March 05, 2005

Really Hard To Like Maher Anymore

Not that Bill Maher cares at this point, but it's really hard to sympathize for the guy after seeing even a short excerpt from his last show, where Ward Churchill was a guest. Bill Maher basically lobs the softest of all softballs at Churchill, surpassing even Larry King's kiss-ass coverage style. Here's the link (tip to lgf).

It was possible to ignore or diminish the comments that got ABC (parent company: Disney) to knock Politically Incorrect off the air. He said something to the effect of the terrorists, whatever else could be said of them, having courage to fly into a building. While obviously it would take insanity (not so much courage) to fly into buildings, the terrorists took over civilian airliners to fly into civilian targets. If they had real courage then they could have engaged the US military in open combat, announcing their intentions sufficiently prior to attack and obeying all the rules of war - including insignia and uniforms. But I digress. The point is that what he said, if given both the benefit of the doubt and a sufficiently contrived perspective, could be forgiven or at least ignored.

His latest issue is setting up a forum for Ward Churchill to explain, in no blushing manner, why the victims DESERVED to be killed. Make no mistake, that's why he called them little Eichmanns - he didn't mean they were little Nazis, only that their deaths were justifiable and even laudable. Maher giving voice to these comments is one thing, and one level beyond giving voice to digging out Churchill's "side of the story" is still more or less innocent. It could be nothing more than getting all perspectives on an issue. But Maher actually gives him a deeply sympathetic platform from which to preach his insanity.

On the actual merits of Churchill's argument: it's pointless to argue with radical socialists because they see things in such a strange and irrelevant manner. You might as well argue with a radical PETA person who says America deserve to be attacked because we eat meat or cut down trees or because we kill bacteria with antibiotics. Churchill is essentially blaming the world financial system - what 19th century socialists just called 'capital' - for most of the hurting in the world. Since a lot of the US is pushing that system and most of us are supporting it or benefiting from it, we must be guilty.

Of course, in the wider sense he blames Americans for things we haven't done - the mass death of American Indians, the Middle Passage of the slave trade, the sanctions against Iraq, etc. It's fallacious to blame modern-day Americans for historical events, either positively or negatively. We weren't alive, it cannot be our fault and the guilt cannot be transferred to us. The sanctions in Iraq can be blamed on the governments participating in it, but not their citizens. Of course, if the sanctions against Iraq were a motivating factor behind the 9/11 attacks then that clearly puts Iraq in the middle of the War on Terror (which is the essence of the Moore/MoveOn opposition to the second Gulf war).

I could really go into excruciating detail on the issue, since I've invested a great deal of energy determining the distinctions between innocent casualty and justifiable homicide, or the difference between combatant and noncombatant. But the point is that Churchill seeks to blame regular Americans for all crimes ostensibly committed by white people (remember, a lot of the Middle Passage deaths were to Spanish and Portuguese colonies, especially Brazil) and then justify the deaths of the WTC employees by whatever twisted means necessary. He seeks to indict capitalism and that requires connecting some functionaries and accountants to grand global crimes.

What's more interesting is that the deaths of American Indians - undeniably tragic, as in excess of 90% were killed over a few centuries' time - came from disease. Considering the state of European medicine prior to Pasteur's work, Europeans probably didn't even realize what they were doing in the way of infecting the locals. Now, certainly Europeans benefited in that disease removed a lot of the people that would have stiffened competition for land and resources, but you can't really say they knew what they were doing when it happened. A lot of the other conflicts with American Indians and European-extracted settlers arose over TRADE, less than land itself. The natives were very interested in trade and a lot of conflicts among the various Indian groups and with the white settlers were over trading privileges, monopolies and the like. Naturally expansion was always an issue with Europeans moving steadily toward the Pacific, but it's fallacious to assume that all the conflict was one-sided. There were undeniably many Native American victims - the Trail of Tears, Cherokee v. Georgia, etc. - but it's simply deceitful how often ALL the millions of deaths are portrayed as mass murder when really most of them were pointless: uneducated immune people infecting uneducated non-immune people.

The death of many would-be slaves on the Atlantic was one of the worst parts of colonial chattel slavery. It's the reason why the slave trade (the actual transport from Africa to the western hemisphere of slaves) was banned pursuant to the Constitution in 1808 in this country. Brazil continued importing massive amounts of slaves into the 1870s (slave plantations in Brazil went through slaves like they were tissue paper). This is surely one of the grandest crimes perpetrated in recorded history. Unfortunately, it's not so cut and dried that it was white people against black people or Europeans against Africans; the actual capturing of slaves, despite what we've learned from Roots, was done by other Africans. Even though the captured Africans would jump from the European slave boats and even though it later came back to Africa (ironically from European Christian missionaries) that slavery was horrendously dangerous and difficult, the African slavers continued to sell other Africans to Europeans. Does this mean black people are evil? No. Does this mean slavery was somehow absolved because it's not a giant hate crime? Absolutely not. All it means is that simplistic minds want to contort history into some monolithic racial, cultural and economic parable of the big guy beating up the little guy and it's usually not nearly so... black and white.


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