Go Ahead, Blame Bill Maher
Updated: May 7, 2018
Image, if you will, a country in which Al Gore had been inaugurated president in January 2001, (he won) instead of George W. Bush. The country—the world—would be different. Not, “I think it would be different”; it would be. And, with great probability, better. The Twin Towers might have still been hit (although, I’ve always maintained, I think Mr. Gore would have read an intelligence memo with a title “Jihadists Want to Fly Planes into Buildings”) and we might have struck back at Afghanistan. Iraq? Um, no. Undoubtedly the man who made An Inconvenient Truth, might have taken the country further along on the road of doing something about climate change. Instead, we endured eight years of Bush Jr. who led this country into the most dire economic downturn since the Great Depression. So dire, in fact, it gets its own capitalized name: The Great Recession; we are still in both Afghanistan (the graveyard of empires) and Iraq. Our actions tilled the fields for ISIS.
Well, Gore didn’t happen, and I put that at the feet of all the celebs who were so taken with Ralph Nader’s quixotic run for the presidency in 2000, they jumped on the novelty bandwagon. (Yeah, I’m talking to you Mr. Maher.) Sure, there were idiots who voted for Nader of their own volition, but I’d love to know how many were influenced by a celebrity into voting for a fellow limelight-hogging nitwit.
By all that’s sacred (that would be our planet and the lives of our children), why do Americans listen to celebrities? Bill Maher may devote a substantial amount of time reading before forming his opinions, and heaven knows he’s entitled to them, but why does he share them? And, more importantly, why do we listen? Did enough people in Florida listen to him and shift their vote from Gore to Nader? We’ll never know. But the reality is: we shouldn’t even have to ask the question. We imbue celebrities with an expertise that they don’t deserve. And it doesn’t matter how many times we get burned—Ronald Reagan was at best a mediocre governor of California before he became a president who was a tool for the religious right as well as cultivating an ends-justifies-the-means administration had no problem breaking the law by illegally selling arms to an enemy to arm a revolt to overturn a government they didn't approve of; Schwarzenegger was married to a Kennedy, so I guess he thought that gave him the expertise he needed to run California. It didn’t. Sonny Bono? Please. So what’s the common thread among these politicians? A boiling stew of ego and self interest and the knowledge that people pay attention to them because they have become people that people pay attention to. In other words: celebrities. Voters conflate their role-playing with experience. “I’m not a president, but I played a boss who could fire people on TV.” The problem is, the teeming masses voluntarily give this power to celebs who shouldn’t have it, and in turn those celebs believe they deserve it.
Perhaps I’m being a bit unfair to Mr. Maher. He did try to talk sense to his fellow traveler on the Nader crazy train, Susan Sarandon, when she continued her support of Bernie Sanders after he lost the nomination. It didn’t work. Another thing about celebs, you see, people don’t ever tell them “no.”