven’t changed for some, other than being moved under the table, subverted.

Directly following that, Maher launched right into asking Common what he thought about … Herman Cain’s recent scandal, the implication from the tone of the question was “Common, as a representative of the Black Community, what do you think about this Black Man who isn’t Barack Obama who is running for President”. Common, in my opinion, wisely noted that a lot of the hoopla surrounding the current GOP Presidential Primary Candidates seems very much like propaganda, and he generally doesn’t pay much credence to the tabloid nature of the subject. This didn’t dissuade Maher from pressing onwards with the line of questioning, transparent in his desire to get an answer with which he could play.

It should be noted that Maher had comparatively harsh words from members of the panel [it was a lively bunch, to say the least: Andrew Sullivan, Rep. Keith Ellison & Chris Matthews -- see here and here] regarding a number of other issues, and managed to appear less in control of the discussion than usual. Perhaps it was because he was floundering so elsewhere, but it seemed increasingly apparent that Maher’s patience was wearing thin, and thus seemed a greater asshole than he usually is.

I don’t believe Maher realized how well he illustrated Common’s point about how racial issues have been shoved back into the subconscious of, at least, the Socio-Political Commentariat of our times. The fact that Common was pigeonholed as “The Black Man” shows how out-of-touch Maher can be with even the most basic principles involved in beginning to understand the issue of Race in America. It’s been no secret that Maher has been more and more visible in his misunderstanding of nuances surrounding The Middle, and this is indicative of distinctions in polarity gone awry, leaving little room for a balanced, non-zero-sum discussion.

Like I said earlier, I can appreciate Maher for his delivery and tone when it comes to pointing out real hypocrisy [and his contributions to the humor surrounding it, if any], but I have no stomach for when he actively participates in it.

Here is the clip of the interview:

Update 2:
Thank you, @angryblacklady, for urging me to revisit this and tap into why I decided to write this piece to begin with.
     -&e-ru

I’m watching the interview again, and I’d forgotten how much I had looked forward to Common coming on, and how much I enjoyed the first part of the interview. Despite Maher’s gaffeish comments that he’d heard “many times that Chicago was the Capital of Black America”, Common was given room to opine and articulate that. And then dropped the other shoe. Maher full-on ignores [and I'm not certain this was intentional, because, let's face it, it's Maher - his pants exploded the minute that Touré gave him permission to say "Niggerhead" in his act] the fact that Common is a quite a thoughtful man who focuses on cutting divisiveness instead of stoking it, and asks about Herman Cain.

Herman. Fucking. Cain.

The worst possible juxtaposition to the brand positive thought that Common brings. Just because the man is black.

It’s basically like having a nice conversation with a stranger, then reaching over to introduce yourself by shaking hands and giving the requisite “Hi, my name is …” salutations – only to find that the guy’s wearing a joy-buzzer.

And then the rest of the interview is Maher trying to fit his precognition of what he wants Common to say, despite Common noting

  1. the distractive nature of Republican Presidential Politics
  2. that racism is far from dead – some people just don’t like to acknowledge it for what it’s turned into

Maher just steamrolls along, missing the perfect opportunity to engage with a guy who understands what his generation and the ones younger than he are yearning for. Nope, he’s got broad-brush, slightly-less-shallow-than-surface humorous talking points to make, and he’s willing to exemplify the very thing his interviewee has asserted is the issue at hand.

The issue staring us all in the face.

But we won’t talk about it.

Because we live in a “Post-Racial” America.

I’m a white guy. I have more luck through the sheer circumstance of my birth. And I know that “Post-Racial” is bullshit. I know that from the very core of my being. It’s just some term white people made up to sweep over the fact that there is still racism in this world in which we live.

We need to talk about it. Fuck, need isn’t strong enough a word – we MUST talk about it.

Address it.

‘Til we’re blue in the fucking face.

Because it won’t go away until the majority of people acknowledge that it’s still there.

[cross-posted at Osborne Ink]


Dancing at the Jefferson Memorial & Martyr Porn…

05/31/2011

“The will of the people… is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.” –Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Waring, 1801. ME 10:236

This weekend, you may have seen a video of some demonstrators dancing at the Jefferson Memorial, being arrested for it & being handled rather roughly as a result. If you saw the shortened video [preview length here], I highly recommend that you take a second look and watch the longer, 11 minute version.

Let me preface anything further by stating that I do not condone the use of force in subduing anyone unless it’s absolutely necessary. In this case, I’m not certain it was. But I’m not here to talk about the actions of the police – I’m here to talk about the actions of the protestors.

I am, for most parts, an optimist, but I tend to color my view of the world with a little skepticism. When I first saw the video [fortunately, I saw what little lead-in is provided by the 11 minute version], my first thought was “why aren’t the protestors stopping when the police asked them repeatedly?” That thought rung thru my head during the entirety of the first half of the video, when I paused it and started chatting with Z, the tweep who’d sourced it. She was, understandably, shaken by the visuals, and we proceeded to have a rather impassioned discussion on the subject.

