Bill Maher is no one’s idea of a disinterested scholar on religion. He’s long been the loudest, most obnoxious barroom brawler for atheism. What makes his argument toxic is that it isn’t an intellectual defense of atheism. It is a sophomoric, boorish attack on religion, wholly dependent on yuk-yuk lines. These attacks have drawn little attention of late, perhaps because he’s so predictable, but in the last few weeks, Maher has drawn new attention for singling out Islam as the worst of all them all. He almost sounded pro-Christian (by comparison) in a surprisingly contentious PBS interview with Charlie Rose wherein he slammed militant Islam.
Then he fought with Ben Affleck on his HBO show on Oct. 3. Suddenly the liberal media discovered Maher’s argument … and rushed to side with Affleck.
Affleck thought attacking Islam was “gross and racist.” He yelled at Maher about “more than a billion people who aren’t fanatical, who don’t punish women, who just wanna go to school, and eat sandwiches, pray five times a day, and don’t do any of the things you saying of all Muslims! It’s stereotyping!”
“CBS this Morning” co-host Gayle King thought Affleck raised “some really good points.” On “The View,” Rosie O’Donnell wanted “Affleck for President!”
MSNBC was loaded with praise. Chris Matthews declared, “I’m with Affleck because knocking someone’s religion is the way to start or escalate a fight. It’s no way to cool one.” Krystal Ball said “I have such a liberal crush now on Ben Affleck. I thought he was so amazing throughout that show, and so strong there.”
Guest-hosting “The Ed Show,” professor Michael Eric Dyson lamented this “patron saint of liberals,” Maher, was sounding like a racist. “Do you see a parallel between the kind of bigotry that was, you know, used to explore black identity on the one hand, and the way in which Islamophobia has operated in this country?”
But the silliest Affleck advocate was MSNBC “All In” host Chris Hayes, who took a remarkably inarticulate junior-high-level movie-star argument and made it worse.
“First of all, the definition of Muslims as people who just want to go to the store, eat sandwiches and pray five times a day is basically perfect and can’t be improved upon,” announced Hayes. “Second of all, put me down on the Ben Affleck camp of this, strongly. I would think that to suggest that what is happening in the most extreme form in some Muslim countries as representative of the views of all Muslims is gross and racist.”
Notice that Hayes claims to know what is representative of Muslim views without consulting a single poll, which Maher keeps doing. Maher cites a Pew Research Center poll done in the Middle East in 2010, in which 82 percent of Egyptian Muslims supported stoning as a punishment for adultery and 84 percent supported the death penalty for leaving the Muslim religion. In Pakistan, those two punishments drew 82 and 76 percent support (respectively) from Muslims. In Jordan, it was 70 and 86 percent.
Hayes added it’s “also gross” that on Maher’s show “These are five non-Muslim guys sitting around talking about what the Muslims think.” Please stop and roll around on the floor laughing. Unless Hayes routinely has been “All In” with having conservatives (especially conservative Christians) on routinely, unlike the rest of the liberal pundits at MSNBC, how is he any different?
Hayes finished the segment by doubling down on this odd lecture: “It turns out, as a general rule, that asking people to explain what they believe, and why, is a whole lot more enlightening than speculating about their beliefs as if they’re not in the room.”
Oh the hypocrisy. Let the record show that Maher has insulted Christians, especially Catholics, far worse than this, and done so openly and consistently for years and never have Chris Hayes, Michael Eric Dyson, Krystal Ball, Rosie O’Donnell or Chris Matthews complained.
L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org. To find out more about Brent Bozell III and Tim Graham, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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