June 10, 2017

Bill Maher nonapologizes and gets grudging absolution from Michael Eric Dyson (who — see if you notice — has a book he wants to sell).



Meade and I just watched that — with a lot of pausing and conversation. And I don't want — at least not right now — to have to watch it again to pinpoint where I'm seeing all these things, so I'm just going to list them for now:

1. Maher only nonapologizes. He declares his "apology" "sincere," but he's only sorry about the pain it must have caused some people. (Did it really cause pain or just outrage and a bristling awareness of entitlement to control who can use that word?)

2. Both men are uncomfortable. Dyson knows he's being used to embody the set of people who claim entitlement to control the use of that word, and he knows other people in the set might not like his taking on this role, especially for the obvious purpose of getting Maher through his tribulations.

3. Dyson does not purely represent the people on whose behalf he gives absolution, because he's Maher's "friend," which seems to mean that he's been on the show before. He's a go-to guest because he serves a purpose, Maher's purpose. Dyson's willingness to be on the show seems to have a lot to do with selling books. Count how many times Dyson refers to his book (which is called "Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America"). At one point, Maher says something that makes Dyson uncomfortable and Dyson begins a sentence "My book, my book, my book...."

4. Maher is uncomfortable, visibly squirming. We rewound to get more laughs out of the squirming. I felt as though I could read a thought bubble: Is this enough yet? Can I make him go now?

5. At the outset, it's established that Maher has been anti-apology over the years. He thinks people apologize too much, but he concedes that sometimes an apology is appropriate and that this is one of those times. But why? I think the answer is not because it caused some pain and he's not about causing pain, but because he wants to keep his HBO show. He's fighting for his show. He lost a show once before because of something he said, and he's doing what he must to keep this one. By the end of the colloquy with Dyson, Maher is back to responding to Dyson's sermonettes with sentences that begin with the word "but."

6. Maher speaks of his "political capital," and he's irked that this incident "cost" him political capital. He starts to say that he "spent" political capital, but he changes the word to "cost." He didn't spend capital, he only accidentally allowed some political capital to drain away. He wants political capital so that he can spend it on things that really matter to him, and he's irked that he lost some on a meaningless interchange with Ben Sasse about visiting Nebraska.

7. Maher's central excuse (or justification) is that he's a comedian. It's inherent in the nature of the work that he blurts out zingers. It's the kind of thing that's going to happen. He's got to take that risk, just like a quarterback has to throw passes even though there will be some interceptions. That's his analogy, and I hear him to be saying there will be other things like this. He's not delivering the full apology that includes the element of insuring it won't happen again. He's pretty much warning us that it will happen again. He'd just like the line-crossing to happen over something that's worth it and not some damn thing about working in the fields of Nebraska.

8. The notion of "evolving" comes up multiple times. He also calls himself a "monkey," but not in the context of evolution. "Evolution" is used to say he's evolving on something about race or sensitivity in talking about race or something. "Monkey" is used in the context of portraying himself as a comedian, doing impulsive antics for the amusement of the crowd. When he says the word "monkey" — referring to himself — Dyson issues a caution. There's danger ahead. Maher, jumping for comedy, said "monkey" in the midst of a discussion of race. He could be heading into a new round of racial discipline.

9. Dyson reads a text from his son, something about how some white people acquire a privilege to use the word, but the good "white boys" with the privilege don't exercise it. Dyson tells us over and over again that Maher has been great over the years on racial issues, which might put him in that category of white boys who are privileged to use the n-word, but Maher failed to fit Dyson's son's definition of a good n-word-privileged white boy because he exercised the privilege.

10. Watch Dyson as he expatiates on Maher's virtues. He will not make eye-contact.

54 comments:

n.n said...

[class] diversity.

Owen said...

Maher = 5 letters
Dyson = 5 letters
Parse = 5 letters
Brutal = 5 letters

Coincidence? I don't think so.

Meade said...

If Maher does lose his show, maybe there's an opening for a rodeo clown in Missouri.

Michael K said...

The plantation is not always a happy place.

Big Mike said...

@Meade, being a rodeo clown takes talent and more than a little courage.

Fernandinande said...

One of my friends was once a negro too. He gave me permission to say "negro".

That Dyson guy is quite the racist; check out his pitiful bibliography.

