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Bill Maher On Spurning The Likes

Bill Maher On Spurning The Likes

The TV legend has a new collection of his greatest hits.

Bill needs no introduction, but he’s been the formidable host of HBO’s Real Time for 21 years now, and before that he hosted Politically Incorrect, which ran from 1993 to 2002. He has a new book out, What This Comedian Said Will Shock Youa collection of his best editorials on Real Time. Also check out his podcast, “Club Random,” which he recently expanded into a pod network, Club Random Studios. Bill manages to do all of that and still perform standup on the road — schedule here.

You can listen right away in the audio player above (or on the right side of the player, click “Listen On” to add the Dishcast feed to your favorite podcast app). For two clips of our convo — on Bill not caving to political correctness after 9/11, and the two of us debating the credibility of the Gospels — pop over to our YouTube page.

Other topics: Bill going to church every Sunday as a kid; his Irish-Catholic dad turning away from the Church after Pope Paul VI; how the left today is bonkers; how Biden is captured by wokeness; the toxicity of the Trump cult; getting his GOP rivals to bend the knee; Ann Coulter’s balls in opposing him; the crisis of mass illegal migration; the dickishness of DeSantis on lab meat and rainbow bridges; his sensible approach to Covid; election deniers; the remarkable progress of legal weed and marriage equality; Bill’s movie Religulous; his admiration for Jesus as a philosopher; Muhammad the invading warrior; slavery in the Bible; the conflicting accounts of the Resurrection; whether Paul was a closeted gay; Christianity starting as a bourgeois religion; the pagan origins of Christian holidays; Richard Dawkins; the rise of the nones; wokeness as a religion; Bronze Age Pervert; Lauren Boebert on church/state; American exceptionalism as Christian heresy; October 7th; the profound illiberalism of Hamas; their Nazi-like tactics; “Hamas wants to commit genocide but can’t — Israel can, but won’t”; Rafah as Dunkirk; Biden’s Morehouse speech; Trump’s insane antics as the ultimate teflon; his humor; wokeness as a gold mine for comedy; comics who cave to PC; Trump’s energy on the trail; and Bill’s grueling book tour offering insight into campaigning.

Browse the Dishcast archive for an episode you might enjoy (the first 102 are free in their entirety — subscribe to get everything else). Coming up: Nellie Bowles on the woke revolution, Noah Smith on the economy, George Will on Trump and conservatism, Lionel Shriver on her new novel, Elizabeth Corey on Oakeshott, Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy on animal cruelty; and the great Van Jones! Send any guest recs, dissents, and other comments to

Last week’s episode with Oren Cass elicited the most commentary we’ve had in months. First up, a few dissents over my comments on immigration in a globalized world. A Brit writes:

You seemed to suggest that you have to be white British to not represent a loss to the UK within the context of the reduction in white British Londoners over the last 20 years. Speaking as a mixed-race person — with a white British father and a Mauritian mother, having been born and brought up in London, going to a C of E church and school, reading Thomas Hardy, and watching Carry On and Dad’s Army, amongst several hundred ways that someone may be defined as English — am I to regard myself as something of a loss to the country on the basis of my brown skin?

Your suggestion that this view cannot be regarded as racist is an inversion of the truth. This is not a moral judgement, but a factual one. I realise that mentioning the “R” word offends the political correctness of the right, but let’s try to be objective.

I don’t think non-white Brits represent a “loss” to the UK. What I said is that the speed of the unprecedented mass immigration of the last ten years has so transformed London that it is no longer recognizably the city it only recently was — and that the pace of this change has understandably unnerved people. The recent wave is all foreign-born, and those born somewhere else — not just non-white — now outnumber white British! That’s New York City, not London.

From a listener in New Zealand:

Thank you for a brilliant episode, yet again. I’d like to comment on your exchange with Cass on culture and nationalism — specifically, how cosmopolitan elites fail to understand the isolationist right. I’m a 25-year-old medical student living in Auckland, and my day-to-day experience wholly vindicates the “liberal elite” cosmopolitan vision. Auckland is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and my classes are majority-minority, populated by a decent proportion of Maori and Pasifika students, the usual middle-class whites, but mostly Asian second-generation immigrants whose families came to New Zealand under a very pro-immigration policy upheld by the last few governments.

