The Maher report

The Maher report

: On his Friday show, Bill Maher went after cable news for its news judgment this week:

“Yesterday was just Michael Jackson and today was just some nut in Atlanta,” he said. Neither was a big story, he argued, both were bull. The news networks “have as much to do with news as MTV has with showing videos.”

The competitive overkill on both stories this week was, well, striking. Once one did it, they all did it, afraid to be the one who didn’t do it. That’s the flipside of a competitive media landscape, eh?

Of course, I was part of that festival myself: I gave blog reports about Michael Jackson. Yet I also got to read from blogs that were critical of this very overkill; I got to say that the blogs — the people — were much less interested in Jackson than the nets were.

Mere rationalization? you say. Well, of course, it is. I confess my sin and I will say 10 our Murrows in penance.

But it is notable, I think, that by including comments from citizens’ media inside big media, there is an opportunity to sometimes hear that small dissenting voice or at least a different viewpoint. So I read David Weinberger, who eloquently mocked the journalists taking part in this OD and called it “outlandish pandering;” I said that was a challenge to us there. And no one objected to me saying that. I said it again the next morning when I taped another such segment and read more such criticism (there was plenty of it in blogs) along with other posts that said other things, most funny, a few serious. But — sweet irony — that segment was preempted by the next day’s obsession, the Atlanta story. Here’s more irony for you: The day before, I was set to do a segment on the OD du jour, Dan Rather, but that was preempted by Jackson.

Apart from the tawdry context, I do find it interesting that the sudden and healthy interest in blogs by networks is really about letting the voice of one medium inside another and that will yield diverse viewpoints and sometimes criticism. I think that’s a good thing.

Oh, by the way, the one person on Maher’s show who defended the coverage of Jackson was Andrew Breitbart. His ID: a contributor to Drudge.

: Separately on Maher…. Bill delighted in playing against the party line at every opportunity this week.

He said that private accounts for Social Security might be a good idea since the return on the invesment in Social Security is so crappy.

And then there was discussion of the good news coming out of the Middle East, the democracy spreading in waves or ripples all over, and the fatwa against bin Laden.

“The revolution has started,” Maher said. “Is there any turning back?”

Irshad Manji, the author of the wonderful Trouble with Islam Today, agreed: “I actually think the world has turned, the Islamic world…. Since the purple finger of Iraq, more and more liberal voices are being heard.”

Maher quotes someone saying that the fact that Bush — like Reagan before him — had so little knowledge of foreign affairs turns out to be an advantage, for he can dream up a world no one else dares imagine. A backhanded compliment but a compliment from Maher nonetheless.

Last week, Maher drove me nuts, among other things, pushing his Why They Hate Us Pavilion idea on, of all people, the brother of a victim of 9/11. This week, he says: “The answer to why they hate is not that we intervened too much, but too little.”

Richard Belzer tried to argue the old antiwar line — saying that the Muslim world has 7,000 years on us and we can’t “shove democracy down their throats” — but no one agrees with him; the audience doesn’t even cheer the way they do. Manji the Canadian lesbian Muslim journalist goes after him: “You are such a paroduct of the culture of instant gratification in America … If you don’t have freedom tomorrow then obviously it’s a big, old failure.”

A tide has turned.

: Playing against type remains the theme for the night: Maher sounds like an old church lady complaining that “we’ve lost the thread back to what is good and decent.”

And the comes Camille Paglia stunning the panel with her rave review for The Bachelorette.

: Maher, of course, delights in the unexpected… until the unexpected is expected.

  • “Just some nut in Atlanta”? I suppose from Mr. Maher’s perspective, maybe. I figure that a triple murderer on the loose is a big story to most people.

  • barney frank was good too

  • John

    Maher’s schtick is basically nothing more than he’s a contrerian, especially about any topic where there’s a general consensus in the public. In the days right after 9/11 on another message board, there was a thread on how people thought the late night shows would handle the situation on their first broadcasts back, and it was a no-brainer to forecast that Bill would try to go against the conventional wisdom and say something “shocking” because in his mind going against the grain equals both knowledge and sophistication. As much as anything else, that’s why he put Ward Churchill on a week ago, and that’s why he brushes off four deaths in Atlanta this weekend.
    If the topic on next week’s show is “Which direction does the sun rise from?” honest to God, he would try and argue “west” and berate everyone else for going along like sheep with the commonly-held idea it rises from the other direction.

  • “saying that the Muslim world has 7,000 years on us”
    excuse me – 7000????
    Islam is 1400 years old. That’s documented. I mean, really.

  • He probably meant Iraq.

  • Sadly, being the dependable nonconformist voice insures Maher of being some one the media in general will turn to in able to have a voice speaking something else besides everyone else’s ideas. Why give him so much attention? Because he’s sure to say something that will provoke thought. Being constructive won’t do that, will it!
    Another statement sure to provoke response, from George Will today (on,the subject of social security): “But substantially reducing the borrowing would deny Democrats the ability to disguise as fiscal responsibility their opposition to personal accounts, *******which really is rooted in reluctance to enable people to become less dependent on government.” ******* [my emphasis]
    Sure, he knows that is swill, but it gets the attention he wants from the readership he courts.

