Once upon a time, Bill Maher was cool in my book. I vaguely remember watching a couple of episodes of his old show Politically Incorrect and while my memories are fuzzy, I remember being quite entertained. Once he made the move to cable television, I started watching him more often. Hell, I used to dvr his show and watched it near religiously. I used to appreciate the frankness with which he’d talk about religion, his support for legal marijuana, and his vocal opposition to all things conservative and Republican. At that time, I knew of no one who was an unabashed critic of religion, so listening to Maher mock and criticize religious beliefs was refreshing, as was his no-holds-barred criticisms of Republicans.
But there was a side–several of them in fact–that I didn’t know about and/or weren’t woke enough to recognize. In 2017, however, I can see them plain as day. In fact, they’re so apparent that I’m not sure why he hasn’t written a ‘How to be a Human Trashfire’ guide. Such a guide would include examples from Maher’s various displays of bigotry over the years and include advice like:
- Learn to be a Pro. An ableism pro. One of the beginner steps to mastering ableism is to treat disabled kids with contempt like the time Maher equated developmentally disabled kids with dogs. More advanced human trashfires know how to engage in multiple forms of bigotry simultaneously, as Maher did last year when he blew up at BLM activist Ashley Williams for crashing a HIllary Clinton fundraiser. And don’t forget–no self-respecting ableist bigot can claim that title if they don’t point to cognitive ability and say “POTUS45 is an asshole bc there is something wrong with his brain”.
- With boundless pride, you’ve got to share your sexism and misogyny with the world. Fly your “I hold women in contempt and think anything feminine is inferior to me” flag high. This can be done through an ancient male ritual called “I’m not sexist, but…” or through the not-so-subtle derision of femininity, or the use of gendered slurs (for someone who isn’t sexist, Maher has a long history of the word b*tch falling–I guess uncontrollably, since he says he’s not sexist–from his mouth when talking about women) or by “joking” about killing women for
it doesn’t matter what the reason isor if you combine your misogyny with ableism or…(yeah, the list goes on)
- Another trait often found in the modern Trashfire Bigot is transphobia. An excellent way to show the transgender community that you are the opposite of an ally–an enemy, for those uncertain–is to grant a platform to a White Supremacist Piece of Shit and not only let him speak his mind unchallenged, but indulge in a bit of transantagonism yourself (yes, I’m talking about that time Bill and Milo the douchebag bonded over their disgust of trans people).
- Of all the forms of bigotry he has displayed, one of Bill Maher’s favorites, one he can’t seem to go for too long without gushing over (as if his newborn child) is his anti-Muslim bigotry. From his completely unproven claim that millions of Muslims supported the attacks against Charlie Hebdo to his smells-like-he-pulled-this-from-his-ass commentary about Muslim men, Maher loves him some Islamophobia. Of course, he doesn’t call it that, bc to him, he’s merely criticizing the religion when he condemns millions of Muslims for the actions of a relative few extremists**.
As with so many other bigots with racist beliefs, Bill Maher’s racism is not focused solely on Muslims. He also has room in his evaporated husk of a heart for some anti-black racism. Unlike his anti-Muslim bigotry, however, Maher’s anti-black racism has traditionally been more restrained. For example, on the face of it, his 2012 comment to Wayne Brady about the latter being a “non-threatening black man”, doesn’t appear racist. It is though, bc it betrayed a view of black men as violent and dangerous. Such a view, which is ridiculously absurd*, is commonly held today and is one of the main biases at play when police officers shoot and injure/kill black people. His supportive comments to Bill O’Reilly after the latter engaged in some casual racism regarding Representative Maxine Waters’ hair went a step further. There’s also his comments about wanting President Obama to act like a “real Black man” by pulling up his shirt to reveal a gun tucked in his pants (the image of a black man with a gun hidden under his shirt and tucked into his pants is shorthand for criminal or thug). It’s one thing to have subconscious racial biases and prejudices. We all do (especially white people). It’s quite another to defend the racism of a virulently racist dirtbag like O’Reilly.And it’s something else to playfully allude to black people as criminals Now, as if he were tired of hiding, Bill Maher has fully embraced his anti-black racism by doing the thing virtually every white person in this country knows is racist:
During a Friday night interview with Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse on Real Time With Bill Maher, the show’s eponymous host caused a stir when he said the N-word.
