What’s the Matter with Bill Maher?

In 2012, I wrote an article for In These Times about class bigotry among both liberals and conservatives. On his TV show Real Time, Bill Maher has frequently made remarks mocking working-class whites and Americans who do not live on the coasts. When David Carr of The New York Times joined Maher on the program and joked about people with “low-sloping foreheads,” the pair received a lot of justifiable criticism. However, as I showed, many of the critics were conservatives with no room to talk on the subject of class bigotry.

I interviewed Carr for the article, which also addressed another controversial moment on Real Time. Maher showed a video of Alexandra Pelosi interviewing white conservatives in Mississippi, many of whom expressed overtly racist, homophobic, or religiously bigoted views. But the only people seen making bigoted statements in the video were working class and male. On Maher’s program the following week, Pelosi attempted to balance out her stereotypes by presenting interview footage, mostly of African-American men, filmed outside a New York City welfare office.

In one of the drafts of the article, I made a point that didn’t make it into the final edit. A Real Time viewer asked via e-mail why Pelosi did not interview “people of the most affluent areas.” She replied: “The problem with rich people is that they can hide . . . in their gated communities.” It’s too bad Nancy Pelosi’s daughter cannot gain access to any places frequented by the rich.

The real problem is that Maher often raises issues that don’t get addressed in other corporate media. But when he ridicules working-class and rural whites, he alienates people who might otherwise be ready to listen to a progressive message.

You can read the article here.