I believe you mistake the “is” of the populist right’s attitudes towards diversity for an “ought”. My diverse class is not the groundless, meaningless intermix that you, Cass, or Douglas Murray envision. My classmates really do vindicate the “elite” notion of the melting pot; they’re a lovable mix of native beliefs and New Zealand values. They come to class, chat about rugby and exams and Bridgerton, then go home to a Hindi- or Chinese-speaking home, to Muslim prayers or Sikh temples.

The best part of my day is when those worlds interlink. Upon learning I was Jewish, a Korean classmate said how much she loves Shabbat candle-lighting ceremonies. Arguments rage among my white classmates about where to find the best Biangbiang noodles in town. I get to walk into the streets of Auckland and have an entire world of cuisine, products, entertainments, exercise routines, fashions, and indulgences drawn from the cacophonous intercultural mix that our immigrants brought with them. Are you seriously telling me that I should trade that for the monotony of the parochial, small-town, European settler-culture in which I was raised?

It’s true that if I walk down Dominion Road — the unofficial Chinatown — I might go two or three blocks without hearing a word of English, similar to your comment about London. But this doesn’t give me a moment of pause, because I know that those non-English speakers work unimaginably hard for the economy I enjoy, and their children will be Kiwis who will play without a moment’s hesitation with my own kids, with the added intrigue and delight of cultural intermixing.

Let me ask you this: on an absolute basis, what would you prefer? A world that welcomes other cultures and races with open arms — that maybe, yes, has a mixture of different languages and cultural values, but in which all broadly get along, and who generally all integrate within a single generation? Or would you prefer the populist right’s vision of cultural isolationism, where other-cultured folk are kept out and in-group loyalty is prized above everything else? Why are you prizing and fetishizing the whingeing of the parochial right over the experiences of so many urban middle-class folks like me and my classmates who cherish the rewards of globalization? 

Yes, some people in small towns or working-class communities have missed out, but I promise you that nobody is keeping them out. They value in-group loyalty and ethnic traditionalism over wider possibilities, and that’s okay. If they want to recapture a sense of community, then they can go to church, or restart that am-dram society that went defunct. They can try a game of football, or line-dancing, or just get the fuck off Facebook.

If you’re a conservative, then you believe in the power of individuals to autonomously shape their lives for the better. I think the rural working class can and should do this, and my lifestyle and that of my peers is not part of some invidious global conspiracy to prevent this. Building up rural and working-class communities should not mean tearing down ours.

Thank you for the hard work of the Dish and the wonderful conversations — I really appreciate it — and I hope this can spark some constructive conversation.

P.S. My favourite Dishcast episode of all time was with David Frum. That was some time ago now, so maybe he could back on for a pre-election update? In my opinion he is the most articulate, intelligent, and capable commentator working today.

I share your enthusiasm for life in a multicultural city. But I am not blind to the social, political, and psychological consequences of massive, fast demographic change. I also think nations need a coherent connection between present and past, and benefit from the cultural cohesion, and the social trust that comes with that. I think our elites just ignored all of that in the globalization era, and have the same reaction to the hinterlands that you do: get over it and get your lives together. Objectively there has been a great replacement, even though it was intended benignly and naively. People don’t like feeling replaced. Which is why the populist far right is ascendant everywhere.

This next listener looks to immigration when it comes to the US:

In your conversation with Oren Cass, once again you hammer the topic of immigration in a way that really gets on my nerves. I share your dismay over the inability of many progressive Democrats to acknowledge the virtues of patriotism, but your “othering” of “they” gets tedious. Plenty of Democrats consider themselves patriotic, and if the US faced an urgent military threat, I’m confident that an unexpected wellspring of patriotism would magically appear.

Second, while indeed immigration to the US generates problems that the Dem establishment has difficulty acknowledging (for political reasons), I consider your repeated claims about national identity wrong-headed and misinformed. England (and indeed the large majority of countries) are true nation-states, whose very identity is rooted on the shared ancestry and genealogy of its citizens. The US is different. Importantly different. Fundamentally different. The US constitution defines birthright citizenship — a principle widespread in the Western hemisphere but almost nonexistent elsewhere. No “white” resident of the US can trace their ancestry to this country for more than five centuries. Indeed, we ARE a nation of immigrants, from very many countries.

