Comedian-commentator Bill Maher has been getting a lot of attention lately for trying to get a lot of attention. He generally goes about this by using sexist hate speech against attractive, powerful, and intelligent conservative women like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, calling them female vulgarisms, for instance, or, as most recently, hosting comedians who fantasize aloud about sexually abusing them. Yet another attractive, powerful, and intelligent conservative woman (gee, there are a lot of those, aren’t there?), Ann Coulter, who is Maher’s friend, feels that these childish displays should be ignored. “I am sick of this show getting so much free publicity just because they use the f-word, the c-word, say something stupid,” Coulter said on FOX News’s late-night show, Red Eye. “All they are saying is, ‘I hate Michele Bachmann,’ ‘I hate Sarah Palin.’ Except they’re saying, ‘I [expletive] hate Michele Bachmann,’ ‘I [expletive] hate Sarah Palin.’ And then conservative blogs and this show say, ‘Oh, they use the f-word,’ and then they get 8 billion times more viewers.”
As so often, Coulter makes a good point. Maher, who is only just so funny and only just so bright and only just so popular, seems rather desperately to be turning himself into a moral Elephant Man in an attempt to draw the gawkers. The dignified reaction would be to walk on by, warning the children not to stare at the poor fellow because he has an affliction, God bless him.
I suppose it would also be self-diminishing to allow oneself to feel frustrated by the fact that the leftists of the so-called mainstream media regularly twist themselves into knots to make conservative speech sound hateful while ignoring the routine and open hatefulness that permeates the speech on their side and theirs alone. Sarah Palin is upbraided as violent for “targeting” congressional districts; Tea Partiers are called racist (often by Maher) for criticizing Barack Obama’s policies; I myself was recently accused of advocating violence toward women after I joked along with a silly video made by left-wing comedian Jimmy Kimmel in which Speaker of the House John Boehner doinked former speaker Nancy Pelosi on the head with the speaker’s gavel. Meanwhile, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews compares Republicans to terrorists, Jon Stewart implies that Michele Bachmann’s husband is a homosexual, and Maher hurls his filth at conservative women, and we’re more or less obligated to turn a blind eye so as not to encourage them.
But with a bow to Coulter’s wisdom, there does seem to me to be one thing worth saying about Maher and the others. Their ugliness seems to be escalating day by day, and with it the dishonesty, distortions, and bullying anger of their mainstream-media fellow travelers. There’s a reason for this, I think. It’s the increasingly apparent failure of Barack Obama. With the notable exception of Osama bin Laden’s execution, the Obama presidency has resembled nothing so much as an episode of Mr. Bean, one slapstick misadventure after another. The stagnant economy, the rising unemployment, the staggering, soon-to-be-crippling debt—hiked more under Obama than under every president from Washington to Reagan combined—these can no longer be blamed on his predecessor but are his to own.
This has to be fantastically humiliating for our left-wing media. If you’ve forgotten what they were like during Obama’s 2008 candidacy—the weirdly sexual thrills up their legs, the unreasoning comparison of Obama with America’s greatest men, the pseudo-religious idolatry—you have only to turn to August’s edition of Esquire to find a representative reminder that has to be read to be believed. It’s a column from Canadian writer Stephen Marche hilariously titled “How Can We Not Love Obama?” and subtitled “Because like it or not, he is all of us.” At one point, Marche writes: “‘I am large, I contain multitudes,’ Walt Whitman wrote, and Obama lives that lyrical prophecy.” And later—and I swear I’m not making this up: “Barack Obama is developing into what Hegel called a ‘world-historical soul,’ an embodiment of the spirit of the times. He is what we hope we can be.”
What might once have been dismissed as an embarrassing lapse into bobby-soxer squealery now has to be recognized as a desperate attempt to keep a dying euphoria alive. Likewise the increasingly low and vulgar meanness of Maher and all his cronies. It may, on the one hand, be the tactic of second-rung celebrities desperate for more attention, but it may at the same time represent the dismay of yet another generation of leftists waking from yet another utopian daydream to find themselves in a disaster of their own making.