Why Even the Thinking Left Owns Paris
In October last year, on his HBO show real time, Bill Maher got to see up-close how his buddies on the left have made this world a more dangerous place. What Maher still needs to appreciate is the role he himself has played in making it more dangerous.
Among Maher’s guests that night was Sam Harris, a neuroscientist and fellow traveler of Maher’s in the cult of atheism. Harris was trying to explain how liberals abandon their principles when faced with the issue of Islamic theocracy. “We have been sold this meme of Islamophobia,” said Harris, “where every criticism of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry toward Muslims as people.” Maher agreed.
In the way of background, the friendly folks at the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT) in Northern Virginia introduced the term “Islamophobia” into the western vocabulary within the last twenty or so years. According to Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, a disaffected African American convert to Islam, the IIIT Islamists consciously decided to mimic homosexual activists who had been successfully using the “phobia” trope to defame opponents of their political agenda.
For all their internal disagreements -- should gays, for instance, be celebrated or stoned to death? -- gays and Muslims, as well as the various other subcults of the larger progressive ecclesia, have studied each other’s strategies and absorbed each other’s tactics. On America’s campuses as we have seen this past week, these various groups have been busily protecting each other’s safe spaces. What unites them is a common enemy: the defenders of western, Judeo-Christian civilization.
On this particular night at least, Maher and Harris were the enemy. Fellow panelist Ben Affleck certainly thought so. The actor/director burst in rudely, “You’re saying Islamophobia is not a real thing.” Without a trace of irony Maher reminded Affleck of the impunity the progressive elect enjoy.
“It’s not a real thing when we do it,” protested Maher. “It really isn’t.” Affleck was not convinced. He called the comments by Maher and Harris “gross,” “racist,” and “ugly.” Not to be out-offended, panelist Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times added that the criticism of Islam leveled by Maher and Harris had “the tinge, a little bit, of how white racists talk about African Americans.”
Harris tried to explain he was not attacking Muslims as people but rather their applied theology, specifically the illiberal practices of stifling speech, suppressing women, stoning homosexuals, and separating infidels from their heads. “We have to be able to criticize bad ideas,” said Harris, “and Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas.” He lamented that Affleck refused to understand the point he was making. “I don’t understand it?” shouted Affleck. “Your argument is ‘You know, black people, we know they shoot each other, they’re blacks!’”
As Harris wrote after the fact, “What did he expect me to say to this -- I stand corrected?” For Harris, perhaps even for Maher, the show was a learning experience. “One of the most depressing things in the aftermath of this exchange is the way Affleck is now being lauded for having exposed my and Maher’s ‘racism,’ ‘bigotry,’ and ‘hatred of Muslims,’” wrote a dispirited Harris, already weary of the scarlet I for Islamophobe with which Affleck had branded him. “This is yet another sign that simply accusing someone of these sins, however illogically, is sufficient to establish them as facts in the minds of many viewers.”
Harris’s pout would have been much more convincing if people like he and Maher had not been doing to their opponents on the right exactly what they accused Affleck of doing to them. Smug, godless, and self-righteous, Maher has taken the whip to many a sinner, and I have, indirectly at least, felt the lash. In May 2011, he grilled the late Andrew Breitbart on my thesis that terrorist emeritus Bill Ayers had helped Obama write his memoir, Dreams from My Father.
“Let’s get on to the racism of today,” Maher said to Breitbart in introducing this subject. “You do not believe Obama wrote his own book.” To provoke Maher’s insinuation, Breitbart had simply tweeted that my evidence for Ayers’s involvement was “compelling.” For Maher, in 2011, that one tweet provided grist enough to pose a question with no safe answer, “Do you think you can be a racist and not know it?”
By helping to stifle speech on one front, Maher was empowering those like Affleck who were prepared to stifle it on another. The model was there for all to share. Call someone a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, or an Islamophobe, and you shut up all but the boldest. Those you can’t shut up -- a Pam Geller say or even a Donald Trump -- you dismiss as an extremist. With a war against the West raging, and real leaders silenced, institutions ranging from Yale and the University of Missouri to the White House and France’s Palais de l'Élysée are left in the hands of passive defenders and active collaborators.
Maher has his moments of clarity. If the West is to prevail, he and his buddies on the left need a whole lot more.
In his new book, Scarlet Letters: the Ever Increasing Intolerance of the Cult of Liberalism, Jack Cashill tackles Islamophobia and the unholy left’s other deadly sins.