Tag Archives: Bill Maher

Lending Credibility

Fake news

Back in February 2014, Bill Nye “the Science Guy” debated Ken Hamm, the creationist who built and operates the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Prior to the debate, people didn’t think it was wise for Bill Nye to be debating Ken Hamm. Though Nye wanted to have a debate from a more inquisitive perspective, to learn more about creationism and to see if it is an actual viable model for explaining the origin of things, people saw it as a way of elevating Ken Hamm, of inviting superstition to the scientific table, long after most of the world’s academic and critical thinkers have discarded religious dogma to explain natural phenomenon. I thought it was a useless exercise. Nye was lending his credibility to Ken Hamm and making him an “expert” equal to himself. I’m not opposed to debate, but I don’t see the value of debating people who sees a challenge to their ideas as fuel to their faith, scientific evidence as devilish trickery. The religious don’t even have conversations to be convinced. They are there to convince you, to add you to their flock. Scientists debate to see if there are holes to their ideas; see if their initial hypotheses holds up. So in the end, the debate didn’t do anything but raise Ken Hamm’s profile. It made him known to people outside of religious circles.

This is similar to my problem with Bill Maher. He claims that the best disinfectant is sunlight; and that we should confront irrational ideas and characters, and show them what fools they are. His show will have accomplished people like Senator Elizabeth Warren, Michael Eric Dyson, and Cornel West, then he will have people like SE Cupp, whose initial schtick “I’m an atheist but I envy the faith of the religious” is such a boldfaced sham that it’s a wonder why Maher didn’t run her out of the panel. Cupp was just a blip on the media radar at the time, but Maher elevated her, lent her his credibility as well as the credibility of his guests, and this resulted her getting employed by CNN and other media outlets. Maher claimed to do the same thing with Milo Yiannopoulos earlier in the year, to invite him to his show for a dialogue to see what makes him tick, then later took credit for Yiannopoulos getting exposed for his past comments regarding homosexuality and pedophilia. I saw the show and was not impressed with either of them. He didn’t really challenge Yiannopoulos too much on his flimsy arguments. I predict if Yiannopoulos wasn’t drummed out of the public eye by the Internet a week later, Maher would’ve had him as a regular guest, feeding off of his notoriety.

And now we see Kayleigh McEnany working for TrumpTV. A lawyer who graduated from Harvard, she worked at CNN as a Trump supporter, arguing for Trump’s and the administrations worst comments and actions. I wouldn’t mind her if her arguments were substantive, but the points she defended often goes against the viewers own senses (like Trump’s flip flops) and she sounded so disingenuous that it makes me wonder what it really takes to graduate with a law degree. She added nothing of value to debates, and it was infuriating to see CNN has people like her misinform their audience. A previously unknown person, CNN has elevated her and lent her their credibility simply by having her on their airwaves. The Most Trusted Name in News has misinformers on their payroll. And now McEnany is doing propaganda on TrumpTV. TrumpTV can now boast that it employs not just Trump relatives, but also former CNN contributors, giving merit and credibility to its “news.”

James Randi did it best. He had scammers on his show and showed them the flaws of their tricks. He exposed them in such a way that it wasn’t disrespectful. With logic and science, he showed how a person was deceiving the audience. Afterwards, he moved on to the next scammer. He didn’t have them as a regular guest nor consulted them regarding other matters. He didn’t lend them his credibility. Now, I’m not saying people like Bill Maher or networks like CNN should be debunkers. But they should call out lies and disinformation for what they are, and don’t reward liars by employing them or inviting them to sit on discussion panels to lie again.

 

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There Goes their Martyr

Toad.jpg

Let me get this straight. So flirting with racists and terrorizing black and transgender people is okay, but pederasty is not? Got it.

Just this morning, a well-known alt-right troll, let’s call him DayGlo Metropolis, just got a speaking gig at CPAC as well as book deal cancelled because a video of him defending pederasty (and some may argue pedophilia) came to light. While this is one of the few instances where bad behavior doesn’t get rewarded by more media exposure, I’m sure that the alt-right is already hailing DayGlo as a martyr to their cause. It’s quite ironic since these are the same people that rage against people using victimhood as a form of currency, something that DayGlo has accused feminists of doing. In any case, here are a few things regarding the interesting week with DayGlo.

Bill Maher is a show man. He’s not a deep intellectual, nor is he a particularly funny comedian. He’s a show man in the guise of an intellectual. His show is a good platform for people and would frequently feature good dialogue on current issues, but he also uses it to occasionally raise the profiles of people who couldn’t be more transparent about their fraud. Or worse, he normalizes people who should ideally be run out of the room. He’s had Joe the Plumber. He’s had SE Cupp, a supposed atheist who admires those with religious convictions. He’s friends with Ann Coulter. And last Friday, he had DayGlo. He likes to defend booking vile personalities by saying that people should be free to debate and cloaks himself as a freethinker, but in reality, it’s all about the ratings. He was after the DayGlo crowd and those who wanted to see him taken down a notch. He delivered, and DayGlo was shown as a shallow fraud, but that’s not how DayGlo’s supporters see it. And in the end, it just raised his profile, adding another notch to his growing list of media appearances.

