Bill Maher tells the racist, misogynistic, anti-worker, journalist-censoring, authoritarian-loving, apartheid-educated, white-privileged billionaire who's actively destroying Twitter that he's doing an awesome job saving free speech
When it comes to my HBO viewing, I thought there was nothing worse than watching Bill Maher—the laziest interviewer on TV—invite a noxious far-right activist onto his program only to lob softball questions at him (it's usually a him) while offering zero pushback to the dumb, offensive, easily punctured talking points being spouted by the extremist provocateur.
Then came Elon Musk.
Maher "interviewed" the exploding carmaker on his April 28 show in the year 2023. But the attitudes on display reflected much of what Musk likely absorbed 40 years ago at the insulated, white-privileged Pretoria Boys High School in his native South Africa.
After a slobbering introduction, Maher sat down with Musk to talk about, among other things: a) how wonderful Musk is; b) how Musk is saving free speech (with no mention of him charging a f**k-the-poors $8/month for Musk's now-algorithmically essential Twitter Blue privileges); and c) why it's such a shame that kids in San Francisco aren't getting the same high school education in 2023 that Musk received in apartheid-era South Africa.
(Spoiler: Musk and Maher both think it's the San Francisco kids who are being indoctrinated.)
I'm not sure it was a condition of Musk's appearance, but it's worth noting that Maher's April 28 show was a 100% brofest, with an all-male crew of guests on hand to discuss Maher's pet topics, which he defines as the threat of "Mean Girls" on Twitter and how teaching Black history means the end of "western civilization." Or something like that.
(I wrote previously about how Musk followed hardly any women on Twitter who weren't his mom or the mothers of his children. Based on my quick survey of the 259 people he's now following as "Mayor of Tweet-town," the apartheid-educated Musk is currently only listening to 7 Black voices, including Barack Obama, Hakeem Jeffries, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.)
Marjorie, Moms and Musk
Musk's appearance on HBO—following his equally softball sitdowns with a painfully unprepared BBC reporter and the now-fired racist, misogynistic, "worried-about-western-civilization" Tucker Carlson—comes on the heels of the recent showcases given to Marjorie Taylor Greene and Moms for Liberty on 60 Minutes and CBS Sunday Morning, respectively.
I was appalled by the MTG and Moms for Liberty interviews. But the Maher-Musk lovefest took elevating ignorance and half-truths to a whole new level.
Talking about the massive technology shifts that have transformed the world through the centuries, Musk pivoted from the Gutenberg Press to the now-familiar observation that one person with a phone and an internet link has "access to more information than the President did in 1980."
But after thrilling each other with talk about how much technology has changed in their lifetimes—with Maher gushing obsequiously about how Musk himself was one of those rare and exalted visionaries literally changing the world—Musk and Maher insisted that education, i.e. what kids are taught in today's diverse, iPhone-saturated, chatGPT-world, should be as blinkered and intolerant as it was in the days before South Africa had personal computers or desegregation.
Asked to explain what the "woke mind virus" was, Musk replied:
I think we need to be very cautious about anything that is anti-meritocratic and anything that results in the suppression of free speech. So, you know, those are two other aspects of the woke mind virus that I think are very dangerous is that it’s anti-meritocratic. You can’t question things. Even the questioning is bad. So, you know, another way… [almost synonymous] would be cancel culture.
Instead of questioning Musk about the widespread suppression of free speech currently happening on Twitter, Bill Maher—the laziest interviewer on TV—simply seized the moment to explain how much he agrees with Musk, landing on the observation, which he illustrated with hand gestures:
You drew that diagram once where you're here, I related to that, and the world has changed. I feel the same way.
Of course, Musk didn't draw that diagram. Neither did he, as the lazy Maher claimed in the interview, start Tesla.)
Musk and Maher on Free Speech
Maher disgraced himself most when the conversation turned more directly to free speech.
Free speech used to be a left or liberal value, and yet we see from the in quotes 'left' a desire to actually censor, and that seems crazy. I think we should be extremely concerned about anything that undermines the First Amendment... and by the way, in many parts of the world, including parts of the world that people might think are relatively similar to the United States, the speech laws are draconian."
Instead of seizing on the opportunity to ask Musk about Twitter users being arrested and given "draconian" prison sentences in Saudi Arabia, or why Musk is now not only censoring people at the request of China, Turkey and India, not only in their own countries, but globally, Maher—the laziest interviewer on TV—chose a different tack:
England is quite different.