The crux of the interchange was based on the assumption that dancing at the Jefferson Memorial was, in fact, legal. To the credit of her activist roots, my tweep had stated that she wished multitudes more showed up the next day to dance, and make an even larger scene. I stood by my argument that when a police officer asks you politely to cease & desist, you should definitely consider paying them heed [Important to Note: this is noticeably absent from the 4 minute and preview versions of the videos]. I also noted that one of the protestors was wearing a “Code Pink” t-shirt [which stuck in my craw a bit - see at 1:27 in the video]. Perhaps it’s in my nature to avoid conflict, but that’s always the first thought that comes into my mind. At the end of the discussion, we both agreed that unnecessary force was used, but also that the protestors were being unnecessarily belligerent.

The next day, we chatted again, after I’d gotten a chance to finish watching the video – she had taken my criticisms of the protestors’ behavior to heart and done a little more in-depth research on the folks behind the event. From her research, Z had uncovered that Adam Kokesh is a serial provocateur and self-promoter [who also has ties to Ron Paul] and it IS currently against the law to dance at the Jefferson Memorial. Now, in light of these facts [and, later learning that the co-founder of Code Pink was one of the persons dancing and subsequently arrested], it became increasingly obvious that this act of civil disobedience had garned the level of outrage to which it was intended. Kokesh had successfully orchestrated a public display of Martyr Porn…

When the short version posted [WITHOUT showing the park police requesting the dancers to cease, desist & disperse], the Twitter hashtag #jeffersonmemorial was abuzz with outrage with people who had no background on Kokesh, nor on the ruling by the appeals court. In my opinion [and again, this is ONLY my opinion], but Kokesh et al do the country a disservice by using social capital that was not theirs to spend on a smallish issue. Yes, not being able to dance and express yourself [especially at the Jefferson Memorial] is a foolish law. Yes, the police seem to have used more force than seemed necessary. But there are larger fish to fry, some which may require the expenditure of MUCH more effort in terms of civil disobedience, and for the folks who made this a spectacle to capitalize on it is just disingenuous. And that’s not even delving into the fact that there isn’t a clear account of what transpired in the lead-in to the confrontation. The Park Service is currently investigating the happenstance, and I’m sure a clearer picture will be available soon…

Even as I was writing this, Kokesh posted this tweet – it just goes to show you the hyperbole which is involved here. And he’s trying to get a bigger turnout on June 4th [see also this video contest]. He can afford his own bail, but what of everybody else who comes to join in the throng?

There’s much to do to make our country a better place, but distractions will do only just that: distract. If we let ourselves get pulled into this level of obfuscation of fact through editing and intentional provocation, we’re just falling prey to Left-leaning versions of Andrew Breitbart and James O’Keefe. And where does that lead us?

Postscript: I am incredibly grateful that I have made connections to folks like Z on Twitter. Most of the links within this article can be attributed to her, and I don’t want anybody thinking that she and I are at odds here on the subject. I have taken the liberty of incorporating her feedback into the post. Z is representative of the incredibly resourceful and critically thinking individuals who are working to make this country a better place, and I’m honored that they consider me their compatriot. Onwards, upwards & forwards!

Update: Another one of my awesomely cogent and thoughtful tweeps, @caradox has put together a distinct breakdown of how Kokesh et al broke the common rules of civil disobedience. She absolutely nails it – do yourself a solid and take the time to digest this…


Shiny Ain’t Always…

05/26/2011

Shiny ain’t always pretty. Sometimes, shiny can be pretty damn ugly. Either way, shiny can keep your eyes off the prize…

As Americans, we get our focus drawn to the loud voices, whether they be pleasant or painful. It colors the way we consume, the way we socialize, the way we politic. It takes a tremendous effort to NOT be affected by the happenstance of the world, and most likely all of us have our defenses fail from at one time or another. When that happens, my personal preference is to step back and evaluate the situation as objectively as possible.

What we can learn from the whole “Ed Schultz calls Laura Ingraham a ‘slut’” incident is this:

  • we’re human on the Left, and we make mistakes
  • we’ve begun to accept the practices of the Right in terms of issue creation as “valid”
  • we’re so unused to receiving sincere apologies for transgressions that we’re wary of them
  • we MUST be impeccable with our words going forward, for they will be twisted against us

I’m not a huge fan of Ed’s. I think he’s a blowhard and he’s got a niche group within the Left to which he appeals. But he apologized for what he said, and if it gets him to evaluate how he address other people in a more cogent and thoughtful manner, then I think it was the right thing to do. I’m not saying give him a pass. I’m just saying he’s done what he can to make amends – we should accept that and move on with the next thing. That’s all…

This brings up a bigger point – we’re so used to seeing the level of shrill discourse to which FOX News and Conservative politics have “elevated” us [glorified poo-flinging, really], that we’re beginning to believe that it’s part of civil discussion. It’s not. It’s just playground squabbling, and it’s wholly non-constructive when you participate. We’re the adults here on the Left, and we need to remember that when being dragged into dialog that is potentially divisive. Sure, sometimes you need to rattle an insult or two [or more] to keep your anger under wraps. But you vent, you brush the dirt off your shoulders, and then you move forward…

Tied into that is the fact that we almost will NEVER see an apology similar to the one that Ed put out coming from the Right. And we should stop expecting it. It’s part of their modus operandi, to dangle a carrot and then whack us with a stick. It’s in their best interest to get us riled up about something and let our varied opinions do battle on how best to handle it, when, in fact, they’re the the ones causing the divisiveness. When it comes down to brass tacks, they made the stink, and we clean up the mess while they take a step back and watch the chaos that ensues. I’ve seen this tactic used in family when it comes to establishing hierarchy – and it works, much to my chagrin.

That point leads into my last: we must watch what we say carefully. Even the structure of our sentences. As we’ve seen with Breitbart et al, clever editing can be used to make even the most innocuous of statements seem vile. The less you arm your adversary, the more you can focus on moving your side of the fight in a positive direction. Ed made a VERY poor choice of words in a time of anger, and it’s bit him. I doubt it’ll end his career [I'm an optimist at heart], but again, if it gives him pause when addressing other issues, then I think it’ll be a point of growth for him. And maybe for us as a movement.

We can only hope we can keep focus, use the wind we currently have to our backs and make some real, positive change in the coming months and years:

Eyes On The Prize (Freedom To Lose)

If you consider yourself Liberal or Progressive,
my message to you is clear:
when your critique of our POTUS nears on obsessive,
then perhaps you’re not one to steer.

If you entail divisive discourse as solution,
you may want to give yourself pause;
you’re only contributing to idea pollution,
and derailing the course of the cause

There are times when things can be split in a way
with polarities black and/or white.
But you cannot escape the importance of gray
when our nation’s involved in a fight.

Desire you might just to fight for the power
to make all things equal and fair,
but do not proceed forth by casting a sour
tinge into the life-giving air.

With every last citizen’s deep vested interest
perceived and then given to rise,
we’ve got freedom to lose and goals oh so distant
if you don’t keep your eyes on the prize.

–from A young liberal’s plea…


What to do, what to say…

05/10/2011

Well, I think I’ve done due diligence with respect to dotting ‘i’s and crossing ‘t’s in my extrication of my meatspace identity from that of my Twitter and Blogging one. Sure, if you’re going to try hard enough, it’s really not that hard to connect the dots and figure out who I am, but for now, this lends a layer of obscurity which will allow me to do a little more blogging and without being fettered by something as fickle as a known identity.

Plus, I’ve made sure that my Twitter friends know that they’re sworn to solemn silence about divulging who I am. Unless they’re tortured … because we ALL know how well torture works in extracting information.

I cannot promise that I’ll blog with any given regularity (as life is wont to prevent me from doing), and when I do, I may very well whine a bit, so bear with me. But I promise I won’t do anything that less than bring my utmost passion to it. And in the interim, you can always find me on Twitter (I’m rather loquacious there, if you didn’t know). And maybe I’ll dork with the Tumblr a bit. Either way, this will give me a platform for ruminating a little more robustly on items of social and political import…

Thanks for coming along on the ride – let’s hope it’s scenic!


I Have No Uterus…

02/23/2011

I am but a man (and an imperfect one at that), with nothing but an X- and a piddling, diminutive Y-Chromosome. But I pride myself on being as self-aware as humanly possible. Sure, there’s a level of hubris assumed there, but I guess I just naturally assume that it’s common practice amongst other upwardly mobile primates. Sadly, I know I’m VERY wrong in that assumption, because if I weren’t, we wouldn’t have to have the discussions that we are having these days with respect to reproductive rights…

I don’t want to write a lengthy, drawn-out screed on this, but I do so very much feel that there is much malignment focused on what [at least, in my opinion] should be a private matter discussed between appropriate parties: a woman, her spouse [mitigating circumstances withstanding], and her doctor. I’m so saddened by the fact that issues such as these are overtaking logical discussion in this day and age, and it just reminds me that people need to be resolute when standing up for their own advocacy when it comes to ANY medical issue.

I know I’m probably glossing over a lot of thoughts here, but this is a VERY hot-button issue, and I don’t think it does us any good to roll over and let those whose zealotry overwhelms the discussion to overtake it. For the sake of our future, we need to continue to have discussions like this, regardless if they make people cringe. If it makes people cringe, it means that you’re broaching peoples’ comfort zones … and that’s a VERY good thing in this time in which we live…


There should be a warning…

02/13/2011

Welcome to my Bloviations … I’m still up-in-the-air about what sort of  directions this blog will take. I’ve blogged before and I have a Tumblr, but maybe this will be a better platform for me.

In spending a fair amount of time on Twitter, I’ve found that I can compress most of my thoughts into 140 characters or less, but I imagine there are still instances where it may be more advantageous to have a location where there’s more real estate to opine at any given time. Better to have it and  not need it, than need it an not have it, right?

This may the beginning of a new adventure for me, or it might just be my grabbing of another subdomain with my perennial username attached to it. Either way, I’m going to attempt to make the most of it. That’s the best you can hope to do, right. And this space might take some turns here and there, but I like the simplicity afforded by this theme. I guess I’ll just take it one moment at a time. Thanks for bearing with me!


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