Bill Maher is very upset Black Lives Matter protesters went after Hillary Clinton
On Friday night’s episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher” the host steered the panel discussion in the direction of Ashley Williams, the Black Lives Matter activist who interrupted a private event being held by Hillary Clinton. Maher failed to comprehend why anyone associated with Black Lives Matter would dare to question Clinton, despite Williams having explained this herself several times.
The segment starts with Maher tossing out a fun straw man to prove that he’s already right by saying “As we all know, racism’s epicenter is the Oscars and Hillary Clinton. Oh wait. That’s crazy.” Yes, it is, and literally nobody has argued either of those things. When he brings up Williams’ actions he says:
You know, of the thousand things I could complain about with Hillary Clinton, being racist really doesn’t rise to the top of it. It sure is fun being purer than everybody else, but does this person realize that Donald Trump in South Carolina, 20% of the voters who voted for Donald Trump disagree with the Emancipation Proclamation? And this is who you’re going after? This is where we start the battle, you fucking idiots!
First of all, this is far from the start of the battle, which Maher should probably be aware of. Black Lives Matter didn’t suddenly appear three days ago out of thin air at a Hillary Clinton fundraiser. People associated with the movement have actually been doing this fun thing called “protesting” for a while now (you may have seen it on the news occasionally). Sometimes they even show up at Donald Trump rallies where they start yelling “Black lives matter!” They tend to get thrown out of those rallies, sometimes violently. But sure, let’s call this the “start” of the battle, because facts get in the way of bad arguments.
The crowd bursts into applause but Maher is immediately met with disagreement from guests Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk) and Michael Eric Dyson (professor of sociology at Georgetown University). Dyson quickly points out “They’re not claiming that Hillary is a racist. What they’re saying is that negative racial consequences flowed from mass incarceration.” He also says credit should be given to Clinton for apologizing for the use of the term “superpredators” when referring to gang members, although Williams herself disagrees with that.
Maher, meanwhile, simply spouts the always useful “it was taken out of context” defense of Clinton’s comments. Here is her statement about gangs of superpredators in context:
The “taken out of context” defense can really only be applied to the fact that when these comments resurfaced recently, videos and quotes often started with “They’re not just gangs of kids anymore,” removing the explanation that the gangs were connected to drug cartels. That still in no way changes the fact that she referred to the kids who made up these gangs as “superpredators” with “no conscience, no empathy” and saying “we have to bring them to heel.”
Dyson does say he feels it’s sexist for people to blame Hillary for mass incarceration when it was her husband who was president at the time. It is certainly unfair for people to dump all of the blame at her feet, but considering her support for the 1994 crime bill, it’s not exactly sexist to question her on her record.
Bill Maher still doesn’t understand why anyone would attack Clinton’s record when the Republicans are so much worse. This is a bad line of thinking. Being the lesser of two evils (for lack of a more nuanced term) doesn’t not make you immune to criticism. As Ruffalo puts it:
The party that was supposed to be for black people has let them down continuously, and that’s why the Black Lives Matter movement is going after the democrats. Because they’re the ones who are supposed to be on their side. They’ve given up on Republicans.
There are some issues with this statement as well, the biggest one being that it does that thing where it treats all black people as one monolithic block with the same values and ideas. The basic point though, is that the party that is supposedly better for black people is still far from good for them, and pointing that out doesn’t make you a fucking idiot. Dyson agrees with Ruffalo, stating that while he fully supports Clinton, there is absolutely nothing wrong with pointing out the ways in which the Democratic party has let down black people in the past.
Maher, unfazed by reason, retorts “People need to learn the difference between an imperfect friend and a deadly enemy. You wanna tear Hillary Clinton down? Great, then enjoy President Trump. It’s telling that Maher considers asking Clinton about her own words tearing her down.
The segment continues with some back and forth and people joking about Maher’s use of the word “they” when referring to black people, but ultimately Dyson ends up explaining to Maher that holding your tongue about “imperfect friends” isn’t necessary a good strategy. “The reason we are talking about this today is because they have been effective in forcing a conversation we’d rather avoid,” he says.
This entire argument, by the way, has already played out with Bernie Sanders. If you recall, when Black Lives Matter activists interrupted Sanders at a rally in Seattle, the initial reaction from a lot of people was to question why they would choose to target Sanders, a lifelong supporter of civil rights who, in case you haven’t heard by now, marched with Dr. Martin Luther King. It was only in the wake of that protest however that the Sanders campaign released a detailed plan for dealing with criminal justice reform in this country. Forcing people to confront these issues is a good thing.
Bill Maher is perfectly happy to be another rich white guy telling black people how to behave, though.