A fairly revealing panel discussion here, courtesy of Bill Maher, who brought his live show to Washington, D.C. on Friday night. While it’s no secret which side of the political aisle Bill hails from, it’s still rather interesting to hear how the different members of his panel came down on whether Fox News is to blame for all of the problems the country faces. Obviously, only an über-lefty like Maher would posit that question in the first place, and I’m not quite sure why he thought anything mildly interesting would emanate from MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell getting the first crack at it — she seemed to be more preoccupied with her weekend plans to hang out with Hillary Clinton in Iowa. But by the time Jerry Seinfeld had a few moments to weigh in, the comedian’s common sense ruled the day.
“I think that you’d have a better argument that each side just talks to its side, listens to its side,” said Jerry. I couldn’t tell if he was looking directly at Mrs. Mitchell when he said that, but he might as well have been. The notion that MSNBC doesn’t do the exact same thing that Fox News is so frequently accused of is laughable. Seinfeld has been smart enough throughout his long and successful career to generally stay out of politics, and I’ve always thought his observational comedy has been better for it. Even if Jerry may be liberal in his own life like his best bud, Larry David — and we really don’t know the extent to which that may or may not be true — he seems to be quite aware of the fact that political comedy would likely split his potential audience in half, and he isn’t interested in that. But I’ve long viewed Jerry as a huge free speech proponent, and you can tell from his many great conversations in his Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee series that he’s fascinated by all points of view. My suspicion is that’s exactly what drove him to disagree with Maher, whose implication seemed to be that Fox News should somehow be dismantled. Seinfeld knows the same accusation of polarization should be applied to Fox’s competition.
As former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour explained during the same discussion, “Fox News doesn’t have a monopoly on television taking sides. Take tonight, for instance. Bill Maher is a big personality in American politics. You had those two moderates on the TV show, Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann. And let’s see, you have these four Republican congressmen and you’re trying to decide which one to assassinate.”
What Jerry Seinfeld and Haley Barbour both realize is that the very nature of democracy is rooted in having a diversity of opinions. If Bill Maher — who asserted that liberals like “different” things while conservatives only appreciate monotonous repetition — were left to his own devices, the only opinion we’d ever hear would be his. And God help us if that ever happened. Bill calls his show “Real Time.” But the only thing “real” about it is his “real” hatred of anyone who doesn’t share his political, religious, and social views.
Who’s the polarizing one now?
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