Brow Beat

Bill Maher Somehow Finds Common Ground With a Jerk Who Thinks of Himself as a Provocateur

“You always invite such awful people on your show—they’re so stupid,” Gamergate fraud and sentient A.I. Milo Yiannopoulos said during his Friday appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher. (Technically, he said this on “Overtime With Bill Maher,” an online-only segment where Maher asked Yiannopoulos his only tough question; the televised portion of his appearance was even more of a tongue bath.) Here are a few less self-evidently true ideas Yiannopoulos expressed on the national platform Maher inexplicably gave him:

On transgender issues: Transgender people are “vastly disproportionally involved in sex crimes.” (This is technically true, according to the Justice Department, in the sense that trans people are disproportionately victims of sexual abuse and assault. “I don’t want these people around little girls in bathrooms,” Yiannopoulos added, lest anyone think he wasn’t being deliberately misleading.)

On hiring gay people: “You can’t trust them to show up to work on time. Too much drugs, too much sex, they never show up to work, always making excuses, no no no. I mean not as bad as women, but no, I don’t hire gays.”

On Leslie Jones: “I said she looked like a dude—she does. I said she was barely literate, which she is. … It’s not really the case that she’s sitting there upset about mean words on the internet—actually, she’s been deployed by the studio because the movie’s tanking—you know, you’ve just got to accept; mean words on the internet don’t hurt anyone.”

On taking the horrible things he says seriously: “Just kidding! … You’re very easily triggered; it’s pathetic.”

On anti-Semitism: “Never believe that anti‐Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti‐Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert.”

Wait, that last one wasn’t Yiannopoulos; it was Jean-Paul Sartre, who (as countless Twitter users have noticed) had the anime Nazis’ number back in 1946. You can’t treat the ideas of Milo Yiannopoulos as though they are worthy of debate, because Milo Yiannopoulos doesn’t treat them as being worthy of debate. For example, this is why Yiannopoulos was talking about transgender issues on Maher’s show to begin with: not because he had ideas about it but because of an incident at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee that Maher described as the time he “singled out a transgender student for ridicule.” This description, while technically accurate, elides what a colossal asshole Yiannopoulos was being. See for yourself. (It’s part of this two-and-a-half-hour speech, if you’re feeling especially masochistic.)

Good luck finding the ideas there. Yiannopoulos’ visible delight at his own sniggering cruelty should have earned him a permanent disqualification from public discourse, not a book deal, but that’s the world we’re living in. (If you thought that Milo saying “I’m here to talk about race,” at the end of that clip was ominous, you’re right; his next slide was a drawing of the Asiatic races from the 1904 edition of a Swedish encyclopedia, which he offered without context.) There’s no upside to giving these kinds of “ideas” a national platform, even to refute them; they’re not ideas at all. Meanwhile, treating Yiannopoulos himself seriously only raises his profile; he’s just been booked as the keynote speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

So did Bill Maher, champion of free speech, push back on Yiannopoulos’ ceaseless torrent of bullshit? Not exactly. When Yiannopoulos said “women and girls should be protected from men who are confused about their sexual identities in their bathrooms,” Maher replied, “That’s not unreasonable,” before referring to the transgender-bathroom issue as “weirdos peeing.” He also excoriated liberals for “[flipping] out at this little impish British fag, you fucking schoolgirls,” which gets to the heart of the common ground Maher found with his repulsive guest: The only acceptable reaction to self-styled imps saying horrible things is being too cool to care.

It fell to Larry Wilmore to speak out against Yiannopoulos’ garbage. At first he did so in earnest, pointing out that trans people are marginalized in similar ways to black people and gay people. But when it sunk in that “debating” Yiannopoulos was wrestling with smoke, Wilmore gave him exactly the level of engagement and good faith he deserved. “You can go fuck yourself,” Wilmore said. A few minutes later, he said it again.

Here’s the “Overtime With Bill Maher” segment, which Maher has titled “MILO Confronts the Panel,” apparently observing Breitbart’s pathetic house style: