Bill Maher Spouts Anti-Muslim Racism

Glenn GreenwaldThis is an amazing bit of video from Friday’s Real Time with Glenn Greenwald really taking Bill Maher to task on his anti-Islam rhetoric. Greenwald is making a kind of Some People Push Back argument. He is saying that it is outrageous for Americans to be shocked at the violence in the Middle East when we have been by far the most violent player in the region. But as is often the case, Maher pushes the argument in a religious direction and really shows off his ignorance. For one thing, he notes that Islam has been around long before America became a country. I guess the implication is that Islam was very violent then, but that isn’t the case. Then he states that for the last 200 years, Christianity has been violent. That’s almost too ignorant to be believed.

Maher is demonstrating the biggest problem I have with the New Atheists. They all have a strong tendency to be apologists for Christianity and Judaism. This isn’t so much because they defend these faiths. It is just that they lose all perspective when it comes to Islam. It is the usual mechanism by which racism justifies itself. When a Christian bombs an abortion clinic, they don’t tar all Christians with the act: Christianity is most clearly not the reason for the attack. But when a Muslim blows something up, it most clearly is because of the religion. It is madness. And it is very often explained by quoting evil things in the Koran and nice things in the Bible. But it could just as easily be the other way around. It isn’t, because Bill Maher and other neocons know a priori their conclusions.

What I find most amazing is how parochial people like Bill Maher and Sam Harris are. They think themselves anything but. However, they attack what is foreign and forgive what is close by. Sure, Christians may be silly, but they aren’t violent. So everything is seen from a western or American point of view. The Christians can’t be terrorists because they are part of us, attacking another part of us. But when young Muslims attack the Boston Marathon, it is an attack of them against us. All of this thinking leads to neoconservative policy. And as much as Maher and Harris might claim otherwise, it is really nothing more than racism.

Greenwald is right and Maher is wrong:

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Bill Maher Spouts Anti-Muslim Racism

  1. Yes, Greenwald, thank you. He’s plinking one note on the piano, over and over, and it’s certifiably the right note. I have a hard time even imagining how different a country this would be if we acknowledged the millions of people our military has killed. It wouldn’t be the country we live in now, for sure.

    As for Maher’s insipid remark that Christianity hasn’t inspired violence in the last few hundred years; tell that to Ireland, or the Balkans. Tell that to the Middle East, still struggling with the aftermath of colonialism, an entirely Christianity-justified system of rule. (It was about money, of course, not God, but God was invoked to sanctify money, as He often is.) Tell Iraqis or the Vietnamese that if they had churches with crosses all over the place, Americans would have supported our murdering them.

    I dislike the pejorative "childish," but in this case it’s appropriate. The claim that Christianity is less violent than Islam is infantile. It’s utterly ignorant of even very recent history. Grr, this kind of nonsense makes me mad . . .

    The Muslim Brotherhood, every bloviator’s favorite whipping boy, is politically equivalent to our Republican party. It interprets Islam’s injunctions against usury as meaning that Islamic governments should not regulate businesses — that’s why America and Britain wholly supported it for decades. Now, of course, we officially loathe every hint of Islamic government, while our wealthy investors love everything the MB and the Saudis stand for. They sure didn’t like Nasser, or Iran’s attempt to nationalize its oil industry in 1953.

    Grr, again . . .

  2. @JMF – It amazes me that we’ve gone all over the world smugly certain that we are the Good Guys, after dropping two atomic bombs on civilian populations. You would think a country that did that would have just a tad of humility. But no. We’re number one! Well, at least in that way, I have to agree: we are indeed the only country to drop a nuclear weapon on a civilian population. I’m so proud.

  3. An interesting issue came up last night, and it made me think of your horrified reaction to the opening of "Three Kings." I’d just finished reading a very heavy, nightmarish book by Nick Turse about Vietnam (newly declassified records show that wholesale slaughter was the rule and not the exception.) It makes WikiLeaks look like Sesame Street (I imagine when/if every record about Iraq gets declassified, it’ll be just as gruesome; armies murder people, that’s what they’re for.)

    So I got "Apocalypse Now" from the library and put on the Robert Duvall-as-psycho-killer sequence. (Which might have been taken as hyberbole in 1979; as Turse’s book pointed out, it’s not; shit like that really happened, and happened all the time.) The SO couldn’t bear it, and was angry with me for putting it on. Why subject anyone to such painful images? Particularly when they already know this stuff happens, they don’t want to be reminded of it when they watch a movie.

    My argument was, it’s important that a few filmmakers go against the military-worshipping American grain. Yes, seeing Duvall throw calling cards on slaughtered corpses is abominable. But every time I watch a damn baseball game, there’s some teary-eyed salute to Our Heroes. I’d rather see atrocities than an eagle flying over the waving flag on the JumboTron.

    The SO’s argument was that people who don’t know/don’t care about what our military is used for aren’t likely to watch movies like that. The only ones who will are liberals who want their darkest suspicions confirmed, and that’s not particularly helpful.

