I do not regularly watch Bill Maher’s show, but when I do, I usually like it. The man is bright, his lines are sharp. He has his ideological leanings, and often I do not agree with him. But I always admire his ability to corner others, respectfully, nevertheless mercilessly. In our politically deeply divided society, I always have seen Bill Maher as one of the pillars of the civilized but pitiless, candid-to-the-bone conversations on controversial issues.
Under the Trump presidency, the political conversations became even more polarizing. Whereas before demagogy and personal attacks occasionally had been tolerated, now in many public discussions they have become a standard. The way our president and top people from his administration talk about immigrants has established a new low in public conversation. Seeing opponents, or those perceived as opponents, as lesser humans than we are, has been accepted by too many.
I was never a fan of John McCain as he had his great moments and not-so-great ones, but, the way that President Trump attacked McCain I found distasteful and uncivilized. By continuing this after McCain died, President Trump broke one of the unwritten canons of civilized people: that we do not personally attack people who cannot defend themselves because they are dead.
Noticeably, this less humane behavior is mostly associated with people representing the so-called right wing of the political spectrum. People on the left present themselves as caring for others. Hate is mostly shown as the specialty of the so-called conservatives. Religious bigots are often pointed out as, paradoxically, being less sensitive than others to other people’s feelings and well-being. I purposely avoid using terms such as “conservative” or “liberal” because I find them not reflecting actual divisions within American society; hence, they’re meaningless.
Unfortunately, this uncivilized Trumpian behavior found a follower in an unexpected place. When covering the death of David Koch, on August 23, 2019, in his weekly show, Bill Maher proved that liberals and atheists can hate as well.
In case there are still people who do not know, David Koch was one of the richest persons in the United States, and together with his surviving brother, Charles Koch, used their wealth to create an extensive network of political influence with the purpose of propagating ideas of the free market. Mr. Maher is entitled to his one-sided interpretation of the political actions taken by the Koch brothers. But a vicious political attack against the dead man is buying into a Trump-style new low in our political discourse.
Climate change was the key point of the 89-second tirade. Mr. Maher blames David Koch for the fires in the Amazon. The line was as impressive as if I had said that Mr. Maher enjoys the present successes of socialism in Venezuela and hopes to live long enough to see it coming here. Except that Mr. Maher can discredit my opinion by replying to it.
Mr. Maher is correct that the Koch brothers spent sizable money to debunk the quasi-religious conviction that we face climate catastrophe caused by humans. I checked for myself. After glaciers disappeared on the northern portion of the continent several thousand years ago, the removed weight of ice has caused the magma to push the land upward. The mantle material under the surrounding regions still keeps moving toward the area that has lifted, resulting in the surrounding land sinking. We are talking of climate change that is a continuance of processes that caused glaciers to disappear thousands of years ago. We did not cause it; we cannot stop it.
Arguing that we should do something about it boils down to advocating for spending money we do not have. Presently, every day we pay more than one billion dollars in interest on the $22 trillion of federal government debt. Doing something about climate change would add anywhere between $10 trillion and $100 trillion to that debt; it depends on who is counting. It would mean that people eager to lend this money would be collecting a few more billions of dollars per day in interest. This would likely not much affect Mr. Maher, who is among the 1% of the richest people. It will make me poorer, together with the rest of the 99% of Americans. Hence, as Mr. Maher says that people who send condolences were owned by David. Koch, I feel as justified to say that Bill Maher spreads climate change fearmongering because he is owned by people eyeing those few additional billion dollars per day in collected interest. One can see that Mr. Maher made a wise choice because people ready to lend trillions of dollars are much richer than the Koch brothers and all their supporters put together.
Closing his Trump-style performance, Mr. Maher said: “I’m glad he’s dead, and I hope the end was painful.” It is noble to enjoy defeating an opponent on an even square by the power of one’s arguments. Taking a pleasure from enjoying someone’s else pain, especially when caused by a terminal illness, is plainly inhumane. Opposing socialism, people such as David Koch – me included – know that socialists always offer sweet promises, but when given the power to deliver them, they can be cruel and heartless. Emboldened by the joy of the death of David Koch, Mr. Maher showed the nasty side of a socialist. By this, he validated the lifetime work of David Koch devoted to countering socialism.
I wrote this column with sadness because I like the wit of Bill Maher. He worked for about 40 years to build his reputation. It took only 89 seconds of savagery to ruin it once – forever.