I wanted to post this last night, but I could never get the NBC video to load for me (even though several others have told me it’s working fine for them, naturally). So here I am, now posting the from the ever-trusty Mediaite, the segment of yesterday night’s The Tonight Show where Jay Leno interviews Bill Maher, who goes off on an unusually tense yet dead-on rant on the subject of the constant aggressive, “we want our opponents to fear us” rhetoric from the Right. The relevant bit starts at the 2:37 mark.
Some highlights, transcribed by me, below:
JAY LENO: Your take on this tragedy in Arizona, this gunman shooting. You always have an interesting perspective on these things.
BILL MAHER: Well, I mean, first of all, we’re gonna have to hear from the NRA, a lot, about how this shouldn’t stop anything that they wanna do. First of all, the NRA should just change their name to “The Assassin’s Lobby”. ’Cause that’s what they are. […] I’m so tired of hearing about the Second Amendment and the Constitution. If you love guns, just admit it like it’s a vice. It’s like alcohol, or drugs, or sex addiction, or gambling; it’s just a vice, it’s something you like that’s not good for you or anybody else, you just like it. But stop the [bullshit] about the Second Amendment and the Constitution, because nobody needs a gun that fires 31 rounds. That’s what this guy had.
MAHER: And these guys always think that it’s great to have a gun, because if some bad stuff goes down, I’ll be able to stop a bad guy. This is your fantasy, [assholes]! You would never be able to do that. People have to be trained for months and months at a time, they have to really know what’s going on to be able to stop something like that. If that really happened, they would probably freeze up and shoot the wrong person. So let’s stop that fantasy, also. [I almost cheered at my TV at that point. — JM]
LENO: Now, Roger Ailes said that Fox are gonna scale back the rhetoric. You think this will last for any longer than a week or two?
MAHER: No, because that’s the rhetoric they love. The right-wing loves – the go-to rhetoric for them is, “Wouldn’t it be fun to kill the people we disagree with?” You know, they try to put for us this false equivalency –
[Buzz of disagreement from audience]
MAHER: Really? Then, do you read? Have you seen what people have said? Have you seen what Sarah Palin says? She talks about, “Don’t retreat, reload!” She says it like a pull-toy that’s broken, every five minutes, she says this. Michele Bachmann says she wants Minnesotans “armed and dangerous”. Alan West, a new Congressman, says he wants his opponent to be “afraid to leave the house”. Left-wingers don’t talk that way.
And also, left-wingers – even if they do sometimes make a gun analogy or something, their audience isn’t hysterical. They’re already talking, the Right-wingers, to people who are hysterical, and are irrational, and are highly armed to begin with. Newt Gingrich – and by the way, among the Right-wing douchebags I hate, I hate him the mostest – [moderate laughter and applause] – because he says things, he said the Obama administration is as much a threat to us as were the Nazis and the Soviet Union. Now – it’s not just ridiculous, but when you characterize the opposition, the political opposition, it’s not just the opposition, but the enemy. The Soviet Union and the Nazis were our enemies. Of course, you’re gonna have borderline people who go and take this over the line.
So, stop telling me that the Left and the Right are both crazy. Yes, there are crazies on the Left. But they’re not the same – they’re not gun-crazy. They’re not violent-crazy. Who goes to gun shows? Who was for the war in Iraq? Who is part of militias? When you hear the phrase “armed compound in a secluded rural area”, what is that, a bunch of Democrats? Is that Dennis Kucinich out there?
Talk about a risky but welcome departure from Leno’s usually relaxed and audience-friendly format. I especially loved the bit where Maher actually confronted some of the obstinate audience members and called them out on their ignorance.
As has been said many times, no-one really knows if the eliminationist rhetoric of late is responsible in some way or another for last Saturday’s Tucson shooting, of if it wasn’t just a case of one lone, deranged nut acting on purely personal motives. But regardless, it is a growing ill that should be curbed for the sake of civility and sanity in our public discourse, even if it doesn’t end up in tragedy. Heated or controversial arguments are one thing. Thinly veiled threats and indirect calls to armed insurrection are quite another.