One of These Is Not Like the Other

Timothy Sandefur is embarrassed:

So I was watching this insane video of Christopher Hitchens and Salman Rushdie discussing the War on Terrorism with Mos Def. And it’s amusing to laugh at the utterly hapless ignorance of “Mr. Def,” as he is repeatedly called—until you stop and wonder. Why is the black community not outraged by this? Bill Maher hosts a talk show to discuss the threat of Islamic terrorism and the Middle East, and he invites two world-renowned white male intellectuals and Mos Def? If this show had been choreographed by the Ku Klux Klan it could not have been more infuriating. Did Maher not have the phone number of a black intellectual? Were Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Orlando Patterson, Julian Bond, Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, John McWhorter all busy?

Here’s the video:

While I agree entirely that this is an absurd pairing, it’s most definitely not a racist one.  Sandefur has apparently never seen “Real Time with Bill Maher.”  The premise of the show, from its inception more than six years ago, has been to pair politicos and pop culture figures in discussion.  (Whether the point of the exercise was to demonstrate that the latter are morons or that their opinions are equally valid, I could never determine.)

Here are the seven season openers.

February 21, 2003. Guests: Author Ann Coulter, actor Larry Miller, writer, radio host and professor Michael Eric Dyson, comedian Sarah Silverman, comedian Chris Rock.  Topics: The UN, Affirmative Action.

January 16, 2004. Guests: Ret. Gen. Wesley Clark, artist Moby, Rev. Al Sharpton, actor Ron Silver, Rep. Darrell Issa. Topics: American values, Iraq, MoveOn.org, environment.

February 18, 2005. Guests: Correspondent Lesley Stahl, actor Robin Williams, former H&HS Sec. Tommy Thompson, Sen. Joe Biden, and actor Don Cheadle. Topics: On protecting sources, Jeff Gannon, on Interrogating prisoners, Iraq elections, Darfur.

February 17, 2006. Guests: Sen. Russ Feingold, commentator Fred Barnes, actor Eddie Griffin, reporter Helen Thomas, Iraq advisor Dan Senor. Topics: Cheney shooting, on the Patriot Act, Bush, Mohammad cartoons.

February 16, 2007. Guests: Fmr Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, fmr Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, TV host Craig Ferguson; via satellite, fmr Sen. John Edwards and basketball player John Amaechi. Topics: Developments in North Korea, Iran, and Iraq; global warming; Mitt Romney and Mormonism; Al Franken Senate campaign.

January 11, 2008. Guests: Entrepreneur Mark Cuban, fmr Court TV anchor Catherine Crier, fmr Bush Press Secy Tony Snow, Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi (election correspondent); via satellite, humorist P.J. O’Rourke. Topics: New Hampshire primary, electronic voting machines, Iraq troop surge, subprime lending and prospects for economic recession.

February 20, 2009. Guests: Financial Times editor Chrystia Freeland, journalist Tina Brown, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA); via satellite, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), journalist Brigitte Gabriel The economy, President Obama’s first month in office.

See the Wikipedia episode guide if you fear the season openers are not representative.

The pairings are, in most if not all cases, patently absurd. They include plenty of famous white guys who would, on the face of things, seem to be woefully out of their elements and plenty of black guys who would seemingly mop of the floor with the competition.

For what it’s worth, Mr. Def was really good in this week’s “House.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    Did Maher not have the phone number of a black intellectual? Were Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Orlando Patterson, Julian Bond, Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, John McWhorter all busy?

    But they’re not liberals, ya see.

    Thus are we faced with the frightening, yet unsuprising prospect that Def was the smartest black liberal they could find to take the role.

  2. I only listed the first people who came to mind, who, given my political views, happen to be more generally conservative or libertarian (except for Orlando Patterson, who I believe is pretty left, but whose work I nevertheless admire). There are plenty of serious black intellectuals on the left, obviously.

  3. Derrick says:

    Why is the black community not outraged by this?

    I think I can speak for the black community, when I ask, “Why isn’t the white community outraged by Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck?” I watch Maher pretty regularly, and if you watched the week before he had Kerry Washington, a young black actress, who was extremely informed, most likely a liberal and hot as well. Maher has had other young blacks like John Legend, Farai Chideya, Corey Booker and Amy Holmes (a conservative) and they’ve done just fine. Sandefur’s argument is silly on its face.

