Bill Maher’s flaccid denunciation of corporate news

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Maher (Via DonkeyHotey, flickr)

Maher (Via DonkeyHotey, flickr)

Maher’s skewering of Brian Williams & Co loses focus and fizzles out after a few sentences.

[A]s usual, Bill Maher, the establishment liberals’ enfant terrible, lost a great opportunity to really delve deeply and effectively into the bankruptcy of corporate media “news” by wasting his criticism of NBC’s Brian Williams on superficialities and cheap, tiresome humor. He should have known better. Pointing out the innumerable peccadilloes is correct and valid, as far as it goes, but why consume precious airtime on such trivia while ignoring the big capital offenses?

It’s obvious that Maher and his producers neither read nor care much about a more muscular analysis of what is killing the information system, perhaps the most vital resource we have at this time of global crisis. For a show whose own brand image is being outspoken and irreverential, how difficult is it to find a hard-hitting analysis of Brian Williams’ “big sin,” and to sum it all up in a few sentences for the benefit of a mass audience? I’d say, not hard at all. All it takes is to step outside the comfortable and self-reinforcing boundaries of the “establishment Bubble”, the “group think” that Maher and his liberal cohorts inhabit, and conduct a simple search. With Google around, the excuse of “invisibility” of alternative opinion does not cut it any more, certainly not for a professional team of writers among which, I presume, Maher employs a few bright youngsters under the age of 70.

The only truth that Maher pronounced—early in his tirade— was that the network news “sucks”—which just about everyone and his uncle on any point of the political spectrum is saying nowadays (including the army of cretins and the clueless who also feel entitled to opine), but beyond that he stepped into the abyss of his own intellectual shallowness, leaving the subject mired in complete nebulousness.

Yes, Bill, “the media suck”, all three networks suck. Big time. Agree. And thousands of other capitalist media suck, too, as numerosity does not mean diversity, never has and never will. The problem is they don’t suck just by accident or mere ineptitude (which naturally exists in a huge machine largely populated by mediocrities), but chiefly by design. It’s a matter of class interest, folks, the jealously guarded privilege of the owners of big media in a private property system.

For what we have today in the US and other nations where the Western media formula prevails, is a subtle but totalitarian system of disinformation in the service of world capitalism—the web of plutocracies headed by the American ruling elites, backed up by the US military—what Paul Craig Roberts so aptly calls, “the presstitutes.”

So what does an utterance like, “the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams sucks” really means? What does it explain? Adding that the other two networks field similar bollocks is useless. Hurling epithets without correct analysis is like fighting an advancing tank column with spitballs.

So the Network news suck alright, but why? 

People can arrive at some momentarily lucid social diagnosis from different perspectives, but the challenge is what to do about the problem, and that’s where clarity, precision, and truth matter. Bigots on the right see the mainstream media as controlled by commies, gays, pedophiles, blacks, insufficiently “patriotic”and warmongering traitors, not to mention that they believe it is much too subservient to Emperor Obama, the new Stalin (or Hitler!) in their confused and often clueless minds, so saying the media suck these days is as controversial as defending apple pie. The wingnuts’ contempt for the mainstream media is typically idiotic  (even though the media deference to Obama is real) but the point here is that if even such people agree with Maher, then the comic’s supposedly brave denunciation advances nothing.

While not a surprise, this is a pity. For with the Williams faux pas in the headlines, capturing the American public’s notoriously short attention, it would have been easy to lay some withering fire at the media impostors and those who hide behind the organized lies, but, well, Maher’s own paycheck depends on not digging too deeply, playing obtuse, while giving the illusion of defiant analysis, so maybe he simply instinctively remained on the perimeter. (Incidentally, John Oliver, also on HBO, pushes the boundaries much more aggressively, and often provides cogent examinations of capitalist crimes on the home front.)

That said, the above is just my conjecture. Did Maher really sabotage this segment on purpose? The “New Rules” is the most widely quoted part of his show, and he knows it. With the evidence of a true Orwellian Ministry of Truth staring down at him, how could Maher and his scribes manage to miss it? How could he avoid even alluding to it? It is truly hard to believe.

