Monday, September 15, 2008

Real Time demolition of Bill Maher's guests

If you've HBO, then you probably watch Bill Maher's Real Time live on Fridays. It's a great show. If you don't have HBO take heart. Most of his segments are uploaded on YouTube in real time; well, almost. 

Bill Maher is a liberal; he skewers Republicans and Christist fundamentalists like there's no tomorrow. His audiences are mostly democrat-leaning, and so are his guests. Suffice to say that his panel is dominated by Democrat supporters, including a Hollywood personality or two. No, it's not exactly like the perversion witnessed on CNN-IBN aka Rajdeep TV-- or, Barkha TV, for that matter. Bill Maher is smart, intelligent and witty as hell. Totem to any South Asia-type anchor. He is secular, as in real secular, and atheist, as in real atheist,  unlike our homegrown variety. He is liberal in the real sense, too. For example, he had a  fundamentalist fashion show on his show(forgive the tautology) with women wearing veils. Bizzare? No. Funny, yes.

He is not a bleeding-heart liberal either. He wants a strong military for USA-- "I want America to have the biggest di*k in the world," his words; he is hated by the 9/11 truthers, the siblings of Godhra apologists who peddle the same conspiracy theory that the victim societes had brought it upon themselves, that is unless they themselves set themselves on fire. Yeah, despite the videos of 9/11 hijackers, despite the tapes of Osama bragging to his fellow jehadis that 9/11 was their doing their are some leftist geniuses out there who think it was a US gov, CIA, Mossad conspiracy. 

Anyway, this is about the latest episode of Real Time. He had three guests, eventually four and an interview: Salman Rushdie, Janeine Garofalo, and John Fund, later joined by Roseanne Barr. He interviewed Paul Begala, a Clinton strategist who is ubiquitous on CNN. But, as Bill Maher himself later acknowledged, John Fund did extremely well despite the hostile crowd and substantial opposition to him in the panel itself. 

You can view Fund's performance and conclude for yourself, but the important reason I cite it here is something else: a disturbing trend we witness among well-meaning Indians on various forums. A usual refrain in such places is to ignore this or that 'secular' personality, institution, publishing group rather than confront them with counterpoise. I agree banning, sequestering, ignoring can have its own merits, but there's no option to head-on confrontation sometimes. What John Fund did here is precisely that. What Swapan Dasgupta, Arun Shourie and Arun Jaitley do back home is not any different either. What Narendra Modi does time and again within the limits afforded to a politician is the same, too. This is not advocating for endless debate with the other side either. But way too often is the 'secular' hooting met with silence, which is in itself quite disturbing. It needs to change

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