In advance, let me correct one likely misimpression. My fury against Bill Maher here is not based on his admittedly mild (though very misleading) joke about Revolt Against Plutocracy (RAP) and our Bernie or Bust pledge on his Real Time show. To clarify things for readers, here is what Maher said about RAP (quoted from the Raw Story article just cited):
Maher explained that some of Sanders’ supporters have pledged to refuse to vote for Clinton if she is the Democratic Party nominee, calling it the ‘Bernie or Bust’ campaign. Instead, they urged progressives to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, among other alternatives.
“‘On their website, they say they’re revolting against the plutocracy,’ the host said. ‘No, actually you’ll be helping elect a plutocrat who’s revolting.’”
Maher’s implication that “plutocrat who is revolting” applies only to Trump and not with equal or greater force to career influence peddler Hillary Clinton is of course deeply misleading. Clinton herself being a “revolting plutocrat” is precisely what made RAP’s co-founders insist on a political revolution much larger in scope than Bernie Sanders’ mere campaign—one rejecting Clinton every bit as much as French sans-culottes rejected Marie Antoinette. More on that point soon.
But far from resentment on RAP’s behalf, my immediate reaction to Maher’s gentle mockery of our pledge was closer to jig-dancing jubilation. After all, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. For a grassroots movement, conjured into existence from an OpEdNews article and two activists scheming on Facebook, seeing our logo displayed on Bill Maher’s show was nearly as big a coup as Bernie Sanders winning Michigan. RAP’s grassroots revolutionaries were, after all, born without silver spoons, and here was Bill Maher, current possessor of quite a silver spoon, publicizing our movement on national television.
Indeed, I was forcefully reminded of Paul Simon’s brilliant 1970s timepiece, “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”—above all, of the following lines:
“But the press let the story leak
And when the radical priest
Come to get me released
We was all on the cover of Newsweek”
See, prior to Maher’s show, Bernie or Bust—either the movement or our specific pledge—had recently been mentioned (numerous times) in such big media outlets as Huffington Post and Salon, even internationally in the Guardian. RAP co-founder Victor Tiffany had even been interviewed on FOX Business News. Given Maher’s standing an establishment liberal powerbroker—no one ever goes broke serving the establishment—even the cover of Newsweek was perhaps no longer beyond the Bernie or Bust movement’s aspirations.
So with establishment bigwig Maher giving the Bernie or Bust movement such great free publicity, what has me as RAP co-founder so furious? It’s not his rather harmless joke against RAP, but rather, the dangerously deceitful message of the segment in which that joke appears.
See, as a seeming maverick who’s, in reality, a well-paid member of the Democratic Party establishment, Maher reliably defends what’s acceptable to that establishment—even if what’s acceptable is immoral, unconstitutional, and dangerous. In return, Maher’s allowed to “run with scissors” for his maverick brand, even up to the mildly risky point of endorsing Bernie Sanders for president. Provided, of course, that he toes the establishment line in pretending there’s no great difference between Sanders and Clinton and in making no real effort to actually get Bernie elected. So for example, you’ll never hear Maher call out the supposedly progressive Democrat pols who lined up like lemmings to endorse Hillary Clinton. And you’d fully predict Maher’s defense of Liz Warren’s cowardly fence-sitting while Bernie—the only full-throated defender of her own supposed principles—gets sacrificed to the Clinton machine Moloch. If the Democratic establishment lets Bill Maher run with scissors, it’s only because they know he’s ready when needed to stab them in progressives’ backs.
And Bill Maher has been called out on his toeing of the establishment Democrat line—no matter how toxic that line is—before. In fact, not merely called out, but when faced with a powerful real maverick like Glenn Greenwald, almost literally schooled. In arguing with Greenwald, an experienced constitutional litigator turned crusading journalist—crusading for constitutional freedoms’ sake—Maher had the deeply ungrateful task of defending the Democratic establishment’s rationally indefensible stance that Edward Snowden, whatever paper crimes he may have committed, wasn’t performing a heroic whistleblower function by exposing far greater crimes by the U.S. government. As Hillary Clinton supporters learn daily on Facebook, defending rationally indefensible positions against informed opponents rarely ends well.
Which brings us to our current case, in which Maher, under the guise of joke-telling, purveyed some of the most disgusting, dangerous propaganda ever seen on television. In laughing off the humungous difference between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, Maher deceitfully sweeps two crucial points under his comedic rug: (1) corruption by money is a big difference and (2) corruption by money makes a big difference. To the extent that one never learns much about Hillary’s real policy by heeding the garbage that spews from her piehole; one does better to follow the money. I believe that holds for virtually any area of policy one can think of, be it Hillary’s actual intentions on reforming Wall Street, supporting Israeli injustice, protecting Social Security, raising the minimum wage, reforming our unconstitutional spying regime, launching imprudent regime change, or curtailing runaway climate change. Thus, it’s totally characteristic, given Hillary’s refusal to reject further donations from fossil fuel interests—a pledge Bernie eagerly took—that world-renowned climatologist James Hansen has derided her climate action plan as “just plain silly.” A fact you’ll never learn from Bill Maher.
In a splendid act of personal generosity and truth-telling objectivity, former RAP steering committee member Michael Byron (who left RAP over personality differences), has defended RAP against Bill Maher in “Clinton NEVER,” the current most popular article at OpEdNews. Not wishing to rehash ground Mike has effectively covered, I strongly urge readers to study his examples of the difference Clinton’s corruption has made for policy. Having cut my own activist teeth by fighting fracking, I wish to close by detailing the utterly damning way Hillary’s fracking policy differs from Bernie’s—a difference again attributable to the difference in corruption by money Bill Maher so irresponsibly shoves beneath a laugh track.
Clinton’s notorious corruption causes many to believe that she’ll say anything to get elected, and her debate response to a student concerned about fracking clearly underlines that point. Award-winning Gasland film director Josh Fox, a heroic anti-fracking educator with more cause than anyone to scrutinize candidates’ statements on the controversial technique, noted that Clinton’s answer—implying that she’d regulate fracking virtually out of existence—contradicted the pro-fracking policy detailed on her own campaign website. He urged Clinton, if she had really changed her views, to update her website to reflect the change. None of us who knew Clinton held our breath for that to happen; in fact, it drove Fox himself to declare, more openly than ever, his support for Bernie Sanders.
So what did happen? Clinton inevitably—and shamelessly—reverted within days to her corrupt type, attending by proxy a fundraising dinner for her sponsored primarily by fracking investors. And sure enough, at her very next debate, she defended Obama’s Orwellian-named Clean Power Plan—which makes fracked gas, as replacement for coal, the centerpiece of U.S. electrical power generation (see Fox’s embedded video in this link). In other words, committing our nation to thirty or forty more years of fracking, despite science saying that methane leaks from fracking making it worse for climate change than coal itself! And despite the fact that an immediate transition from coal to renewables—with no need for fracked gas as a bridge fuel—is now technologically possible. According to Stanford scientist Mark Jacobson, the chief barriers to such a transition are not technical and economic, but social and political. Political, say, as in politicians deeply perverted by fossil fuel money like Hillary Clinton.
So, in other words, the difference between Bernie and Hillary that Bill Maher irresponsibly laughs off is not merely between an honest and a corrupt politician, but between saving the climate by renewables and destroying it by 30+ more years of fracking. And no one concerned about climate should be laughing at the Bernie or Bust pledge but instead taking it, as perhaps our only leverage to keep irresponsible Democrats like Hillary—and Maher—from destroying it irretrievably.