The US speaks a version of English, and has incorporated many customs of 17th-18th century Britain, but the UK is a really bad model of this country today, especially with regard to immigration. Please stop treating attitudes in the two countries as equivalent.

P.S. Unlike Matt Yglesias, I’m a paid subscriber.

Another adds, “Maybe we get 50+ Dishheads on a GoFundMe to give $1 each and shame Yglesias. (P.S. I am a fan of Matt.)”

Yes, the US is unique. But it’s also true that until the 1965 Immigration Act, the overwhelmingly majority of immigrants were white Europeans — and even they were often regarded with suspicion and animosity. The mass, non-white, non-European immigration wave is entirely a product of our lifetimes — and unimaginable until the late 20th century. And what makes this far more damaging is that the official US policy is not, as it once was, assimilating new immigrants into an American identity; it’s about celebrating difference and multiculturalism and the dissolution of a single American identity. Any society would react strongly to that. Which is why we had — and probably will have — Trump as president.

Next up, listeners dissent over the economic aspects of the Cass episode. The first:

I always enjoy your podcasts and your writing, but I thought you gave Oren Cass a free pass on the most absurd set of left-adjacent, central-planning principles I’ve heard from a “conservative” in 30 years. This guy sounded like an economic advisor in the Clinton or Obama administration: hates free markets, hates free trade, hates small government. You never really challenged him, which is very unlike you.

Well, I just don’t believe that the neoliberal economics I once supported are appropriate to our current social and political reality; and I don’t think economic theories are true forever and everywhere. But maybe I should have pushed back harder. And if I don’t challenge a guest enough, listeners will fill the void, like this one:

I forced myself to listen to the episode with Oren Cass because I think it’s important to hear out opposing ideas. I remain opposed to the right-wing turn toward Elizabeth Warren-ism. Cass sounds sincere, but incredibly wrong. We have never experienced government policy based on “free market fundamentalism.” Sign me up for a party based around that. That both parties now embrace tariffs is as discouraging as voters embracing an amoral asshat like Trump. Our free markets have always been shadowed with regulations, tariffs, and favored industries. 

Marco Rubio has no more ability to choose a favored industry than Warren does. It’s hilarious that Cass thinks Biden is just picking the wrong industries. No one can pick the right ones. Trying to do so stifles innovation and opportunity. JD Vance was on TV just yesterday claiming tariffs are not inflationary:

Maybe Cass looks at trade-offs, but voters do not. Talk to a Trump voter and you will typically find they think we can have cheap consumer goods made in the USA by high-wage workers. It is a fantasy that stands in the way of growth. Or, if they are like some of my relatives, those voters think they can somehow economically punish the affluent without hurting themselves. We will all suffer together in a Steve Bannon economy. 

Seventy percent of US exports are manufactured goods. The median manufacturing salary is  ~$66K. US manufacturing is not in decline. I am touring a new solar-panel plant in rural Georgia in a couple weeks — not because of Biden, but because Governor Kemp has been busy recruiting green-related manufacturing to the state, selling them on Georgia’s light regulatory touch and low taxes, right out of the Reagan/Thatcher playbook.

Yes, there are issues with China. TTP was the best way to combat them; attack bad trade with free trade. But Trump was too dumb to realize it, just like he’s too dumb to see a lot of things. That anti-trade sentiments are thriving in the horseshoe of politics is maddening.

You need to have Scott Lincicome on to provide some balance, especially given the lack of pushback to Cass. Lincicome can speak to the sunny story of free markets. 

More pushback from a listener:

First off, your callout of Yglesias was hilarious. (I’ve been consistently reading him because of you, since you transitioned the Dish from Time magazine to The Atlantic back in 2007). You should have threatened to rename the Yglesias Award! 

I’ve encountered Oren Cass before, so I knew he was going to misrepresent neoliberalism, (neo)classical economics, and “market fundamentalism.” I was, however, disappointed that you seemed to largely embrace his way of thinking as promising, even though you could point out the failures of the left trying out various strains of illiberal socialism/collectivism/mercantilism that you lived through. My primary fear is that we will be worse if the right does anti-neoliberalism, because so much of the left is already intrinsically on board with being anti-market and anti-freedom. I never thought I would miss the Tea Party, but here we are.

You remarked, “When decades of sclerotic regulation have piled up, deregulation can be important.”

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