I actually share a lot of Bill Maher’s views. His show can be very enlightening and has certainly changed my mind on some issues. But his flirting with noxious personalities as well as Islamophobia is making me skip his show more often in the past couple of years.

There’s great irony in DayGlo spreading hate against transgender people, particularly by raising concern over their bathroom access in fear of them preying on children. Not only is this a dumb concern; people and children will not be attacked by transgender people much more than by cisgender people, but he’s the one who defending relations between teens and much older men. I have yet to see a transgender person defend pederasty. I’ve only seen DayGlo do so.

DayGlo made his bones through #GamerGate which was a bit of a controversy a couple of years ago. A hack feminist, let’s call her Bonita Sarcastaman, made a video series claiming that video games were often sexist. She inflated many of her claims, but I couldn’t really argue with the point that some video games do traffic in a bit of sexism. Sex sells. Shorthand on sexual imagery both on male and female characters is just something that’s par for the course. In any case, Bonita made it a bigger issue than it should be (there ARE other more crucial feminist issues out there), gamers took the bait and made it an even bigger issue, and DayGlo became their champion as he took on Bonita and her supporters. So yeah, hack feminist produces hack “provocateur” intellectual. No one wins.

The funny thing is DayGlo is the tech editor for Breitbart news, which I imagine is why he got involved in #GamerGate in the first place. But when was the last time anyone heard DayGlo talk about tech? Hey gamers, you know how you accuse Bonita of not being a “real gamer” as if being a gamer is a virtue? I doubt if Dayglo wants to do anything with you either.

CPAC and conservatives would embrace anyone as long as they are against their enemies (The enemy of my enemy is my friend?). It is no coincidence that the first homosexual they tried to have as a speaker also happens to hate being homosexual. Many of the black conservatives on television are often there to condemn other black people. These conservative outliers are the immunity idols. They are what allow people to say hateful things because a member of the group they hate happens to agree with their hateful views. “I’m not homophobic. This gay guy says that homosexuals are a danger to children. I just happen to agree with him.”

I’m not a fan of gotcha journalism. Too often, words or actions are taken out of context, and people are brought down by them. This applies even if their sins do not particularly relate to their function in society. Context matters. I particularly was not too concerned about Donald Trump’s Howard Stern appearances because back then, no one really thought he was going to be president. Also, he was in the Howard Stern Show. Things were bound to get outrageous. However, I was concerned about his comments in the bus regarding “grabbing pussy.” At that point, he was no longer entertaining an audience. He was bragging to another guy, trying to impress him with tales of sexual assault. It was demonstrating someone’s privilege and misogyny.

Someone dug up an old video of DayGlo and used it to damage him. I normally don’t approve of this, but in this case, I believe whoever did it was just doing the homework that Simon & Schuster should’ve done. They didn’t realize that DayGlo was a vile character? Why are they in the business of enriching people who terrorize others? Didn’t they hear about what happened to Leslie Jones? Was that not enough? I believe Simon & Schuster is just as guilty as Bill Maher in trying to monetize DayGlo’s hateful notoriety. I also believe that Bill wouldn’t have booked DayGlo if the pederasty video surfaced earlier. But the thing is, just like Simon & Schuster, I don’t think Bill and his producers really cared about DayGlo’s hateful history. They saw it as a plus. Yay, more ratings! I really hope they do get some repercussions for their actions as well. It is one thing to be a bully, but it’s another to sit by and encourage a bully to work his craft.

And no, I don’t think liberals are afraid of DayGlo (as Bill Maher suggested). I don’t think liberals are scared of the likes of Tomi Lahren, Alex Jones, etc. They just don’t want to reward dumb and hateful people with more attention, especially when these bigots are not interested in sincerely and intelligently discussing issues. The reason why I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh is because I already know what he’s going to say. The same thing with Sean Hannity. There’s not one original thought that ever came out of their heads. Why waste time listening to a talking point on a loop?

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AIDS Cures on TV

Serial

My niece colors like a serial killer.

I saw Bill Maher interview Dr. Samir Chachoua, the doctor who is currently treating Charlie Sheen. He’s the doctor who advised him to get off his regular meds, use a treatment that he claims cures HIV (not therapy), and apparently even injected some of Sheen’s own blood to himself in order to assuage Sheen’s fears. It is a bit concerning that Bill Maher would give the doctor a media platform when prior to the interview, Charlie Sheen said in Dr. Oz’s show that his “numbers are back up” after getting on Dr. Chachoua’s treatment. Still, the booking was not much of a surprise. Bill Maher keeps giving questionable people platforms. He once talked to Sam Wurzelbacher or “Joe the Plumber” as if he was a serious person. He also basically birthed S.E. Cupp who often comes up with the most ridiculous points on issues.