Maher's central excuse (or justification) is that he's a comedian.

So is everyone else, Mr. Special.

Kevin said...

Dont good white people know that monkey is also a racial slur?

traditionalguy said...

There are two Racisms. The intentionally ugly one the white culture used for branding black men as dumb and uneducated, brute field hands. That is the one Maher so enjoyed his white privilege by applying it to himself in a fake humility meme.

The other one is today's highly valued, if faked, pretense of moral superiority of all people with any hint in their skin of color ( that might mean they are not direct descendants from Norwegians), that they were all personally the victims of a few Spanish and Portugese conquistadors 150 to 400 years ago.

Maher equally hates the dumb field hands of all races.

n.n said...

It's a protection racket. Maher is on a payment plan with a progressive return.

Meade said...

Maher is more fun than a barrel of rodeo clowns.

Charlie said...

Thank you for watching and reporting on this Ann, so that I don't have to watch it.

khesanh0802 said...

Why doesn't Maher just self-identify as an asshole. That would probably be the most accurate thing he ever said.

Fernandinande said...

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Talk more better you! Make Panama bad look you!

khesanh0802 said...

A lot of people like Maher are going to be running and hiding as Trump tightens his grip around Comey's throat and they feel the same thing coming their way.

Big Mike said...

Of course a case can be made that in this instance Michael Eric Dyson is playing the role of house Negro.

Not that I'd be bothered to watch the clip ... a man whose "comedy" consists of finding new ways to say "I hate Republicans" interspersed with "I hate normal people!" isn't very funny.

Birches said...

The problem with having a word so offensive that no one can ever use it, is that we here that word from the offended FREQUENTLY. One cannot remove a word from usage if it is heard and remains in consciousness. I'm reminded of parents who punish their children for cursing, but curse all the time themselves. How is a kid supposed to react when they hurt themselves? It's almost automatic.

OT, but my kids learned what the f word was a couple of years ago and since they had never really know cuss words, thought that it was more of a made up bad word, like stupid or shut up (which we try not to say in our house). So they kept saying it and thinking it was hilarious. I set them down and said, "Have you ever heard me or your Papa say that word?" They said no. I said, "that's how you know it really is a bad word." Worked like a charm.

Chuck said...

I won't watch a lengthy bit of audio with Bill Maher and Michael Eric Dyson; it just wouldn't be good for me.

But I cannot imagine Michael Eric Dyson not relishing another chance to get a paycheck for expounding upon the multidimensional and labyrinthine quandaries that now are vexing people of color in America based on the enduring malfeasances and misappropriations of White America.

It's what Michael Eric Dyson does. I think his big fight with Cornel West was like Jesse Jackson fighting with Al Sharpton. Or like Proctor & Gamble fighting with Colgate-Palmolive.

Krumhorn said...


The smug absolutist position of Dyson and Cube was enough to make me yack up my collards. Ok. Fine. As a social convention, we whiteys have agreed to steer clear of the word. Nonetheless, gangstas inflict terrible violence upon others while using the word in a torrent of menacing spew...often to the soundtrack of hateful NWA lyrics.

I’m no Maher fan. Not by a long shot. But his use of the phrase didn’t merit this ridiculous pretense of lecturing us in “privilege” and “insensitivity” to the suffering of the black man. I call Bullshit!

If Dyson and Cube want to do something that will truly help, how about going into the hood and lecturing young kids to work hard in school and stay away from drugs? How about stopping the massacre in the inner cities?

Maher should have apologized exactly ONCE….and moved on.

– Krumhorn

Reply

rhhardin said...

It's not a risk saying nigger in a zinger. It's a zinger.

Fuck the audience. They need a course in genre studies.

"You people need a course in genre studies." There's your apology.

AllenS said...

Two pieces of shit. Can't fire me, I don't work anymore.

Otto said...

So it's ok to say nigger at this tikkunista site, right?

rhhardin said...

Somebody check if zinger and nigger are anagrams.

khesanh0802 said...

@ Birches and Krumhorn Two very good points about the failure of so many blacks to actually walk the talk. Betsy DeVos is probably trying to do - and has done - more for blacks than either of these people and, oh my God, she's white!

retail lawyer said...

Didn't Jeantell (Trayvon's friend) explain this whole thing already?

cubanbob said...

