And then there are times like last night's "Real Time," marred by Bill's ant-vax screeds. To be sure, Bill insisted that he's not anti-vax, but just a "vaccine skeptic." Well, those are the same thing. Just as criticizing people's religious beliefs is the same thing as criticizing the people who hold the beliefs..
A moron like Jenny McCarthy or Sam Harris is one thing. But Bill sounds perfectly intelligent most of the time, offering cogent and precise evaluations of morons who deny climate change and vote Republican and think that the Affordable Care Act is a tragedy. But when the topic is Islam or vaccinations, it's as if someone changed the channel to Fox News.
Bill points out that the overwhelming majority of scientists agree that climate change is happening, is caused by human activity and is big, big trouble for life on Earth, and that there is a clear fix: green energy, wind, solar, plug-in electric cars and so forth. The thing is, the very same scientists also overwhelmingly agree that vaccines have nothing whatsoever to do with autism, or kidney disease, or any of the other things the anti-vaz nuts link it to, and that not vaccinating children risks re-creating the very same plagues which vaccines eradicated a century ago. So it's quite surreal to hear Maher spouting unscientific bullshit to support his "vaccine skepticism," and concluding, "[...]and it's not like global warming, cause that's real!" and chillingly, last night Bill's audience cheered him for that, instead of booing him as any well-informed crowd would have been expected to do.
It's not just backwoods rednecks who have an anti-vax problem in the US: prosperous, liberal Hollywood has that problem too. Does Hollywood's anti-vax bullshit have something to do with Scientology, and with charlatans preying on movie stars and peddling holistic treatments and magic crystals and pyramids and other such garbage? How could it not have everything to do with those things?
(Some of you may be old enough to remember when Ben Affleck and Matt Damon suddenly became huge stars on the strength of Good Will Hunting, which they wrote and in which they starred, Damon playing a genius and Affleck a sympathetic but not particularly intelligent schlub. Maybe you remember the rumours following Damon and Affleck's spectacular Oscar win for the screenplay, rumours to the effect that Affleck, like his character in the movie, was not particularly bright, and that he owed his Oscar mainly to his good friend Damon's generosity in sharing the writing credit with him. In light of the screenplays Affleck has written since then, and the movies he's directed, those rumours now seem kind of dumb. Not that I see any reason to suspect that the rumours got it exactly backward and that Damon is dumb.)
I really hate to say it, but I see no reason to suspect that Maher is going to brighten up any time soon, either about vaccines or about Islam. I can only plead with his fans -- I'm a fan too -- to think for themselves when listening to Maher, and realize that sometimes he knows what he's talking about, and sometimes he doesn't have a clue, and that when he sounds like he's on Fox News, it doesn't mean that Fox News is sometimes right about something.