“Our Republican friends have perhaps been better on Africa than my party.”—Ben Affleck
So everyone is in an uproar over Ben Affleck’s recent bout of idiocy on Bill Maher’s show. I can’t really defend them. They were dumb.
But everyone is only looking at what he said and missing the reason why they’re dumb and why he was still possibly the least dumb person on the show and is certainly more pragmatic than all the idiots heaping charges against him.
I’m sure you’ve seen it by now but if you haven’t here it is:
So I would like to point out a few things.
First on the same show they talk to Affleck on his charities in the Congo (where he is quite well versed, and he has been to several times). One should take into account that on his travels to Congo he has probably met a lot of people who describe themselves as Muslim (I will get back to my equivocating language there later), and thus probably has ample personal experience that tells him ‘not all Muslims are bad.’ Maher knows this and does nothing to seriously counter what is powerful anecdotal information for Affleck. Treating him like a typical insulated Hollywood liberal is not going to work, this is a man who does get his hands dirty when it comes to charities he cares about.
And this is the guy whose primary concern about an Israeli attack on Iran are that Israel doesn’t have the forces to “whack them [Iran] to the extent they need to be whacked.” He also has no qualms of describing Iran as Islamist. And he endorses a red line with military action to defend that line. Clearly not someone who is a knee jerk defender of Islamists.
Finally he’s in a debate with Bill Maher and Sam Harris. Two atheists who have on numerous occasions painted all religion as the opiate of the masses, the work of idiots, and only for the bloodthirsty. Quite frankly while most conservatives are probably agreeing with Maher right now with what he is saying about Islam, you should take a moment to realize he has said things just as offensive about all religions. He doesn’t really hate Islam because it’s violent, he hates it because it’s religion…when you look at his body of work he thinks all religions are just as bad, it’s just Islam happens to be worse right now. He has said things just as insulting, and I could probably find facts (usually not all that reliable) to back him up, and I’m pretty sure Affleck would have called him out on those as well.
Yeah Maher had some good facts about Islam. But David Duke can throw out some good facts too. But when you go into the arena with a known bigot, sane people take everything with a grain of salt because we all know the Devil can quote scripture to his own ends. And this is why having a bigot like Maher on the right side of this fight is actually a bad thing. His bigotry against religion taints sane argument.
Fun fact. There are only two belief systems in the history of the world that actively deny the divinity of the human soul. Islam is one. Atheism is the other. One has to wonder if the atheists are opposed to Islam for rational reasons…or because it’s intruding on their territory.
Yes the facts Bill Maher spouted were accurate (to a point he said 90% of Egyptians are in favor of death for apostasy, it’s really in the 70’s…also it’s not the best poll to quote as it shows most Muslims in the world don’t support death for apostasy) …but if you were in Affleck’s place, would you believe “facts” spouted by an idiot like Bill Maher? But for the most part Maher doesn’t use facts, he just wants Affleck to take him at his word…would you take Maher at his word if you hadn’t already done the research?
So when a known religious bigot starts speaking in broad terms, a moderately rational person is going to be suspicious. Affleck, with some incorrect liberal ideals, refuses to ever paint with that wide a brush, especially since he has first hand contact with Muslims who weren’t out to kill him. He reaches the wrong conclusion, but I have to say the way he got there was probably more rational than how Bill Maher got to the right conclusion.
That said, this should never have been a headline that I see on a dozen different sites and having to have at least 3 personal conversations about. I don’t care what the people I go to see movies believe for the most part. Yeah, it’s nice when I agree with them, but I’m paying for their talent not their beliefs (and quite frankly most of Affleck’s projects in recent years have a more conservative bend when it comes to their values…unlike his friend Matt Damon he isn’t out to make shit movies that shill liberalism). I only care about celebrities when they commit major crimes (Roman Polanski), go to enemy nations and bad mouth us (Sean Penn, Danny Glover), or are just evil anti-Semitic sacks of shit (Mel Gibson). You have to reach a high bar for me to boycott you. Just being dumb isn’t enough.
But you know who is far dumber than Ben Affleck? All the conservatives who decided to throw a hissy fit over this. Good God, people, it was said on Real Time with Bill Maher…i.e., no one outside of media watch dogs saw it initially. If you had just ignored it, no one would care. But no, you had to start a jihad where saying it’s terrible that Affleck said that a known bigot like Maher sounds like a bigot. Do they teach courses for conservative media figures on how to shoot our party in the foot? You know conservatives might dislike what Affleck said, and some may even know why what he said is wrong…but guess what guys, we come off looking like the assholes liberals try to make us appear to be to the moderates Affleck probably appeared to the be most reasonable person there. We did ourselves no favors in making this an issue.*
Hey, how do you think Brietbart can lose us a few more votes before the election? I’m sure they’ll think of something.
