Saturday, October 11, 2014

Maher Is Pushing His Career Not Effectively Ending Female Genital Mutilation

Starting out by saying that Bill Maher is a comedian who isn't funny, a thinker who doesn't think and a liberal who is no liberal is only the honest thing to do.   He is a copy cat, as well, stealing his unfunny schtick from the late stuff from the late George Carlin who was no funnier as a scolding anti-religious bigot than Maher is, today.  To repeat a point I've made before.  I don't like the man, I don't like his form of entertainment and I don't like the milieu in which he is positioned, the mid-brow, anti-religious, scientistic, atheist, up-to-date, ever morphing with fashion,  pop culture base that richly rewards talentless hacks to tell their niche audience that they are superior beings.  TV, if you will.  His is exactly the same message as the one you'll see on FOX "news" only the audience is different so a few of the words are.

This is in response to this article in Salon, Bill Maher’s atheist values: Why progressives must defend enlightenment, critique religious extremism.

He is right, of course, that there are huge problems of violence, killing, misogyny and intolerant bigotry to be found among Muslims.  You show me any definable group comprising more than a billion and a half people which doesn't have the same or similar problems and I'll insist you prove their unlikely existence.

Since Maher's shtick is hatin' on religion using the pose of Western, scientific enlightenment, I'll point out that you can identify the same or equivalent problems to be found among European and North American countries which fall within that quite artificial category.

The modern age in Europe and North America includes many genocides, including that encouraged and waged against the indigenous population of North America,  dehumanized by no less a hero of that enlightenment, the also slave holding, slave raping Thomas Jefferson in that emblematic document of the enlightenment, the Declaration of Independence.

There is a very easily documentable case which could be made that the secular, scientific enlightenment has a higher kill count than just about any other identifiable movement in the cultural history of human beings.  I would point out that its use of science is intrinsic to its effectiveness in producing violent effects and that other intellectual identities have science available to them, as well, which makes them more scary than we are used to thinking of ourselves - among the most accomplished killers in history.  Europe and the United States combined have killed more Muslims than Muslims have killed people in those places.  We being "enlightend" doesn't make those killings OK.

It's certainly true if you include those more than merely aggressively secular governments -also claimants to the mantle of scientific enlightenment and modernity - which have been officially atheist. If atheists want to use such practices to attack Islam or religion in general, it's entirely fair to make atheists and atheism answerable for the sexual slavery, slave camps, wholesale terror and murder that those governments still practice.  I'm all in favor of holding all ideologies and framing up against the full range of their results, not allowing anyone to grant themselves and their ideas indulgences, declaring large parts of those out of discussion or beside the point.

An honest look at the groovy, happening now culture of his fan base, that of his fellow entertainers such as Penn Jillette and the atheist-skeptical movement that he is identified with will show pretty much the same things, only expressed differently, if, at times, one of degree.   But the massive topic of sexism within organized atheism, something which I think is an inevitable result of viewing people as material objects, is an issue in itself*.   I'll leave it at whether or he would publicly call for the banning and outlawing of the use of underage or intellectually disabled people in the porn blogs that comprise such a horrifyingly large percentage of Tumblr blogs.  If he called for the regulation of Tumblr for compliance with existing laws against using children in porn, he would be afraid that his fan base would leave him.  I dare him to address it on his show.

It is plainly dishonest for Maher to claim that "liberals" ignore issues such as female genital mutilation practiced in some Islamic countries.   The first times I heard that condemned, even as I was learning of such a thing, it was liberal, "second-wave" feminists who raised the issue.  It wasn't part of the current anti-Islam fad that Maher is a part of and it wasn't a part of a campaign against religion, in general. That atheists want to claim they own the issue is easily seen to be false, as it is with so many other issues that people like Maher claim.  And you can say the same thing about most of what he says.  As has been much discussed recently and documented from the beginning of movement atheism, it shares in and, likely, concentrates the sexism that is commonly found in any subset of human beings.   As I noted earlier this week, you can even find it among those who claim to be feminists.

But what exactly does Maher want people in The United States and "the west" to do about issues such as female genital mutilation, the killing of apostates, etc. in Islam majority countries?   I mean, what does he propose we do that will actually end the abuses and fix the damage in those countries where we do not live and where we do not comprise a majority, as opposed to striking a pose about that on American TV to get him into the news and the online buzz feed?   What does he want us to do that will produce the desired results instead of creating a backlash even before anything in the lives of women, LGBT folk and religious apostates improves?  Something that will have to be far deeper than merely changing laws but changing the culture of hundreds of millions of people living in those countries who are as set in their ways as any other socieites and people are?  Does anyone with a mind that can observe reality really believe that what Maher says about it to his audience is going to end the practice or even cause governments to outlaw it?   Not to mention the fact that banning the practice will probably be about as ineffective as outlawing abortion of pot smoking has been here.

Any improvement in the lives of women in those countries is dependent on what the people living there, women and men, think and do.  It isn't something that can be imposed on them by the audience of a hack comedian on American TV or even the American government.  Of course the sciency, enlightened man knows they can do that because that has worked so well in Iraq and Afghanistan within relatively recent history, hasn't it.  I don't like that we are effectively powerless to do that but that is a fact.  And the only thing we have which will have any possible effect on that is good-willed persuasion that they consider changing things.  In that an atheist asshole like Maher is probably the worst possible person to stick his two-bits in.  I would say, considering the position of women in the entertainment industry he works in and champions, porn-prostitution included, you couldn't find a worse advocate for the rights of women and  others than someone like Maher. 

*  I'd like to ask Maher where he finds support for the existence of the rights he claims to champion within atheism.   I can tell him where they're found in the monotheistic religions he hates so much but there is nothing I can see in atheism that leads anywhere except an ultimate denial of their real reality.  If he knows of one, I'm all ears.

1 comment:

  1. I suppose if we all watched Maher's show and agreed with him that FGM is bad, and wrote comments on blogs and at Salon and elsewhere saying so, FGM would end?

    I've never understood the argument that it's important what I think about such subjects. Why? Sympathetic magic? Right thoughts will somehow produce right outcomes? I'll vote for candidates who will "do something" about FGM? Do what? Send in the drones? The Marines?

    Weren't we going to change the culture of Iraq with our money and our bombs? How'd that work out? Maybe we needed more blog comments and criticism from comics to make it work, huh?