Two bullshitters bullshitting each other for mutual gain and profit. Did I miss anything?

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

Dyson knows he's being used to embody the set of people who claim entitlement to control the use of that word, and he knows other people in the set might not like his taking on this role, especially for the obvious purpose of getting Maher through his tribulations.

So you're saying Dyson knows he is a house ni**er?

Michael K said...

If Dyson and Cube want to do something that will truly help, how about going into the hood and lecturing young kids to work hard in school and stay away from drugs? How about stopping the massacre in the inner cities?


And end up like Cosby ? Are you kidding ?

Some things you can't say if you are "of color."

Fen said...

11. Maher insists he has lots of black friends. And yes, he mentally filed his friends according to the color of their skin.

Bay Area Guy said...

Jokingly saying "House Nigger" on tv causes nobody any amount of pain. And, sorry, Michael Eric Dyson, nobody elected you the Pope. You're much more of a leftist than a black activist.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

I don't think Maher's attempt at mocking himself made any sense, so he opened the door to saying he's revealed some kind of inner racism. Sasse didn't introduce the topic of race in any way. Because Maher works in show business, and can therefore be fired more easily than many 9 to 5 ers, he's basically a slave? That's ridiculous, and insulting to slaves and the descendants of slaves. Within the world of slavery, he can mock himself as one who only works indoors, while cruelly leaving all those who work outdoors to fend for themselves? He doesn't exactly get the worst of this. He could have said, like Bush Senior once did, that he's always looked for a job that involves indoor work with no heavy lifting. He could have said he's in show business because he's not good at anything else, as many others have said (often with fake humility--they're actually damn good at what they do). Lots of people could say: my ancestors worked on farms so that I wouldn't have to. If he wanted to compare himself to a monkey, he might say: you might take seriously what an organ grinder says about current events, but the organ grinder's monkey? Never.

rhhardin said...

If nigger has to do with slavery, perhaps looking at the positive side of slavery would help.

Sam L. said...

Who are these people, and why should I care?

Rick67 said...

Hunh and interesting. This week I announced my resignation from the place where I have worked for 18 years. This summer the organization is supposed to be doing a book study about racism and racial reconciliation. The book is Sermon to a White America by Michael Eric Dyson. When I first saw the announcement I thought "okay, we can debate whether focusing on race relations is the most important thing this organization needs to do... but Dyson?!? we couldn't find someone a little less extreme, less polarizing?" And - if your interpretation is correct - someone who is eager to promote and sell his book.

Johnny Sokko said...

He is apologizing because it has caused him pain. No big mystery.

Char Char Binks said...

"The problem with having a word so offensive that no one can ever use it, is that we here that word from the offended FREQUENTLY."

They keep that word alive so they can catch some unsuspecting whitey using it. It's their ready-made excuse to fuck up a white boy, either physically on the street, or metaphorically on national TV. Remember, Maher didn't use it against anyone but HIMSELF.

It's also hilarious to hear MED speak of "honorable white boys" who know their place, who bow down to the Special People Club, and won't utter the horrible word. That iggner is so full of shit, no wonder his skin is black!

Gahrie said...

Dyson reads a text from his son, something about how some white people acquire a privilege to use the word,

Complete and utter bullshit. Either everyone can use the word, or no one can. Every year in my classroom I get in arguments with Black kids using the word and have to inform them that "nigga" and "nigger" are the same word, and neither is appropriate.

but the good "white boys" with the privilege don't exercise it

White boys is a racist term in this context, in exactly the same way that calling adult Blacks "boy" used to be.

Owen said...

Birches: great comment on "forbidden words."

I'll start to take the POC Movement seriously when the last rap artist makes the last dollar from using the N word.

Words like that are no longer words, they are weapons.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

"It happened, it was wrong, people make mistakes, we're all sinners." - Maherr is apologizing, but on whose behalf?

And should we comment on the black privilege to call us white boys?

Jupiter said...

We're Lib-b-ruls, we're Lib-b-ruls.

We're keepin' the niggers up.

AlbertAnonymous said...

Maher is a jackass. And rarely funny. All anti-republican stuff for an audience in a bubble.

Maher is a jackass.