  • Jay

    I propose a new addition to the Dictionary, based on Jeff’s typo in this post:
    “Paroduct,” a hybrid of “product” and “parody.”

  • Jay:
    Jeff said:
    ‘Richard Belzer tried to argue the old antiwar line — saying that the Muslim world has 7,000 years on us and we can’t “shove democracy down their throats” — but no one agrees with him; the audience doesn’t even cheer the way they do. Manji the Canadian lesbian Muslim journalist goes after him: “You are such a paroduct of the culture of instant gratification in America … If you don’t have freedom tomorrow then obviously it’s a big, old failure.” ‘
    It’s a good definition you offered, but it seems you need to ascribe the typo to Manji. Not the Jeff doesn’t make fun typos sometimes, and has commented on one of mine, “tight-wing”, which he enjoyed and I claim is Freudian.

  • Dave F

    At our paper in Cape Town, S Africa, the Michael Jackson trial was the biggest story by hits on the on-line paper throughout last week. Maher is telling the media-consuming public they are yahoos for their news focus. Newspapers go with the big story, QED.

  • richard mcenroe


  • derby

    Dave F,
    I live in the Wichita area and have been inundated (to say the least) with BTK stories for the past year which only got worse when a suspect was arrested. BTK, Michael Jackson, 24 hours of pictures of the same scenes in Atlanta with no substantive developments, none of these is a reflection of my “news focus.” It is a reflection of the news the news on which the MSM chooses to focus and then force on its consumers. The MSM doesn’t “go with” the big story, it tries to create the “big story.”

  • On CNN yesterday, Rudi Bakhtiar asked whichever “expert” it was if the case against the Atlanta courtroom nutjob was “shut and dried.” Then she and the other anchor (who isn’t as hot, so I don’t know her name) smiled and laughed about Larry King doing a show on it Sat. night. “We’re really bringing in the big guns!” This is why I only watch about 90 seconds of cable news a month.

  • What is Maher up to? Is he a true flip-flopper or just a ratings hag? Either he has made himself the village idiot with his on-his-knees-to-Moore leftism or he’s sinking into comedy oblivion. I kinda feel sorry for him.
    I do think “New Rules” is usually really good.
    If Paglia was on, I guess I’ll start watching again!

  • Charles J

    Yep, I watch Bill Maher all the time because he’s spent sooooo much time studying the Middle East…yep. Just like Rush, another self proclaimed expert on the Middle East. oiy…Why can’t these white boys instant experts on the middle east just go away? Inquiring minds want to know.

  • richard mcenroe

    Bill Maher’s lost the thread to what’s good and decent? Has he looked out by the hot tub at the Playboy Mansion?

  • Franky

    As someone else mentioned above, Maher is a contrarian, and I think it’s good we have someone out there who will say the things he says, especially when the morons are screaming: “they hate us because we’re free!!!” and “all terrorists are cowards!!!”. Unfortunately, I don’t think Maher is very good at it, being neither as smart as he thinks nor as he needs to be to walk that line.

  • richard mcenroe


  • Richard,
    Ah, yes – how could we liberals have been so foolish to naysay results like these:
    By day or night, Baghdad has become a cacophony of automatic weapons fire, explosions and sudden death, its citizens living in constant fear of being shot by insurgents or the security forces meant to protect them.

  • Kat
  • richard mcenroe


  • Richard M. ‘n Kat:
    Hate to tell you, but you aren’t paying the nickel here and the subject is not you.
    Try: Bill Maher, tv that gets offensive, the effect of taking tacks that aren’t mainstream. If you wish to discuss the mideast, try an appropriate site. And if you aren’t gangraping one of Jeff’s posters, it will be more appropriate. Oh, and where are everkarl and the like this time?

  • Kat

    Ruth, you really are one sick little puppy. I’m not into your kinky crap.
    Jeff wrote(A tide has turned. ) He was referring to the ME.

  • richard mcenroe

    Ruth, you purulent trull… if you had been paying attention to this thread you will see several on-topic posts from me. I then posted on a related point I thought would be of interest to Jeff and answered one count’em one post from another poster. Deal with it.

  • h0mi

    Manji the Canadian lesbian Muslim journalist goes after him: “You are such a paroduct of the culture of instant gratification in America … If you don’t have freedom tomorrow then obviously it’s a big, old failure.” ‘

    That is such an amazingly good line.

  • Richard M.:
    Sorry. I went back over the posts and you’re right, for the most part you did comment on the issue. I got you mixed up with this bunch that is constantly advancing its own ideology no matter what the topic, and usually in vulgar language. But I do admire the ‘purulent trull’, nice use of vocabulary. I apologize.