    It’s an interesting point, and it made me think of the only other movie I know of besides "Apocalypse Now" that portrays the military in a bad light — "Three Kings." Which you couldn’t watch. The opening, with soldiers blaring "I’m Proud To Be An American" while blowing everyone all to hell, is intolerable. It’s an offense to every moral sense we possess. It’s also damnably close to what happened. Is there something like an artistic rule which makes fictional depictions of true evil justifiable, or does fictionalizing evil exploit its horror for artistic affect? I think this is a serious question.

    One thing I thought about — some filmmakers who visualize horror go mad, and some don’t. Coppola lost his mind making "Apocalypse Now." Del Toro lost 100 pounds filming "Pan’s Labyrinth," a surreal depiction of Fascism in Spain. Cuaron went nuts directing "Children Of Men" (I’m still working on that essay, it’s a hard film to write about, it’s pretty grim.)

    Spielberg, however, has gone gamely from fleeing refugees in "Empire Of The Sun" to genocide in "Schindler’s List" to raw battle carnage in "Saving Private Ryan" and slave ships in "Amistad" without missing a fucking beat. He even threw in a few super-dinosaurs eating bad guys along the way. If there is an artistic rule to depicting horror, maybe it’s that the artist should be troubled by the experience.

    I remember seeing "Ryan" in the theater (Lloyd Center, quite a big theater) and after 20 minutes of D-Day carnage, there was a moment where US soldiers overran a German bunker. The Germans came out, hands up, they knew the battle was lost. The Americans gunned them down. 1000 people watching it with me gasped. I think one guy cheered. It struck me as a perfect visualization of why atrocities happen in war; if you’re scared and angry enough, you’ll take those frustrations out on dehumanized enemies.

    It wasn’t how the scene was meant to play. I read an interview Spielberg gave just after I saw the movie. He and Tom Hanks had hoped that moment would be a bit of rah-rah relief for audiences who’d been subjected to a long, brutal battle sequence. You know, Indiana Jones punches the bad guy in the face, it’s fun! They were surprised that test screenings had audiences gasping instead of cheering.

    Whether or not artists are justified in making compelling art from horrific inspirations is, for me, right now, an unsolved question. Is it exploitation? Is it useful as a scream of anger, one that makes other angry people can feel they’re not alone? What is "Guernica?" Is it a powerful representation of screaming faces shocked by warfare, or did it just give Picasso his biggest career boost?

    But as far as filmmakers go, the "I went crazy/lost 100 pounds" test probably means they took these moral questions pretty seriously. All props for those who did.

  4. @JMF – I don’t have a problem with it, I just don’t necessarily want to see it. Every military fan I’ve known loved [i]Apocalypse Now[/i], especially the Duvall character. So there’s that.

    The thing I remember from [i]Ryan[/i] was when Germans were running out on fire. Some soldiers were shooting them–an act of kindness, I think. And one guy yells, "Let ’em burn to death!" (Or some such.) It horrified me.

    I’m especially fond of [i]Schindler’s List[/i] and [i]Amistad[/i], but I still think there is something missing in Spielberg. I always get the impression that it is all technique and that it isn’t real for him. But it mostly works. However, I didn’t like [i]Ryan[/i] at all.

  5. Well, "Schindler’s" came from the great Thomas Kenneally, and "Amistad" from early script work by a lot of different people. "Ryan" came from Robert Rodat, who is a moral moron. He wrote "Braveheart," where the bad guys are presented as gay … also a Jack The Ripper movie where Jack is presented as gay … and in "Ryan" the traitor to America is the effeminate interpreter. So Mr. Rodat has some unresolved issues.

    I also suspect, though I do not know, that the movie is an angry answer to Tim O’Brien’s "Going After Cacciatto." That book is about a troop in Vietnam, where one soldier, Cacciatto, just up and decides he’s walking to Paris. As the troop tracks him down, the story starts off as a metaphor for why all war is nuts, then becomes about regret and anguish over decisions in general.

    The effeminate interpreter in "Ryan" sure talks a lot like the characters in "Cacciatto." The plot is a complete 180 — assured heroes rescuing a hero versus conflicted people chasing a deserter and wondering why they don’t desert themselves. And the titles have very similar word structure. Just a theory, but I wonder.

    I still do wonder if there’s a rule about turning atrocity into art. The Duvall character works for me in "Now" (the rest of the movie’s a mess) precisely because he’s exactly the kind of guy troops loved and covered up crimes for. There’s a problematic use of music which is both astonishingly assured filmmaking by a master and morally questionable at the same time. The use of "Proud To Be An American" in "3K" bugged me much less; You’d have to be missing half a frontal lobe not to be bothered by it.

    Incidentally, the SO, who can’t handle movies with powerfully dark imagery, did like "Three Kings." The jerk Americans develop a conscience and the ending is happy, even though real life wasn’t. So there’s that.

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