Feature:Opinion

The religious fanaticism of Bill Maher

Secular fundamentalists are rightly offended by the notion that immutable characteristics such as race and gender should limit what people are allowed to achieve, but nonetheless imply that such characteristics should limit what people are allowed to think.

We were recently treated to the spectacle of liberal activist comic Jon Stewart mocking GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain in an Amos ‘n’ Andy voice, proclaiming his aversion to reading. Would Stewart have done that to Jesse Jackson? Watching Stewart’s shtick reminded me of those clueless, tone-deaf white liberals who used to think that they could get away with using the “N” word because they were “down” with the Black Man.

The fact that Stewart indeed got away with what he did exposes a double standard: African-American conservatives are fair game for abuse, even racial abuse, in a way that African-American liberals are not. Such double standards are like sugar-free desserts for secular fundamentalists, allowing them to indulge their impulses without guilt.

Speaking of Stewart, his recent shoot-out with Fox News’s Chris Wallace touched on some of the comforting myths that secular fundamentalists use to assure themselves of their intellectual superiority to conservatives. “Who is (sic) the most consistently misinformed media viewers?” railed Stewart, his sense of righteous indignation overwhelming his sense of grammar. “The most consistently misinformed. Fox. Fox viewers. Consistently. Every poll.”

The one bad thing about myths, of course, is that they aren’t true. The Pulitzer Prize-winning website PolitiFact.com rated Stewart’s claim “False” on its famous Truth-O-Meter.

One of the polls that Stewart was referring to rated respondents “informed” for believing that Obamacare will not increase the federal deficit. Well then count me in as a flaming ignoramus, because I firmly believe that the cost of Obamacare will explode way beyond the price tag that its proponents were able to squeeze out of the CBO with rigged assumptions. I hold that belief, no doubt, because of the propaganda I’ve been spoon-fed by whoever issues the Marching Orders at Fox News — or perhaps because I have a Wharton MBA and actually understand economics.

Secular fundamentalists indeed have an unhealthy need to feel intellectually superior to conservatives, and no one works harder to satisfy that need than Bill Maher. His methods are intellectually dishonest. He selects targets that he thinks are easy such as the “Tea Baggers,” and ridicules their intelligence as a way of ridiculing conservatism. But if the “Tea Baggers” are so stupid, then why do so many really smart people completely agree with them on the issues they champion — i.e., the need to restore fiscal sanity and limit the role of government?

I would love to see Maher engage in a serious debate with a conservative intellectual on the Tea Party’s issues. (At this point, Generic Liberal Comic quips that “conservative intellectual” is an oxymoron; yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk …) Since Maher purports to venerate logic and reason in eschewing the superstition of religion, he should also agree to eschew the crutches that he uses as substitutes for logic and reason — name-calling, glib generalizations, comic “ironies” that work as humor but don’t hold up under intellectual scrutiny, etc.

I have no doubt that under those ground rules, Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, Paul Ryan, Thomas Sowell, Steve Hayes, Larry Kudlow and any number of smart conservatives would wipe the floor with Maher. We’ll let Maher try to convince America that we should be more like Greece.