Bill Maher, professional Islamaphobe, hosted the now former Breitbart editor—Milo Yiannopoulos—on his show last Friday. By Monday, Milo had been disinvited from CPAC—the conference you would show to someone if you needed to quickly describe how Republicans lost their damn minds in selling out to an infotainment complex whose only exports are hatred, fear and ignorance. If you had a concussion and no idea what happened in between Maher’s show and Milo’s dismissal, this response by Maher to Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times today could maybe make sense:
Well, let’s recap. About a week ago, I went on Van Jones’s show, and somebody asked me about the booking. I hadn’t really gotten into the details of Milo yet. He was just getting on my radar. I said, specifically, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Then we had Milo on, despite the fact that many people said, “Oh, how dare you give a platform to this man.” What I think people saw was an emotionally needy Ann Coulter wannabe, trying to make a buck off of the left’s propensity for outrage. And by the end of the weekend, by dinnertime Monday, he’s dropped as a speaker at CPAC. Then he’s dropped by Breitbart, and his book deal falls through. As I say, sunlight is the best disinfectant. You’re welcome.
You’re welcome??? Milo was a massive personality before Maher booked him, and it’s hard to see how broadcasting his fraudulence in front of a predominantly liberal audience moved the needle in CPAC’s offices any more than this column will.
By Maher’s logic, exposing Milo on his show, and having Larry Wilmore tell him to “go fuck yourself” comprised at least a significant part of the last stand for a conference that is basically the supervillain origin story of Donald Trump’s id. Laughable doesn’t even begin to describe this position. Maher is inflating his own id with this viewpoint, nearly matching our commander-in-Cheeto’s. ACU Chairman Matt Schapp very clearly stated why they removed one of the world’s most desperate wannabe-subversives from CPAC’s lineup:
“Due to the revelation of an offensive video in the past 24 hours condoning pedophilia, the American Conservative Union has decided to rescind the invitation of Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference.”
If you are unaware of the video in question, here are Yiannopoulos’s comments that surfaced from the Drunken Peasants podcast, causing a firestorm over the weekend:
This sort of arbitrary and oppressive idea of consent, which totally destroys you know understanding that many of us have. The complexities and subtleties and complicated nature of many relationships. You know, people are messy and complex. In the homosexual world particularly. Some of those relationships between younger boys and older men, the sort of coming of age relationships, the relationships in which those older men help those young boys to discover who they are, and give them security and safety and provide them with love and a reliable and sort of a rock where they can’t speak to their parents.
After being interrupted and a bit of back and forth, one questioner said “you are advocating for cross-generational relationships here, can we be honest about that?”
Yiannopoulos continued tightening the rope around his neck, answering:
Yeah, I don’t mind admitting that. I think particularly in the gay world and outside the Catholic church, if that’s where some of you want to go with this, I think in the gay world, some of the most important, enriching and incredibly life affirming, important shaping relationships very often between younger boys and older men, they can be hugely positive experiences for those young boys. They can even save those young boys, from desolation, from suicide (people talking over each other)… providing they’re consensual.
Yowza. The hot take to end all hottaeks was a bridge too far for the conference that was totally fine with slapping their brand on someone who called a Buzzfeed reporter “a typical example of a sort of thick-as-pig shit media Jew, who has all these sort of right, P.C. politics.” Or writing headlines like “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women In Tech, They Just Suck At Interviews.” Justifying pedophilia is certainly more heinous than your garden variety antisemitism and sexism, but let’s not pretend like this was that out of character for someone who has demonstrated very little.
So what does this all have to do with Bill Maher? That’s a terrific question. His segment with Milo on the panel is a far cry from the crusading journalist Maher painted himself as when he told the New York Times “you’re welcome.”
He said that Milo’s view on not wanting “men who are confused about their sexual identities in [little girls’] bathrooms” was “not unreasonable.” Which, fine, when those words are taken literally and without any context, is an understandable position—but a simple Google search of the man parroting that viewpoint clearly demonstrates that “men who are confused about their sexual identities” comprises a wider swath of people than the literal definition that those words imply.
