Part 2—Listening can be hard: When he went to the plate for the Cleveland Indians, Mike Hargrove wasted so much time between each pitch that he earned a comical nickname: The Human Rain Delay.
On Friday evening, October 3, Ben Affleck earned a different moniker: The (All Too) Human Two-Minute Warning.
Poor Affleck! On that evening’s Real Time with Bill Maher, Maher and Sam Harris were trying to make some sort of claim about the way liberals react, or fail to react, to “illiberal” conduct and belief in the Muslim world.
At the 87-second mark, Affleck interrupted for the first time. Before the segment was two minutes old, he’d dropped the first of his bombs.
To watch the full segment, click here:
HARRIS (10/3/14): I’m not denying that, that certain people are bigoted against Muslims as people. And that’s a problem.Harris and Maher had barely had time to sketch their case, whatever their case might have been. Already, though, with less than two minutes gone, Affleck could listen no more.
AFFLECK (sarcastically): That’s big of you.
HARRIS: But the—
MAHER: But why are you so hostile about this concept?
AFFLECK: Because it’s gross, it’s racist.
MAHER: It’s not. It’s—but it’s so not.
AFFLECK: It’s so—it’s like saying, “You’re a shifty Jew.”
HARRIS: Absolutely not.
MAHER: You’re not listening to what we are saying.
Their claims were “racist,” he angrily said—and yes, his anger was rather plain. It was like the pair had been saying, “You’re a shifty Jew.”
In fairness to Affleck, he made several reasonable points in the course of the ten-minute semi-discussion. Beyond that, there’s nothing wrong with being angry, as he plainly was.
There’s nothing automatically wrong with getting angry in the course of a discussion. It all depends on what the others have said.
That said, Affleck delivered quite a few bombs in the course of the ten-minute segment. He also seemed to have a hard time hearing what others had said.
Increasingly, this is The Way We Argue. Let’s start with Affleck’s bombs.
Just before the two-minute mark, the first of these bombs was unloosed. Maher and Harris had said something “racist,” Affleck claimed. It was like they’d referred to “shifty Jews.”
Just before the three-minute mark, Affleck exploded again. On this occasion, he delivered no bombs. But in a remarkably angry, explosive way, he offered these objections to what was being said:
AFFLECK: How about more than a billion people who aren’t fanatical, who don’t punish women, who just want to go to school, have some sandwiches, pray five times a day—Harris and Maher were “stereotyping,” Affleck now said. Some Muslims were doing bad things and they were “painting the whole religion with that same brush.”
MAHER: Wait a second! Wait a second!
AFFLECK: —and don’t do any of the things you saying all Muslims do? It’s stereotyping.
HARRIS: I’m not saying all Muslims say that.
AFFLECK: Some of them do bad things and you’re painting the whole religion with that same brush.
Tomorrow, we’ll assess this claim by Affleck, but he dropped no bombs at this point. Later, though, at the eight-minute mark, the bombs began falling again:
AFFLECK: Your argument is like, “You know, black people! You know, they shoot each other! They’re blacks!”In that passage, the aggrieved movie star dropped two more bombs. It was like Harris and Maher were making ugly claims about blacks, he said. It was like they we remaking ugly claims in which all gays got blamed for the criminal acts of Ted Bundy.
MAHER: No, it’s not! No it’s not. It’s based on facts. I can show you a Pew poll of Egyptians—they are not outliers in the Muslim world—that say like 90 percent of them believe death is the appropriate response to leaving the religion. If 90 percent of Brazilians thought death was the appropriate response to leaving Catholicism, you would think it was a bigger deal.
AFFLECK: I would think it’s a big deal no matter what.
MAHER: OK, but that’s the fact.
AFFLECK: What I wouldn’t do is say, “It’s all Brazilians.” Or I wouldn’t say, “Well, Ted Bundy did this. Goddamn these gays, they’re all trying to eat each other!”
(Was Bundy gay? Did he eat his victims? We don’t understand the last of these bombs, but its general import seemed clear.)
Affleck had gone for the hat trick. In slightly more than eight minutes, he had accused Harris and Maher of behaving like the ugliest kinds of anti-Semites, racists and homophobes. At the nine-minute mark, he got a bit of help from the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof:
KRISTOF: But this is such a caricature of Indonesia, of Malaysia, so much of the world. And this does have a tinge, a little bit, of the way white racists talk about African-Americans and define blacks by black criminals, which are not representative.Kristof was more refined than the visibly overwrought Hollywood liberal who sat beside him. To him, the presentation by Harris and Maher had created “a caricature” of much of the world.
In the remarks by Harris and Maher, Kristof had detected “a tinge, a little bit, of the way white racists talk about” blacks. On the basis of that “tinge,” he was willing to drop a bit of an R-bomb too.
Increasingly, this is The Way We Argue in the liberal world. In the course of this ten-minute semi-discussion, Maher and Harris were compared to white racists on two occasions. They were also compared to the worst kinds of anti-Semites and to the grossest homophobes.
Bombs were dropped four separate times in the course of ten minutes. Increasingly, this is The Way We Argue, especially in the on-line liberal world.
At this point, an obvious fact should be noted. Sometimes, people do talk like racists, like homophobes and anti-Semites.
Sometimes, people talk that way when they talk about Muslims!
Did Harris and Maher talk that way? Was there good reason for the bombs which littered the countryside during this ten-minute cruise?
Tomorrow, we’re going to look at the things Harris and Maher actually said that night. In our view, each man said at least one thing which would have been better left unsaid—although the bombs had started to fall before those comments were uttered.
It’s also true that Affleck made one or two sensible points that night. At the 87-second mark, he asked a perfectly good question when he broke in for the first time. Later, he stated an unfortunate but accurate fact about American conduct in the Muslim world.
In a slightly different world, Affleck could have helped create a useful discussion. Given the way we currently argue, that didn’t happen this night.
Tomorrow, we’re going to look at the things Maher and Harris said. Unfortunately, though, we must state a key fact:
Listening can be hard!
Again and again, Affleck seemed completely unable to hear what these other people had said. Increasingly, that too is The Way We Argue. Can a modern nation hope to succeed when its citizens function this way?
Tomorrow: The statements of Harris and Maher