Last week on his HBO show, Bill Maher announced a clip filmed by Alexandra Pelosi that was purporting to show the folks who were going to vote in the Republican primary in Mississippi. Pelosi (daughter of former speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi) had made her reputation with the documentary Journeys with George, based on 18 months of trailing along George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign.
The bits of interview last week basically represented Mississippi Republicans as toothless, possibly mentally ill food stamp recipients unable to vote their self interests because of strange notions about God.
I’d heard that Maher was going to somehow follow-up on this tonight, and so, pissed as I was about last week’s effort, I tuned in. First, he noted that “educated” Mississippians had expressed offense but that this was what Pelosi found when she went to the “poorer” areas. He then explained that the recent PPP pool proves this representative, and cited some numbers from the poll that suggest a lot of Mississippians have strange or racist beliefs about evolution, interracial mariage, and the like, without examining the question of who the other 50+ percent of us might be.*
Then, after a bit of interview with Pelosi, he said he was going to show a bit of corrective video, and showed an interview with the doorman at Pelosi’s Manhattan apartment, who made negative noises at the folks lined up across the street at what was said to be a welfare office.** She then crossed the street and started interviewing (all black) folks in line for welfare.
To put it simply: Pick a representation of southern rednecks– The Beverly Hillbillies, the bad guys in Deliverance, whatever. Pick a representation of blacks– Amos and Andy, or anything from minstrelsy. And the white Mississippians last week were as bad or worse than the first group, while the black New Yorkers this week were as bad or worse than the second group. Maher is essentially saying, “I’m just funning with offensive stereotypes here,” right?
I don’t know what the punch line was, because I changed the channel, in hopes of seeing Xavier upset Notre Dame and take the bad taste out of my mouth. Bigotry is bigotry, and all of this made me understand Maher’s defense of Rush Limbaugh. I’m not sure I’d call it a boycott (with Maher or Limbaugh, either one), but I’m not willing to give Maher the opportunity to count me in his audience. I’m done with him and his show.
I don’t want to feed Maher links, unless folks request it.
*I will say that at one point almost four years ago, I saw a figure for the number of white Mississippians who voted for the Democratic ticket and thought: ”Hey, I must know all of them personally if that’s correct.”
**By this point, I was wondering if Maher was attempting the kind of satire that is a regular feature of John Stewart’s show, but from a mean-spirited perspective and unwilling to be honest about the lines between fact and satire. That is, he was too much of an asshole to pull it off.