Bill Maher

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Smart people are very good at rationalising things they came to believe for non-smart reasons.
Michael Shermer (in reference to people just like Bill Maher)[1]

Bill Maher (born 1956) is an outspoken comedian and political commentator, best known for his Comedy Central/ABC show Politically Incorrect and his HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher. He is vocal on several topics to the point of absolute annoyance to many people (most of them being conservatives), most notably his atheistic views and harsh criticisms of religion, and Christianity in particular. However, Maher is vocally opposed to science and scientific discoveries, most notably by spreading anti-GMO and anti-vaccine propaganda (he has also gained some negative press in rationalist circles for his association with PETA). Maher was described as "an object lesson in how one can be intelligent and anti-science at the same time".[2]


[edit] Views and positions

Maher claims to be a staunch libertarian although some people dispute this, calling him a liberal. [3] Anyway Maher takes several (thousand) shots at Republicans for being irrational, hypocritical, and immoral. He's somewhat even-handed in his criticism and makes sure the Democrats get their due as well, citing their failure to be strong and decisive against the Republicans. In his opinion, there is no such thing as a left-wing extremist. Apparently, the Party[wp] failed to find him.[4]

[edit] Social issues and politics

Maher is a fierce advocate of both gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana. Recently, Maher has taken a hard stance on the gun control debate, stating his support for the assault weapons ban, background checks and limiting magazine sizes; Maher has criticized the Second Amendment multiple times and suggests changing it, although he claims he is justified in owning a gun because he feels he must protect himself from the "gun nuts" of the country. Furthermore, he states that it is the duty of government to protect their people, including from firearms. However, Maher's extensive use of marijuana and contempt for American drug policies makes him certain that drugs are not something that people should be protected from, as he believes that people put even worse legal substances into their bodies daily. He's a member of NORML, an organization dedicated to furthering this view. In April of 2015, he went so far as to start a petition to make 4/20 a national holiday.[5]

Maher is an environmentalist and animal-lover, often harshly criticizing deniers of global warming on Real Time and serving as a board member of PETA (though he's completely in favor of zoos for some reason). He's also contemptuous of corporations, especially pharmaceutical and health-care industries, on the grounds that they make money by curing people of problems they create through the consumption of unhealthy foods. He has advocated the abolition of corporate welfare.

He has been strongly opposed to the Iraq War, seeing it as a failure and saying that America cannot control the sectarian violence now razing Iraq. He was the victim of a manufactroversy over remarks he made on Politically Incorrect right after 9/11. At times, Maher implied that Iraq was better off under the rule of Saddam Hussein and that America's invasion has increased the threat of terrorism. On the other hand, he has humorously referred to himself as being "pro-death" due to his support of abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty.

When Occupy Wall Street first began, he endorsed the movement, but eventually, he jumped on the anti-politics bandwagon and told the Occupiers to "get a job."[6]

[edit] Medicine

I’m not into western medicine. That to me is a complete scare tactic. [...] The flu shot is the worst thing you can do [because] it's got mercury. [...] It doesn't prevent [the flu]. [...] [I]f you have a flu shot for more than five years in a row, there’s ten times the likelihood that you’ll get Alzheimer’s disease.[7]

Although Maher's criticisms of the pharmaceutical industries are sometimes legitimate, his views regarding vaccines are wrong and potentially dangerous. Maher has gone on record as a germ theory denialist, claiming that Pasteur recanted germ theory on his deathbed.[8] Some of his views on this matter constitute criticism of vaccination, he is not against all vaccines but believes that being vaccinated for any and all illnesses represents a slippery slope and could damage our natural immune systems.[9][10] In fact, on at least one occasion his anti-vaccine stances were tracked back to[11] He has also recently endorsed anti-GMO propaganda.[12]

In 2009, during one of his Real Time shows, Maher felt he had to "clear up a few things that people have been writing about me that are not true" and went on record to say "I’m not a germ theory denier."[13] This has caused a great amount of confusion for the media. One can conclude that although Bill Maher may claim not to be a germ theory denier and may have some legitimate concerns about the corporate corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, his views on medicine are in contrast with mainstream medicine and his perspective on vaccines may be harmful. In later shows, he stated, during an appearance with former senator (and doctor) Bill Frist, that vaccination is 'not a settled science'.

In early 2015, after a long respite from anti-vaccine rhetoric, Maher dove into the issue again in a series of incidents, claiming the flu shot is "bullshit" and nothing but a scam by "big pharma", justifying his vaccine skepticism by claiming medical science is not as reliable as climate science (which he completely agrees with), and inviting none other than Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on his show.

