Bigotry – Intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.
Last night I was in a debate with my friends regarding my decision to no longer watch the Bill Maher show because of his bigotry toward religion in general and Islam specifically. It seems clear to me that when it comes to Maher there can be no denying that his comments regarding Islam are at best the stereotypical misrepresentations of a group of people who number over 1.5 billion worldwide by an ill informed individual and at worst the crazy ranting of a bigot. But is Bill Maher really a bigot? Hmmm let’s save that one for a little later. Getting back to my friends, a rather liberal group as am I, they could not fathom my decision. After all Maher is:
A liberal like us – Yes he “appears” to be on most issues
He has used his platform on HBO to point out many of the wrongs and outright hypocrisy of those on the right – Yes he does, no doubt about that
He an atheist he detest all religion not just Islam – True, not relevant but true
Many of his guests don’t agree with him on this issue – Also true
But does any of that matter when it comes to my decision to no longer watch his show – No not really
Why? Glad you asked
Let’s take a look at the case of Kim Davis, the county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky who defied a federal court order requiring that she issue marriage licenses, on the grounds that it was against her religious beliefs. Liberals as a whole were outraged by her actions. But other than her bigotry toward the gay and lesbian community, and let’s be clear it is outright bigotry, what do most people know about Kim Davis. What are her views on civil rights, abortion, stem cell research, unions, income inequality, gun control? Heck what is her favorite NFL team? We really don’t know, yes we can infer from her stand on same sex marriage what her stance may be on other issues but at the end of the day we really don’t know for sure. Now what if we found out that she was on the same side of each of those issues as we were? What if the only issue that Kim Davis and us disagreed on was same sex marriage? Would we watch a television show hosted by her or would we be so morally repulsed by her stance on that one issue that we would tune her out. What if Kim Davis went on the air each week and passionately defended the issues that we hold dear to our heart and had on great guest who do the same would we be willing to look past her bigotry as it relates to the gay and lesbian community? What if 95% of her show was dedicated to defending those issues but during the other 5% she threw in her belief that same sex marriage was a sin against god would we tune in? I would venture to guess the answer is probably not.
Now there are those who would say the difference is that Bill Maher is simply expressing his freedom of speech while Kim Davis is actively discriminating against a group of individuals and if I am to be fair that is true. But I would argue that while Maher is not actively discriminating against anyone with his rants against Islam his celebrity and his weekly HBO platform causes just as much or more damage than Kim Davis could ever have hoped to cause. Let’s take one of Maher’s more recent comments about Islam
“What we’ve said all along, and have been called bigots for it, is when there’s this many bad apples, there’s something wrong with the orchard.”
Leaving aside the obvious, that those words could have easily been uttered by Bull Conner as he blocked the entry of young African American children into a school house, those words in and of themselves are damaging because they are words that undoubtedly will be used by others to discriminate against and commit violence toward worshippers of Islam. As liberals we constantly call out those on the right for their use of inflammatory rhetoric we cannot simultaneously expect a pass when we engage in similar tactics. Words are very powerful and when spoken by someone with the celebrity of a Bill Maher that power is multiplied tenfold. Simply articulated all forms of bigotry, are ultimately self-defeating on a number of levels. Talented people who have much to contribute to our society are not given a chance because of irrational considerations. In America studies have shown over and over that when African Americans and Latinos are defined as lazy, incompetent, unintelligent, culturally deficient and lacking leadership skills, they will be relegated to a secondary status in society and not given the opportunity to advance, resulting in consequences which are real thereby justifying the original definition of their situation. The loss resulting from this unused potential is not just what could have been created or invented but also sows the seeds of discontent, social instability and unrest. The use of bigoted rhetoric to paint an entire group of individuals as terrorist because of their religious beliefs has made it far easier for politicians in America to justify waging a war in the Middle East with little to no regard for the collateral damage it has caused. According to an academic study published in 2013 nearly half a million people have died from war-related causes in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003. Ask yourself would we still be fighting this war if that was a half a million Christians? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/15/iraq-death-toll_n_4102855.html
So back to my original question is Bill Maher a bigot? Undoubtedly yes when it comes to this topic.
Does he stand for much of what I believe in? Without question he does.
Will I continue to watch his show? No because it is my belief that bigotry large and small and those that preach it must be ignored. After all there plenty of places to go for this kind of entertainment/news/satire- Trevor Noah keep the Daily Show great.