Bill Maher: It’s Sarah Palin’s birthday today – do you have any special wishes for her?
[Sarcastic laughter and snickering from the audience and Real Time with Bill Maher panel]
Hooman Majd: I don’t think we can say it. Even on HBO.
Matthew Perry: Do you think she even understands that it’s her birthday?
[Raucous laughter from the audience, grins from the panel]
Bill Maher: I don’t. I think they said, ‘Sarah, it’s your birthday,’ and she thought her water broke.
[More approving laughter]
Thus began the “Ask the Panel” portion of the most recent episode of HBO’s political talk-show Real Time with Bill Maher. Straddling the same “It’s a comedy show when I want laughter and applause (or when I get in trouble for going too far), but I really want to subversively promote an ideological agenda the rest of the time” line that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert walk every night on Comedy Central, Real Time offers the hard-hitting analysis one can only find anywhere two or more liberals are gathered in President Obama’s name.
But it’s a “comedy” show, dude. Why take it so seriously?
I am a student of the culture and I know (as we all do) that there is more than a hint of truth in any joke. More people under the age of 40 get their information about current events from fake news and political talk shows like Real Time and The Daily Show than from anywhere else.
The opinions offered on these mediums matter. It wasn’t my decision to make these shows and these comedians the gatekeepers of information in this country, but for (far too) many they are.
The smokescreen-like attempts by people on the Left to dismiss the importance of these shows simply because comedians host them is either misguided or purposely misleading. The Left want students and young adults to watch these shows and lap up the ideas and values streaming off their television and computer screens. They want parents to remain where (far too) many of them are: oblivious, out of the picture, and utterly disengaged from the ideological development of their child’s worldview.
Now, if a show like Maher’s Real Time or Stewart’s Daily Show simply had actors, actresses and entertainers on as their guests, they might be able to get away with the “We’re just joking around, bro” excuse. But the cavalcade of intellectuals, politicians, and influential members of the mainstream media that grace the sets of these shows reveals the deeper intent: they want to promote a specific, progressive, liberal-Democratic understanding of everything from foreign policy to the abortion debate.
The most recent episode of Real Time was a perfect example of what I’m talking about:
After bravely mocking Sarah Palin’s intellect, raising the level of civil discourse in this country by complaining that the Republican Party is merely the party of “insane people,” and claiming that Abraham Lincoln would not be a Republican if he were alive today, Bill Maher had this exchange with his panel regarding the ongoing situation in Egypt and the nature of infamous revolutions throughout history:
Maher: I still don’t think that what is happening in Egypt is representative of the 80 million people in that country…
Majd: Revolutions are rarely representative of all the people. The Russian Revolution wasn’t. The French Revolution wasn’t. It’s very rare that a revolution is representative of all the people.
Maher: And both of those revolutions got hijacked by the Right-wing…And the Iranian Revolution.
Majd: People do argue that…
Maher: And I suppose that some people would argue that the Russian Revolution was hijacked by the Left-wing. But when you go that far to the Left – you’re really the Right-wing.
[Murmurs of agreement from the entire panel.]
Maher: I consider Lenin and Stalin Right-wingers. Don’t tell Rush Limbaugh.
Before I parse these stunning remarks, let me quickly catch you up on who the players in this intellectual drama are.
Going from right to left on the panel you had MSNBC political correspondent Norah O’Donnell, Iranian-born author Hooman Majd, and Professor Cornel West of Princeton University. Oh, and next to Maher was, of course, actor Matthew Perry (aka Chandler, from Friends). O’Donnell works for MSNBC, so I’ll let you do the math on where she’s coming from politically. Mr. Majd writes books and articles for publications like The New York Times and Huffington Post, and loves playing the moral equivalency “they’re bad, but we’re not great either” game between the dictatorial regime in his native Iran and the republican democracy known as the United States of America.
Last, but certainly not least, is Professor Cornel West. A practicing Christian, and outspoken Socialist, West is an “expert” on racial issues in this country. He is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. This group’s founder, and someone West holds in high regard, Catholic-turned-atheist Michael Harrington, once explained the organization’s political ideology like this:
“Put it this way. Marx was a democrat with a small d. The Democratic Socialists envision a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning…and racial equality. I share an immediate program with liberals in this country because the best liberalism leads toward socialism…. I want to be on the left wing of the possible.”
With the introductions out of the way, let’s tackle the actual words spoken – and valuable insights revealed – in the YouTube clip above.
AEI’s own Jonah Goldberg wrote eloquently about it in his seminal work Liberal Fascism, but one of the most mystifying and damaging myths perpetrated in the West over the past 80 years is that any totalitarian government is “Right-wing.” This is a myth that is regurgitated everywhere from a high school English class to a graduate-level course at the most prestigious Ivy League universities.
Bill Maher is a graduate of Cornell University. Cornel West is a highly respected professor at Princeton. Hooman Majd went to George Washington University. Norah O’Donnell attended Georgetown.
These aren’t dumb people. These aren’t un-educated people. They are simply progressive liberals who have been led to believe – have allowed themselves to believe – that any regime or movement in history that has ended in tyranny must, by its very nature, be “Right-wing.”
It must be conservative.
I cannot over-state how important it is for Center-Right, pro-free market advocates to confront and expose this specific flaw in the narrative Leftists have constructed for themselves (and millions of public school students, entertainment consumers, and anyone else with a pulse not covered by those first two groups).
The Bolsheviks in Russia were Marxists. The instigators of the French Revolution were Rousseauian collectivists and secular humanists. The Iranian revolutionaries of 1979 were led by Islamic fundamentalists who wanted (and achieved) a Sharia-dominated society.
What about any of these revolutions strikes a chord with the teachings and values of Adam Smith, John Locke, Edmund Burke, or even Thomas Jefferson (who was by no means a “Right-winger”)?
Americans progressives and liberals have convinced themselves (and each other) that their desire for things like bigger government, higher taxes, control of the education system, and cradle-to-grave entitlements could never end in totalitarianism and economic collapse. They mean too well and the Right is way too mean. The failures (and horrors) of Stalin and Lenin must not be linked to their contemporary ideas.
Castro didn’t get a fair shake. Che was a misunderstood reformer. Mao had valuable lessons to teach us.
Even if we are to take the Iranian Revolution as an example, the major flaw in that system is fundamentally not a “Right-wing” problem, but a decidedly Left-wing one. It is top-down control by an oligarchy. Instead of a group of secular philosopher-kings running the show, as Marx envisioned and pined for, it was (and is) a group of Islamic philosopher-kings running the show.
I plan on continuing this discussion in future posts, but let me wrap things up today with this: the totalitarian instinct has always been on the Left, not the Right. It is built into socialism, collectivism, and progressivism.
Because Bill Maher might dislike that fact does not change or alter it.
Freedom and liberty begin with the belief that individual humans are endowed by their Creator with certain unassailable rights. Tyranny begins with the belief that “all animals are equal…some more equal than others.”
The Right is comprised of corruptible people. The Left is based on corrupting ideas.