In a bizarre show of solidarity, Maher piggybacked off this point, joking to former Congressman Jack Kingston—one of Donald Trump’s lap dogs—”Jack, where do you stand on weridos peeing?” Even Yiannopoulos incredulously asked “did you just call transgender people weirdos?” This face might be the only time I’ve ever been in complete agreement with Milo.
Maher interrupted Yiannopoulos’ back and forth after Wilmore told him to “go fuck himself” saying:
Just shut up for one fuckin’ second, really, I mean—look, this is the beginning of your career, people are only just starting to hate you. I’m just saying, you have the potential to morph—I mean you remind me of like a young, gay, alive Christopher Hitchens, but you’ve gotta lose that kind of shit by telling them they’re dumb.
Bill Maher once called Christopher Hitchens a “friend,” yet now that Milo is a pariah even in some of the zaniest corners of the web, all of a sudden he’s “an emotionally needy Ann Coulter wannabe.” Yeah, sure Bill. Maher continued to try to talk Yiannopoulos off the ledge and back towards the panel by separating him from the alt-right, saying “they’re not all your fans.” This effort on Maher’s behalf to normalize a professional agitator seemed to imply that he values pissing people off more than the content which pisses people off.
If there was any doubt as to how detached from reality Maher is, his answer to Itzkoff’s question asking whether there could have been more accountability in his segments with Yiannopoulos is eye-opening:
It’s not my job to hold him accountable to everything he’s ever said or done. I had eight minutes with him, on the show itself. Sorry I don’t have time to go over everything everybody else would want to do. We just had time to, sort of, start a discussion of the broad view of who he is. I don’t think he frankly knows what he’s going to say half the time, or knows what his philosophy is. But to see him as this monster is a little crazy. You know what he is? He’s the little impish, bratty kid brother. And the liberals are his older teenager sisters who are having a sleepover and he puts a spider in their sleeping bag so he can watch them scream.
Let’s quickly recap Maher’s positions from Friday up to Wednesday morning’s interview:
— Milo’s stance on transgendered people is “not unreasonable.”
— Milo is like a young Christopher Hitchens.
— Actually Milo is “an emotionally needy Ann Coulter wannabe.”
— Milo’s words and actions are like a little brother putting a spider in his sister’s sleeping bag (I would pay good money to watch him say this to Leslie Jones’ face)
— It’s not my job to hold Milo accountable.
— Milo lost his job in large part due to his appearance on my show (which inherently suggests that it held him accountable).
Bill Maher deserves credit for creating a show that takes risks and has more intellectual diversity than the vast majority of the cable news programs it emulates. The hour-long format allows for extensive discussion that ventures past simple talking points. The best parts of Bill Maher’s show are everything but Bill Maher. Providing a platform for Yiannopoulos to defend his views against serious challengers is reasonable—as was Jeremy Scahill’s decision to pull himself off the show after learning of Milo’s booking. This is what free speech is all about.
However, what Maher trafficked in during the panel was closer to starfucking than free speech. He clearly saw a subversiveness in Milo that he admired—or at least wanted to admire—and tried to paint him as something that a quick search of the web would clearly demonstrate that he isn’t. Maher’s comments and behavior suggest that he didn’t want Milo on his show—he wanted his version of Milo on the show. Now that the only people defending Yiannopoulos are those with Nazi frog avatars (and he’s even lost a significant chunk of those shut-ins), all of a sudden Maher pretends to be disgusted with him when the tape clearly demonstrates otherwise.
Maher is supposedly a comedian, but he stopped being funny a long time ago (and judging by the fact that I only laughed at his jokes as a teenager, I’m not sure he ever was). He perfectly demonstrated his lameness over the weekend by ripping off a joke from Chelsea freaking Clinton, whose version of this low-hanging fruit is marginally funnier. Note the timestamp on these nearly identical tweets.
After I pointed this out on Twitter, user @TomBales1 replied with an impeccable comparison.
So if Maher isn’t a comedian, and he’s not a journalist, what is he? Well, his interview in today’s New York Times reveals his greatest talent: narcissism. I think I can speak for a great deal of his former fans when I quote an actual comedian-turned-journalist(ish): Bill Maher, “go fuck yourself.”
Jacob Weindling is Paste’s business and media editor, as well as a staff writer for politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.