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Bill Maher's flaccid denunciation of corporate news

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The Brian Williams kerfunkle provides the comedian with a rich opportunity, which he promptly squanders


Bill Maher
Bill Maher
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Maher (Via DonkeyHotey, flickr)

Maher's skewering of Brian Williams & Co loses focus and fizzles out after a few sentences.

As usual, Bill Maher, the establishment liberals' enfant terrible, lost a great opportunity to really delve deeply and effectively into the bankruptcy of corporate media "news" by wasting his criticism of NBC's Brian Williams on superficialities and cheap, tiresome humor. He should have known better. Pointing out the innumerable peccadilloes is correct and valid, as far as it goes, but why consume precious airtime on such trivia while ignoring the big capital offenses?

It's obvious that Maher and his producers neither read nor care much about a more muscular analysis of what is killing the information system, perhaps the most vital resource we have at this time of global crisis. For a show whose own brand image is being outspoken and irreverential, how difficult is it to find a hard-hitting analysis of Brian Williams' "big sin," and to sum it all up in a few sentences for the benefit of a mass audience? I'd say, not hard at all. All it takes is to step outside the comfortable and self-reinforcing boundaries of the "establishment bubble", the "group think" that Maher and his liberal cohorts inhabit, and conduct a simple search. With Google around, the excuse of "invisibility" of alternative opinion does not cut it any more, certainly not for a professional team of writers among which, I presume, Maher employs a few bright youngsters under the age of 70.

The only truth that Maher pronounced--early in his tirade--was that the network news "sucks"--which just about everyone and his uncle on any point of the political spectrum is saying nowadays (including the army of cretins and the clueless who also feel entitled to opine), but beyond that he stepped into the abyss of his own intellectual shallowness, leaving the subject mired in complete nebulousness.

Yes, Bill, "the media suck", all three networks suck. Big time. Agree. And thousands of other capitalist media suck, too, as numerosity does not mean diversity, never has and never will. The problem is they don't suck just by accident or mere ineptitude (which naturally exists in a huge machine largely populated by mediocrities), but chiefly by design. It's a matter of class interest, folks, the jealously guarded privilege of the owners of big media in a private-property system.

For what we have today in the US and other nations where the Western media formula prevails, is a subtle but totalitarian system of disinformation in the service of world capitalism--the web of plutocracies headed by the American ruling elites, backed up by the US military--what Paul Craig Roberts so aptly calls "the presstitutes."

So what does an utterance like, "the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams sucks" really means? What does it explain? Adding that the other two networks field similar bollocks is useless. Hurling epithets without correct analysis is like fighting an advancing tank column with spitballs.

So the network news suck alright, but why?

People can arrive at some momentarily lucid social diagnosis from different perspectives, but the challenge is what to do about the problem, and that's where clarity, precision, and truth matter. Bigots on the right see the mainstream media as controlled by commies, gays, pedophiles, blacks, insufficiently "patriotic" and warmongering traitors, not to mention that they believe it is much too subservient to Emperor Obama, the new Stalin (or Hitler!) in their confused and often clueless minds, so saying the media suck these days is as controversial as defending apple pie. The wingnuts' contempt for the mainstream media is typically idiotic (even though the media deference to Obama is real) but the point here is that if even such people agree with Maher, then the comic's supposedly brave denunciation advances nothing.

While not a surprise, this is a pity. For with the Williams faux pas in the headlines, capturing the American public's notoriously short attention, it would have been easy to lay some withering fire at the media impostors and those who hide behind the organized lies, but, well, Maher's own paycheck depends on not digging too deeply, playing obtuse, while giving the illusion of defiant analysis, so maybe he simply instinctively remained on the perimeter. (Incidentally, John Oliver, also on HBO, pushes the boundaries much more aggressively, and often provides cogent examinations of capitalist crimes on the home front.)

That said, the above is just my conjecture. Did Maher really sabotage this segment on purpose? The "New Rules" is the most widely quoted part of his show, and he knows it. With the evidence of a true Orwellian Ministry of Truth staring down at him, how could Maher and his scribes manage to miss it? How could he avoid even alluding to it? It is truly hard to believe.

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Media critic and former economist P. Greanville is The Greanville Post's founding editor ( He also serves as publisher for Cyrano's Journal Today. He has a lifelong interest in the triumph of justice and (more...)
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