After indulging that tangent (which included talk of the free-speech horrors of France), Musk pivoted to the bromide:
I really can't emphasize this enough: We must protect free speech — and free speech only matters, it's only relevant, when it's someone you don't like saying something you don't like. ('Of course,' Maher interjected.) Because obviously free speech that you like is easy... the thing about censorship is that, for those who would advocate it, just remember at some point that will return on you.
Time and time again, Musk has exposed himself as a free-speech phony, so to see any interviewer let that pass unchallenged is the height of ridiculousness. But the lazy Maher whiffed again. Instead of asking the thin-skinned Mayor of Tweet-town why he had used his power at Twitter to censor journalists whose tweets he didn't like, or why he is now childishly using the poop emoji as a Twitter auto-reply to all press inquiries, the HBO host simply allowed Musk to bask in some more applause from his studio audience.
The lazy Maher then immediately turned his attention back to the "woke mind virus," asking Musk whether he thought it came from a bat or escaped from the lab.
Ha ha ha.
That jocular moment gave the apartheid-educated Musk the opportunity to lament about "indoctrination" at American schools:
The experience that we had in high school and college is not the experience that kids today are having, and hasn't been for, I don't know, ten years, maybe twenty years.
This could have been the perfect opportunity for a real interviewer to point out that, in addition to all the technological change brought about by the internet and social media that Musk and Maher had marveled at minutes earlier, white children became a minority in US schools in 2014.
But because Maher is the laziest interviewer on TV, the idea that America's multiracial students—who now have phones that are thousands of times smarter than Elon Musk's old South African history books—might want to get a more global view of world history didn't even enter the minds of these two smug white blokes.
On a couple of occasions, Musk (in Trump-like fashion) told us his views had been informed not by any form of intense study or by conferring with scholars, but by "friends" who had told him silly anecdotes about the horrors of woke-ism.
These are likely the same tech bro friends who told him that: a) overturning Roe v. Wade wouldn't be a problem for women (or 10-year-old rape victims) who could just pop over to another state for a procedure; b) the "real truth" about the attack on Paul Pelosi; and c) the "real truth" about the San Francisco murder of tech executive Bob Lee.
(Note: Two of Musk's best known bro-friends/San Francisco crime experts/Twitter advisers are Jason Calacanis and David Sacks who also appear infected with the Bloke Mind Virus and whose elitist pronouncements frequently get screen-shotted and mocked by people on Twitter.)
Because kids today understand that George Washington was a slave-owner, Maher felt compelled to take us on another tangent to point out that slavery was a big thing in global history—even to the point that The Bible doesn't tell anyone not to do it.
A laughing Musk had to agree:
At no point does it say slavery's bad in The Bible.
At no point in this more than 20-minute-long interview did Musk or Maher talk about free speech from a non-"Bloke Mind Virus" perspective. Not one word was said about the current war on free speech being waged by far-right extremists, vicious political operatives and authoritarian politicians like the Musk-endorsed Ron DeSantis. In the midst of a news-packed National Library Week this was a shocking omission. During the week this interview took place, local and national newspapers, websites and TV stations were busy documenting the alarming surge in censorship in the USA—in the form of book bans and educational gag orders—that is depriving kids of books, college students of a well-rounded education, and towns of their public libraries.
Nor did they talk about the threat of "Elonflation" to free speech. In a country where the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009—and still applies in seven states: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wyoming—the cost to be tweeted fairly on Twitter has risen from $0 to $8/month under Elon Musk.
Tech bros and Musk fanboys may be happy to pay the freight, but many who could pay are refusing to pony up for the Musk blue check mark, which has replaced the tiki torch as a sign of your political intentions.
Meanwhile, millions more simply can't afford to pay a new Twitter tax to the world's second richest man.
Maher and the "Mean Girls"
When it comes to Twitter, the politically incorrect Maher said he doesn't tweet anymore because "the mob of Mean Girls is still there."
Musk encouraged the comedian to come back to Twitter. Not because Musk was taking steps to improve content moderation or reduce hate speech. But because more abuse being hurled back-and-forth across Twitter means "more engagement."
As has been pointed out before, calling Donald Trump a pig is an insult to pigs.
In a similar vein, calling an Elon Musk interview with Bill Maher a meeting of the minds is an insult to functioning brain cells.
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