But aside from the doctor’s many dubious claims on the program (“I’ve cured entire countries!,” “Sheen is HIV negative.”), I believe there’s value in the message that we shouldn’t be complicit with the status quo. We should have healthy skepticism of what’s being told as well as keep an open ear to what’s new. Is the current HIV and AIDS treatment truly the best science has to offer? Perhaps we should be looking at other options. I haven’t done much reading regarding Dr. Chachoua’s claims. But my skepticism goes both ways, to the established science which is married with corporate interests and to the unknown Dr. Chachoua. My skepticism for the doctor comes from Sheen himself. His numbers are back up. I already fear that he’s leading Sheen down the wrong path, whether the doctor knows it or not.

The many claims Dr. Chachoua put out on Bill Maher’s show paints a great picture of possibility regarding curing AIDS and other disease, but the media tries to ridicule him and his treatment based on arthritic goats. While he may indeed be a “quack,” we should not dismiss the possibility of finding cures in the least likely of places, even arthritic goats. There is value in looking at all alternatives and not just surrendering to what the established truth is. Scientists right now are looking at sloth hair clippings for new antibiotics. However, it all must be evidence and results-based. And right now, I still haven’t looked at evidence that supports the doctor’s claims.

I guess the fear here is that this will produce another Jenny McCarthy: more “experts” that would convince people to forego proven treatments to their detriment. This is generally a symptom of the mistrust against authorities, and unfortunately in many cases, people rail against scientific authority for the wrong reasons. This is why there’s a resurgence of flat earthers and creationists along with the climate change deniers. The Charlie Sheen/Dr. Chachoua HIV thing could very well be explained as a similar reaction against established scientific authority. I am hoping it leads to more creative zeal regarding the treatment of diseases, not necessarily from Dr. Chachoua who may or may not be a “quack,” but to many people in the scientific community. I’m hoping it doesn’t result in a wave of AIDS denialism. So yeah, for now, I’m cautiously optimistic about the doctor’s appearance on Bill Maher’s show.

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Why, Richard?

protester

So this 14 year-old kid Ahmed Mohamed goes to school with a clock he made for a science project, shows it to several teachers, some of them say that it “looks cool.” Then one teacher gets nervous, thinks it’s a bomb and calls the cops. The school wasn’t evacuated, the cops say it wasn’t a bomb, and the kid was handcuffed anyway. Now, people are saying that this was a case of Islamophobia. And I would say yes, it seems patently obvious. I don’t think a box with wires sticking out of it in a school is any more menacing than a couple of people brandishing their AR-15s in a Walmart. Both are legal, only the second example is designed to elicit an example. Only the second example involves things that are actually designed to kill people.

And if you compare the incident to how predominantly white gun-carry advocates walk around the country unmolested, there’s a good argument that this is just as much as being a person of color in America as it is about being a Muslim.

I already talked about how Bill Maher sometimes loses me with his Islamophobia. It is one thing to be an atheist, but it is another thing to be an Islamophobe. The hysteria over the brown kid carrying a science project around school showed such an abandon of logic that I was hoping someone as intelligent as Bill Maher would not try to justify. I tend to be sympathetic to atheistic arguments, and I really don’t want to claim that there is religious persecution after many fundamentalist Christians cry wolf about their “suffering,” but when he said that people were reasonable to be suspicious of Ahmed Mohamed, this is exactly the type of light Islamophobia that results in children being handcuffed.

He is not alone in this either. Even Richard Dawkins tweeted that the kid was a fraud. He suggested that the kid passed himself off as an inventor and made a clock that suspiciously looks like a bomb. All of it just to get arrested, create a viral story, and later on get scholarship offers and an invitation to the White House. Bravo, Richard Dawkins. You’ve just become a Twitter nut job (at least in this case). There’s always the possibility that we’ve all been victims of this brilliant kid’s masterful hoax, but Occam’s razor suggests that it’s probably just a kid who made a suspicious-looking clock.

Steven Levitt once wrote about atheist books and the mysterious market for them. Who buys these books? There is a market for holy and religious books, after all, the religious need the books to enlighten themselves more about their faith. And the religious would never buy atheists books. At least, I imagine they won’t. Why would they? But what about atheists? If you truly don’t believe in the existence of God, then why buy a book to affirm your belief? You don’t need reinforcement on a non-belief. As Steven put it:

“So who is making these anti-God books best-sellers? Do the people who despise the notion of God have an insatiable demand for books that remind them of why? Are there that many people out there who haven’t made up their mind on the subject and are open to persuasion?