But the quip? When Sasse said "come work in the fields" and Maher doesn't miss a beat and says laughingly "I'm a house n*gger"

It was actually great timing from a comedic standpoint. Played off "working in the fields" and was self deprecating because Maher could never do any physical hard labor.

And yet he deserves everything he's now enduring, because he loves this shit when it's done to the right, and because Maher is a jackss.

More of the left eating its own....

rhhardin said...

There's Goffman's analysis of apologies, but these were the real ones. A completely different analysis would be necessary for the fear apology.

``A further illustration of the difference between ritual concerns and substantive ones comes from occasions of accident in which the carelessness of one individual is seen as causing injury or death to another. Here there may be no way at all to compensate the offended, and no punishment may be prescribed. All that the offend[er] can do is say he is sorry. And this expression itself may be relatively little open to gradation. The fact - at least in our society - is that a very limited set of ritual enactments are available for contrite offenders. Whether one runs over another's sentence, time, dog, or body, one is more or less reduced to saying some variant of ``I'm sorry.'' The variation in degree of anguish expressed by the apologizer seems a poor reflection of the variation in loss possible to the offended. In any case, while the original infraction may be quite substantive in its consequence, the remedial work, however vociferous, is in these cases still largely expressive. And there is a logic to this. After an offense has occurred, the job of the offender is to show that it was not a fair expression of his attitude, or, when it evidently was, to show that he has changed his attitude to the rule that was violated. In the latter case, his job is to show that whatever happened before, he now has a right relationship - a pious attitude - to the rule in question, _and this is a matter of indicating a relationship, not compensating a loss_''

_Relations in Public_ ``Remedial Interchanges'' p.117-118


rhhardin said...

That is in any case what the fear apology is parasitic on.

rhhardin said...

In Maher's case it's agreeing not to say what he's thinking.

Kevin said...

Dyson reads a text from his son, something about how some white people acquire a privilege to use the word

Some people get the privilege of referring to a black man running for president as "clean" in contrast to the majority of black people who are assumed not to be.

Indeed, they get the second-highest job in the government and anointed by many in the party as the most likely 2020 standard bearer.

JLScott said...

rhhardin said...
Somebody check if zinger and nigger are anagrams.

Close enough. You need to apologize for using the Z-word.

Michael said...

No one throws out nigger on National T.V. that does not use the word with regularity. Maher is dreadful and not funny.

rhhardin said...

Who was the car guy who got fired for saying eenie meenie miney moe over some arbitrary choice.

The rhyme's no good when there's only two choices anyway. It always lands on the second guy.

And he may have been imagining the tiger version anyway.

JLScott said...

Hell, I lived 40 years of my life not knowing there even was a non-tiger version.

khesanh0802 said...

@ Randy Newman has a great song pointing out the hypocrisy of this kind of conversation called "Red Necks". "Keeping' the nigra down" in Roxbury, the South Side of Chicago etc.

David said...

So Dyson is a weasel and Maher is a jerk.

Reason 6 to the 24th power why regular people are sick of the talking heads.

eddie willers said...

Listening to Larry Elder yesterday as he is discussing this "controversy".

Tells the story of how Muhammad Ali and his best friend (white guy) became so comfortable with each other that their phone calls opened with, "I'm just an N-Word getting bigger". That's what Larry said on air: "I'm just an N-Word getting bigger"

He then said that he and Ali's white friend became good buddies as well and that now when they talk, they greet each other with, "I'm just an N-Word getting bigger".

I'm thinking, "I don't get it", until I mentally replaced 'N-Word' with the actual word that it is a substitute for. So now's it's "I'm just a nigger getting bigger".

It rhymes and THAT makes it funny.

rhhardin said...

Hell, I lived 40 years of my life not knowing there even was a non-tiger version.

It was the only use northern kids had for nigger.

Now even the eenies, the meenies and the moes are offended.

Saint Croix said...

Interesting to read about white rappers who love the culture, and want to be a part of the culture. And so they want to drop an N bomb like everybody else. But they can't.

The early days of The Beastie Boys.

And White Rappers and the N Word Conundrum

Goldenpause said...

Absolving Maher is an efficient way to keep him as as a tool for the far left. If they got him kicked off HBO it would make them feel good for 20 minutes but he would not be willing to be their tool in the future. Now he owes the far left big time. Just watch if you can stomach him.