Our site alone, which is not that difficult to locate, has run several excellent pieces on the topic.(1) In an early outing on l’affaire Williams, the estimable and always brave Cenk Uygur set the proper tone with the following broadside:

People think that Brian Williams is the problem because he exaggerated a war story about Iraq? Are you kidding me? The whole war was based on a monstrous lie that almost the entire media enabled and perpetuated. That’s the real problem.(2)

Precisely. Cenk filed his tongue lashing on February 9th. On the 6th, Paul Craig Roberts, one of the powerful truth-tellers of our time (and former establishmentarian himself), had also castigated the media’s hypocrisy in conclusive terms: (2) 

So the question is: Why are the presstitutes all over some hapless journalist rather than holding accountable the Great Liars, John Kerry and Barak Obama?

The answer is: It is costless to the presstitutes to try to destroy, for totally insignificant reasons–perhaps just for the pleasure of it, like “American Sniper” killing people for fun–one of their own, but they would be fired if they hold Kerry and Obama accountable, and they know it. But they have to get someone, so they eat their own…

A democracy without an honest media cannot exist. In America democracy is a facade behind which operates every evil inclination of mankind. During the past 14 years the American people have supported governments that have invaded, bombed, or droned seven countries, killing, maiming, and displacing millions of people for no reason other than profit and hegemonic power. There is scant sign that this has caused very many Americans sleepless nights or a bad conscience.

And then this:

Washington and its fawning presstitutes branded the elected Ukrainian government that was a victim of Washington’s coup, “a corrupt dictatorship.” The replacement government consists of a combination of Washington puppets and neo-nazis with their own military forces sporting Nazi insignias. The American presstitutes have been careful not to notice the Nazi insignias.

It takes a lot of effort to avoid such commentary, as Google is implacable, and —so far—apparently impartial.  But it gets worse. Other coherent voices also denounced the travesty represented by the inquisition unleashed on Williams. In an article on the same subject, filed by Dave Walsh on Feb 12, (Walsh is one of the most insightful observers of the cultural arena in the US albeit banned to limbo by the ideological gatekeepers), NBC suspends news anchor Brian Williams over Iraq war episode, I inserted an introduction deck that read thusly:

Williams is not being punished for his bigger, real sins, to have willingly participated in a huge disinformation machine that, in the service of global capitalism, enables wars and thievery on all continents, but for accidentally alerting the public to the fact that the “respected” big media journalists are indeed liars.

Some points in Walsh’s critique bear repeating here. (I strongly suggest you also read the whole essay.) They zero in on what the intellectually lazy Maher left out, which is the obvious, like simple matters of proportionality:

“Williams’ transgressions, in the grand scheme of things, are relatively minor. If he is to be suspended half a year for falsifying one incident in the Iraq invasion, what is the fitting penalty for those commentators and pundits who helped plunge the US into the catastrophic invasion and occupation through their systematic deception?

What should be done, for instance, with Wolf Blitzer and Christiane Amanpour of CNN, Richard Engel of NBC, Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, Bill Keller, Judith Miller and Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, Rupert Murdoch and the maniacs at Fox News, the heads of all the networks, the editorial boards of the leading newspapers, and hundreds of other prominent figures who deliberately and knowingly lied to the American people and continue to lie today about the crimes of the CIA, Russian “aggression” and so forth—people whose hands drip with blood?

In terms of filthiness and criminality, there is no comparison between those responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the destruction of entire countries, on the one hand, and Williams’ somewhat pathetic self-aggrandizement, on the other.

Had Maher said something along those lines, he would have performed a signal service of political education for the masses. Instead, despite the bluster and widely shared self-complacency, he remained pitifully vague. He chose safety over duty. Again, nothing new for a corporate servant, but we should always keep in mind that thanks to Maher and his ilk the criminal is still at large, while pseudo denunciations reign supreme.

Patrice Greanville is founding editor of The Greanville Post. 


Real Time with Bill Maher: The News is Broken (HBO)


(1) See for example,
• NBC Suspends News Anchor Brian Williams
My Ironic Defense of Brian Williams
• The Fact-Checked Adventures of Brian Williams

The Cowardly and Despicable American Presstitutes

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