  4. Bithead says:

    I think I can speak for the black community, when I ask, “Why isn’t the white community outraged by Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck?”

    A look at the reaction to each will give your answer to you.

    With Coulter and Beck the left gets angry because they articularte an anti-left position all too effecteively for the left’s tastes. They hit too close to home.

    Compare that to James’ reaction.

    Out.

  5. Derrick says:

    With Coulter and Beck the left gets angry because they articularte an anti-left position all too effecteively for the left’s tastes. They hit too close to home.

    Huh? I guess by the same standard, conservatives deep-seated anger at Ward Churchill or Cindy Sheehan is because they articulate such an effective anti-right position. This notion that because you think someone is vile, is some proof of their effectiveness is the reasoning of children. I happen to not like bat-shit crazy people whether its the homeless preacher guy trying to tell me that I’m going to hell, or Glenn Beck telling me that liberals are setting up FEMA Concentration Camps. It’s just that they actually give Glenn Beck an actual medium to voice his insane ramblings.

  6. Bithead says:

    Huh? I guess by the same standard, conservatives deep-seated anger at Ward Churchill or Cindy Sheehan is because they articulate such an effective anti-right position.

    Well, that’s right enough. The position they articulate is itself incoherrent, but they do as good a job as any of trying to explain it. Of course, tey’re not black, are they?

    This notion that because you think someone is vile, is some proof of their effectiveness is the reasoning of children

    Not at all. You think them vile because you dislike their politics. You target them because they’re effective. One is not the other.

  7. sam says:

    With Coulter and Beck the left gets angry because they articulate

    That’s a stretch. Anyhow, I didn’t see the show, but I did see House last night. Mos Def is a pretty good actor. The “Mr. Def” part reminded me of a review of Bo Diddley in the New York Times some years back wherein the reviewer kept referring to “Mr. Diddley”. I guess that’s correct, but it sounded funny when I read it (still does).

  8. Steve Plunk says:

    This illustrates once again why it is foolish to look to Maher, SNL, The Daily Show, or Colbert for real news, analysis, or opinion that matters. These are comedy shows, nothing more. The amount of attention given to their political content is just amazing to me. You might as well ask junior high students to comment.

  9. Loviatar says:

    your friend lost when he said

    Why is the black community not outraged by this? Bill Maher hosts a talk show to discuss the threat of Islamic terrorism and the Middle East, and he invites two world-renowned white male intellectuals and Mos Def?

    when did Salman Rushdie become white?

    .
    .
    P.S>

    Bithead proves that not only is he a usually wrong (ignorant), but it seems that he is also a bigot. no surprise there, kind of figured, glad to see the proof though.

    Thus are we faced with the frightening, yet unsuprising prospect that Def was the smartest black liberal they could find to take the role.

  10. Ben says:

    The “Mr. Def” part reminded me of a review of Bo Diddley in the New York Times some years back wherein the reviewer kept referring to “Mr. Diddley”. I guess that’s correct, but it sounded funny when I read it (still does).

    It reminds me of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, when they call Joan of Arc “Miss Of Arc”

  11. Franklin says:

    In what way are Coulter and Beck *effective*?

    I would agree that Coulter riles some on the left (the ones who haven’t realized it’s just a big act – she’s actually a flaming liberal trying to make all conservatives look hateful).

    But Beck inspires fear in no one – he sounds exactly like the Young Republicans back in high school, except he’s not quite as smart.

  12. Bithead says:

    Bithead proves that not only is he a usually wrong (ignorant), but it seems that he is also a bigot. no surprise there, kind of figured, glad to see the proof though.

    Perhaps you’re reading something in that isn’t there. Look at it this way; Are there smarter black liberals out there? Possibly. It certainly wouldn’t take much to get smarter than the guy they got to fill the role. But being smarter, they wanted no part of Maher. Get it, now?

  13. An Interested Party says:

    "It certainly wouldn't take much to get smarter than the guy they got to fill the role. But being smarter, they wanted no part of Maher. Get it, now?"

    Umm, that's not quite right, as smarter black folks like Michael Eric Dyson and Cornel West have appeared on Maher's show…try again…

  14. Bithead says:

    Have.
    Past tense.

    We’re talking about current, not past events.
    I’m suggesting that currently the list of smart people getting involved with that creep grows justifiably thin