Sasse invited Maher to his home state to “work in the fields with us.” Maher answered, “Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house nigga.”
No, it matters not one iota that he used an alternate form of the word. What matters is that the N-word in some form or another escaped his lips. As a white man living in the United States, there’s no damn way he is unaware that that’s a word that should not be spoken by a white person. Y’all know that word is intimately connected to a history of state sanctioned violence and assault (both physical and sexual) on black bodies. Y’all know that word is the ultimate dehumanizing term aimed at black people. Its purpose has always been one of utter degradation and contempt. The N-word is a reminder of a time (pick a year anywhere from the beginning of this nation up through whatever day you read this post) when y’alls scornful, disdainful eyes viewed us as less than human (while at times thinking we’re more than human in out ability to withstand pain); as objects for you to own and do with as you pleased (like force us to perform labor for which you’d benefit, bc Dog forbid y’all get up off your lazy, entitled, supremacist asses and pick the damn cotton yourselves).
We asked you to stop calling us that word (well, some of us did. Many more demanded that you stop). Some of you listened and stopped. Some of you complained and only muttered the word at home or in the private areas. Some of you never stopped. Some of you said “I’ll only use it in reference to those black people who deserve it”, failing (or simply refusing) to understand that no human being deserves dehumanization. There’s another category too. The category that I think Bill Maher best fits in: the anti-“PC”, pro-free-speech-absolutism, words cause no harm, I think I’m entitled to say what I want when I want, how I want, to whom I want, and no one can tell me no crowd. Let’s call them the White Entitlement Crowd. Damon Young of Very Smart Brothas explains the mentality behind this crowd:
5. It’s apropos that he’d catch this heat — and possibly lose his show — for saying this word, as it provides a convenient intersection for two similar issues: White people vexed that they’re not allowed to say this word, and privileged White people — privileged White men, specifically — lamenting on how political correctness and “outrage culture” has made us too sensitive. Both issues are issues because of (some) White people’s unfamiliarity with the concept of “No.” Where they’re so used to being able to do and say what they want — believing they possess some sort of manifest destined dominion over literally everything — that saying “Yeah, you can’t do this one thing” contradicts their personhood and their Whiteness. “What do you mean I can’t do this one thing? I’m White! I can do everything! I thought the life-long “Do Everything” pass came with the membership package! I need to see a manager!“
Some white folks just don’t accept the word ‘no’. They don’t accept that they live in a world in which they get denied. They ought to get accustomed to hearing the word. Especially when it comes to using the N-word, bc NO, y’all don’t get to use the word. That includes the human trashfire host of Real Time who really needs to stop trying (and failing) to hide his bigotry behind the First Amendment (just bc you *can* say something doesn’t mean you should) or behind his comedy (oh yes, how funny. You just punched down on marginalized communities again. Yes, making us the target of your latest attempts at humor never gets old).
(oh, and y’all can miss me with the ridiculous comments about how you can use the word and no one can stop you. No one has literally said you cannot use the word. If you understood what words mean, and had an understanding of context, you’d realize that what is being said is not “you literally cannot use that word”. We know you fools *can* say it. After all, you have been saying it. Rather, you’re being told “you cannot use that word without repercussions, without social opprobrium”. You can choose to use the word, and you’d better know that in response, you’ll be “treated like the piece of shit you are and be dragged, humiliated, mocked, excoriated, and lambasted in public.”)
For another take on why Maher shouldn’t have said that word, check out this Forbes article (interesting piece bc it’s written by a white guy, and it is always nice to see a white person, especially in this case, a white guy–“getting it”..
*if any group is going to be viewed as inherently violent, a stronger argument could be made of white men, as they were the ones who committed genocide against the Indigenous peoples of this country, enslaved black and brown bodies for centuries, and were the ones overwhelmingly responsible for acts of terrorism in the past (lynching) and present (would you look at this–more than 100 right-wing extremist plots, conspiracies, and rampages since the Oklahoma City Bombing)
**He’d probably scoff at the notion of treating all white men as if they’re white supremacists, confederate supporters, or members of the KKK, but then–they’re white, so they get different treatment.