Now let’s get to the real reason why both Maher and Affleck were wrong. At one point in this debate Affleck points out “What is your solution? To condemn Islam?” The correct answer would be: YES. But both he and Maher are too clueless to realize it because they both want to argue about people. Maher thinks that everyone who adopts the title Muslim is by nature evil and there are just a few outliers, Affleck thinks the opposite. The problem with both their views is that it has a radically flawed view of humanity.
To get a sadly correct view of humanity we need to go to 1930’s Germany. Yeah, I know this sounds like it will be a cliché, but there is a reason why we always go to this, it offers a stark view of human nature. Hitler didn’t win his election for President of Germany in 1932, he only got 37%. Something everyone forgets, the Nazi party was never actually elected to power…he slipped was appointed Chancellor by the winner of the election (and when the President died two years later…well you know how that goes). The majority of Germany was not actively in favor of the Nazi party. Which is why a decade later they all like to claim “I wasn’t a Nazi, I was a Good German.” The problem is that there was no such thing as a Good German**. They were all guilty because they sat by and did nothing to stop it. Apathy and silence in the face of evil is giving silent consent, and just because you personally didn’t shoot Jews doesn’t mean you didn’t help load the gun through your silence.
And it’s not just Germany that has this problem. The vast majority of humanity gives silent consent again and again to evil throughout history. Decent people would have rose up and killed tyrants without mercy and quarter after students were run over in Tiananmen Square. Decent people would never have let Stalin breathe after his first order to send the innocent to Siberia. I could go on, but why bother. History is often stories of a small group of tyrants allowed to do what they will because people will turn a blind eye and choose surviving over living. ***
And this is where Affleck makes his mistake. He thinks that because there is a group of Muslims who are not actively involved in the butchery they are innocent and should not be blamed. They’re the Good Germans. They’re not. These are the people who sat back and let Hamas take over in Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (for a time), ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and the Ayatollah in Iran. When in the face of such evil you don’t do something to stop it, your cowardice allows it to happen. And the very sad fact is that everyone in these regions has had a choice to fight or be silent and help evil…and with the exception of the Kurds**** and Israel nobody in that area seems to want to step up to evil. So I don’t think Affleck’s defense is all that warranted.*****
And on the flip side Maher has the opposite view of Affleck, that they’re all guilty because they have embraced religion. And to him it’s not really Islam, it’s a fanatical religion. He thinks that this is every religion given a chance…if he really understood what differentiates Islam from other religions (As I said Islam and atheism are the only religions that deny the divinity of the soul, and Islam is the only religion that condemns reason…Maher ignorantly believes that all religions condemn reason, but an intelligent reading of all other religions show that they believe that reason and faith go hand in hand) he wouldn’t be the bigot he is. He and Harris thinks they’re condemning ideas (as Harris says in the exchange “It’s not condemning people, it’s ideas.”) but they aren’t attacking the right ideas. Harris and Maher are attacking religion (Islam just happens to be the first target) not Islam specifically.
Everybody on this panel was stupid******. And the conservative media was dumb to make an issue of it.
*You ever notice the conservative media which likes to say that Romney made too many flubs, makes more flubs on a daily basis than Romney ever could?
** Okay there were, there was the resistance in Germany and there were people hiding Jews…they were so far in the minority it’s hardly worth talking about for the purposes of this article.
***If I hadn’t already justly insulted Mel Gibson, there might be a movie I would reference here…can he just hurry up and die so I can buy it on DVD without moral qualms.
****Please note that the Kurds are an ethnic group, there are Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian Kurds.
*****You might then wonder why I’m a neocon if I hold the masses in so low an opinion. Because there are individuals who are standing up, people who will be given liberty and the chance to live a full and meaningful life. They deserve that chance, no matter how few they are. Those are the people we fight for. The lone figures who stand in front of a tank and get mowed down because others did not stand up to help them resist tyranny.
******I will fully admit that I have my suspicions that Bill Maher is not really the person he pretends to be on camera, and will just adopt whatever idiotic persona he feels will bring in ratings…but either way, he’s still an ass.