Let me put the argument another way: I understand why books attacking liberals sell. It is because many conservatives hate liberals. Books attacking conservatives sell for the same reason. But no one writes books saying that bird watching is a waste of time, because people who aren’t bird watchers probably agree, but don’t want to spend $20 in order to read about it. Since very few people (at least in my crowd) actively dislike God, I’m surprised that anti-God books are not received with the same yawn that anti-bird watcher books would be.”

I think Steven kinda brushed on the reason why anti-God books are selling recently. Conservatives hate liberals and would buy books that bash liberals. I’m guessing that some atheists actively hate the religious, or at least see them as intellectually inferior to some extent, and perhaps get some joy out of bashing them. Instead of adopting a liberal attitude about things and truly not caring about religion unless said religion affects them somehow, some atheists get trapped into a sort of game of one-upmanship the same way political parties do. Of course, this is not something truly unique to atheists. The same could be said about some of the religious.

And this is where Bill Maher and Steve Dawkins sometimes sink to. Yes, yes, religion is bullshit. But that’s coming from our “enlightened” bubble. Ethnocentrism is judging others based on their ethnic group, especially in terms of customs, language, and religion. Perhaps people find value in their religion in ways that I do not. Who knows? I’m not about to judge other people as long as it doesn’t affect me. Believe in God or don’t, just don’t make it my business. But when giants of the atheist way of thinking start bashing huge swaths of people, it sours the whole thing for me. It is lazy and misguided. The same way some current feminists are spoiling the movement by being hyper-sensitive, censorship-advocating, misandrists, some atheists are turning into outright bigots.

I’m not saying that the religious are being persecuted. I’m not, especially in terms of Christians in North America. But casual bigotry towards other religions makes cuffing children, not allowing refugees into countries, and outright bombing cities, a tad easier to do.

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More Empathy, Please

kidneys

 

More urinary tract stuff. Yay!

I like watching Bill Maher. I enjoy his panel, although I sometimes cringe at how he legitimizes certain people by having them on the show. Darrel Issa might be one of the worst political actors around, and but he has enough charm to appear like a somewhat reasonable person in his show. Bill also sometimes bring in S.E. Cupp who is the dumbest political commentator clown I tried to watch. Granted, she claims to be an atheist, just like Bill, so I’m guessing that’s why she has her on the show, but what the heck is a self-hating atheist who is jealous of the faithful?!

Now, I was raised Catholic, and although I don’t practice the faith too much, I still consider myself a member of the church. Now, I get Bill’s problems with religion, but really, he does paint with a wide brush especially when it comes to Muslims. There’s over a billion Muslims in the world and not all of them are seeking the death of infidels the same way not all Christians are seeking to stone all adulterers. Religion divides people into those who would be saved after death and those who would burn in hell (or those who simply don’t matter at all). This gives extremists of any religion an excuse to do horrible things. The Bible was used as an excuse for slavery. Heck, there are stories of wiping out whole populations in the good book. So to say that the Muslim faith is a great source of bad ideas is not only very selective, it is also racist, and wrong. Bill argues that the reality is counter to my idealism, and that Muslims are causing a lot of trouble in the world, but that in itself is very narrow-sighted. A lot of the troubles happening in the Middle-East is due to greed and an out of control capitalist machine. It is also due to populations who feel disenfranchised at the very least, and at most, angered by the injustice caused by a foreign force thousands of miles away. This injustice is why young people from countries outside of the Middle East are flying in to join. What’s happening is injustice, and it just so happens that the extremist leaders in those countries are religious and that they would use religion to control people the same way leaders in every country would use anything to control the people under them. Not all Muslim countries are controlled by extremist forces, and not all Muslim countries have bombings which give people cause to be extremists.

My Muslim neighbor doesn’t have any more bad ideas than my Christian neighbor. Both neighbors don’t have any more bad ideas than my Buddhist neighbor as. One could argue that my atheist neighbor might have fewer bad ideas. But if that neighbor starts trafficking in racist stereotypes, then he just me be the worst neighbor there is.

So yeah, the whole dismissive attitude people of the Muslim faith really turned me off. And then comes New Rules regarding the Hong Kong protests for democracy. Granted, it was just a joke. But really, saying that the protest signs look like restaurant menus? Let me guess, “flied lice?” What’s the matter? Can’t make a love-you-long-long-time joke instead? This is the thin treatment the protests get when it is a huge move for democracy in that part of the world. In fact, that dig makes me wonder if his empathy to people unlike himself only extends towards black Americans.

His show is off next week, so I’m hoping he’s got a better show when he comes back. I’d still be watching, but the hate disguised as critical thought and some of the tired jokes are starting to get to me.

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