Monday, February 14, 2011

Bill Maher's Big Lie Contribution?

I’m an atheist, but I’m pretty tolerant in my non-belief. I don’t mind people of faith, as long as they don’t start trying to convince me that their way is the right way. Conversely, I don’t try to impose my non-belief on others. It works for me, but I’m cognizant of the fact that some people derive comfort and strength from faith and religious practice.

I also realise that our Constitution stipulates complete religious freedom. We are free to worship where and how we like, or not to do so, if we so choose. And this selfsame document precludes anyone being denied a job or profession based on his faith, or lack of. Put simply, a person’s religious convictions or lack of such convictions, shouldn’t matter in any walk of life or in the pursuit of any profession, even unto the office of President of the United States.

I get, as I’m sure many people do, the nuance behind many people on the Right thinking that the President is a Muslim. Not only is this a fear inculcated by repercussions surrounding events which happened on Bush’s watch, it’s fear of “the other,” encouraged by the Rightwing media machine.

Our President certainly is different than any other we have previously had. He looks different. His name is different. I can just about remember something similar occurring during President Kennedy’s term, when people worried that the President’s Catholic religion would mean he would defer to Rome first and the United States second. That’s a pretty silly fear to have, but we’ve not seen any Catholics in the Oval Office since, albeit the men who are one and two heartbeats away from the President practice that faith.

Like me, Bill Maher is a non-believer, and he doesn’t stint on criticism of anyone who adheres to a faith. People of faith, Bill says, are deluded. More than that, he’s archly critical of that Rightwing demographic, who propagate the notion that the President is Muslim; and well he should be critical. It’s an assumption based on nothing more than Big Lie propaganda.

The Big Lie is a propaganda technique, introduced by Adolf Hitler and refined to an art by Josef Goebbels. It’s a merciless and pejorative public relations operation meant to eviscerate a targeted opponent. It’s basically a lie, so totally outlandish as to be unbelieveable; but repeated enough times, more and more people begin to accept it as the truth.

The obvious Big Lie of the 20th Century was the one which led to over 6 million people being gassed to death during World War II, when the German people were convinced that the core cause of all their problems was down to people of the Jewish faith, living amongst them. Now we have to suffer the Right, aided and abetted by Fox News, casting doubt on, not only our President’s citizenship, but also his religious credentials. It’s also demonisation of one religion in the land where the concept of “freedom of religion” was fostered. Linking the President with the Muslim faith links him with those people whom many Americans identify as having been behind the single biggest terrorist attack in history – and we’ve all been told how Obama pals around with terrorists.

On Friday night’s Real Time, Bill Maher managed to get into a contretemps of sort with his guest, Dr Cornel West, when Bill remarked casually that he didn’t think Obama was a Christian. He elaborated the point by reminding Dr West that the President’s mother was a secular humanist, and he thought the President was as well. Never mind the appearance at the Prayer Breakfast, where the President took advantage of the situation to speak openly about his faith. That was all for show; and furthermore, continued Bill, he didn’t believe Obama “struggled” with same-sex marriage either.

OK, I know what Bill thought or intended to mean. Maybe he was trying to convey to the super-cool ueber Left, of which he’d like us to believe he is a part, the Left which derides and looks down upon religious faith, that the President really is “one of us” – nudge, nudge, wink, wink. And, oh, he was pretending to be a centrist too, it seems, although Bill did admit that Obama was a pragmatist.

But in saying something off-the-cuff and totally unfounded on any fact, not only does he further establish the President as being part of “the other” syndrome, he also insinuates that the President is a liar.

On the one hand, he excoriates the fact that many on the Right refuse to accept the President’s word that he is not a Muslim, whilst on the other, Bill, himself, refuses to accept the President’s eloquent declaration of faith – something which, incidentally, our Constitution distinctly reiterates that he shouldn’t have to make at all. It shouldn’t make any difference to us what the President’s faith is or whether he follows any at all, as long as he governs well and responsibly; the President’s faith is his personal matter.

And whilst I do accept that, to some people, it matters a great deal that their leader believes in a higher being, I would imagine it would matter a lot more to these people, and indeed to all of us, if our leader were found to be openly lying and deceitful about that which he purports to believe, himself.

So, my question is this: Was Bill just trying, after months of subtle racist insinuations masked as comedy, to big the President’s cool and au courant credentials up to the shallow sheeple of the ueber Left, whom he’d formerly convinced of Obama’s “weakness,” or was he indulging in a little bit of the Big Lie, seeking to propagate “Obama atheism” as a counter-fear to the President’s supposed penchant for Islam? After all, the only thing worse than a Muslim, in some people’s eyes, is an atheist.

As Dr West succinctly observed, somebody’s wrong here.

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