[edit] Political endorsements

  • In 1996, Maher endorsed Bob Dole on the basis of Dole's status as a war hero and being an old-style Republican.
  • In 2000, he ultimately supported Ralph Nader for president, having previously promised his vote to Libertarian Party candidate Harry Browne.
  • In 2004, Maher was stalwart in his opinion that Bush should not be re-elected and that Kerry was the best candidate for president. Possibly knowing the mistake he and many had made in 2000, he went so far as to kneel down on his show Real Time and beg Nader publicly to drop out of the race (along with his guest at the time, Michael Moore).
  • In 2008, he showed deep support for Barack Obama's campaign while also being highly critical of John McCain. But the greatest amount of Maher's bile was directed at Sarah Palin before her $40,000 premature resignation as Governor of Alaska; whom he called a "Category-5 moron," a "bimbo" and unfit to even be mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. He viewed her as the ultimate example of theocracy, religious extremism and blind faith. Maher was also very critical of Bristol Palin's pregnancy and engagement, calling it a loveless marriage and insinuating that Palin's Down Syndrome baby Trig was really Bristol's first child.
  • As November approached, with the Republican Party swimming in crazy by stretching out to the likes of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, making Mittens seem like an A+ candidate, Maher "endorsed" Obama once more, promising to donate a staggering $1 million to the President's SuperPAC, to illustrate the audacity and easy manipulation of Corporate personhood and unlimited SuperPAC campaign donations.

[edit] Religion

Maher's opinions on religion are probably what he is most famous for: he calls it a kind of neurological disorder that keeps people from thinking, a detriment to the world in general. He has spoken about his anti-religious views at almost every possible opportunity, making an entire movie devoted to this idea (the film was directed by Larry Charles, the same man who directed Borat and is filmed in a similar style, using a free camera instead of scenes and pre-set camera angles). Maher has taken many shots at religion for its hypocritical nature and its ability to allow people to do terrible things under the guise of morality. He is a vocal critic of the Religious Right, mocking them for their beliefs of the immorality of abortion and homosexuality.

He is also highly critical of Islam, more so than any other religion.[14]. Unfortunately, Maher lets some of his justified critiques of Islamic doctrine (martyrdom, honor killings, etc) turn into soft forms of bigotry, as evidenced by his belief that the school and police were right to be cautious in interrogating/detaining a 14-year-old Muslim Ahmed Mohamed for constructing a clock (despite the fact that suitcase bombs are usually illusions born out of Hollywood through TV series like 24 with no real practical use and the fact the device constructed posted no resemblance to a bomb). Maher's following statement, "Will someone look me in the eye right here and tell me over the last 30 years if so many young Muslim men...hadn’t blow up a lot of shit around the world?" (curiously omitting the Gulf War, Afghanistan War, Iraq War, etc.) in the context of justifying profiling doesn't help his credibility either.[15] In effect, while saying Ahmed deserved an apology, the sense Maher gave was that they were justified in arresting him; that Ahmed "had it coming."

He also dove right back into soft bigotry by asserting that the Syrian refugees, who were fleeing Daesh and undergoing the single most extensive vetting process in the western world,[16] had values that were "at odds" with American society. Maher insisted that "many liberals don't want to recognize" it." When a guest called him out on it, he insisted that she was supporting "keeping women as second class citizens," and continued pushing against the "ideas" that the Syrian refugees supposedly possess. He even explicitly considered the Muslim faith to be inherently worse than any other religious or spiritual belief.

At times, he has been specifically criticized for being anti-Catholic due to his repeated references to Pope Benedict XVI's being an ex-member of the Hitler Youth, the Catholic sex abuse scandals, and for drawing parallels between Catholicism and pedophilic cults.

[edit] Rush

Maher has repeatedly defended Rush Limbaugh's attacks on Sandra Fluke,[17][18] likely because of the events that led to the cancelation of Politically Incorrect.[19][20] However, Maher himself[21] and others[22][23] claim such comparisons constitute false equivalence.

[edit] Quotes

Religious people don't need to be ethical, because religion is mostly about salvation. It's about closing your eyes, very tightly, and believing in someone so much, without question, that when you die he will save your ass. Religion is about saving your ass. And that ain't ethical. There's a million reasons I could give you as to why a religious person is less moral than an ethicist, but here's just one. Religious people think that animals don't have a soul - we're so sure people do - so it's okay to torture and kill and do anything you want to animals because there's some bullshit in the Bible about how we have dominion over them and they don't have a soul. For that reason alone I dislike religion.
Jesus is great — is there a better role model? No. It's religion, it's the people who get in between — the bureaucracy, you know. ... It's the way people abuse Jesus. Was there ever a greater victim of name dropping?
If you have a few hundred followers, and you let some of them molest children, they call you a cult leader. If you have a billion, they call you Pope.
Couldn't we just get together and agree on the few basic Commandments that are laws? Like 'I won't slaughter you, and don't take my shit.'
Republicans are always saying we should privatize things like schools, prisons, social security -- hey, how about we privatize privacy! Because if the government forbids gay men from tying the knot, what is their alternative? They can't all marry Liza Minnelli.
If you think Democrats are going to take away your Bible, you're an idiot. If you think they are going to take away your gun, you're an armed idiot. If you think they're going to take away your gun and give it to a Mexican to kill your God, you're Bill O'Reilly.
How do we know Bush wasn't behind September 11th? Because it worked. AND, it involved: PLANNING.

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[edit] Footnotes

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