That sentiment was the underlying theme of Bill Mahers real time on Friday, as the comedian and his guests explored the different ways America remains divided, often through our own hands.
BJ Novak van The office was up first. His new movie comedy, Revenge, has undertones of the social struggles that divide America. Playing from that angle, Maher asked about the gap between the red state and the blue state and how it is possible to love those who don’t share your opinion.
What separates us, Novak said, is more about emotion than argument. He suggested we stop “looking for the crust” of the things we disagree on and focus on comedy, sports, art, “or sit down for dinner. That’s a start.” He added: “There is no divorce. Were stuck.”
Gatekeepers are too concerned about hurting the public with controversial views, Novak said. “The public can be trusted,” he added later, “People are afraid that other people are too sensitive.”
This week’s panel discussion was hosted by Catherine Rampell, opinion columnist at the Washington Post and political and economic commentator for CNN, and Noah Rothman, associate editor for Comment Magazine and author of The Rise of the New Puritans: Fighting Back Against Progressives War on Fun.
Maher posited to his panel that the left seems to be hammering away at the kind of things that used to be right-wing bugaboos.
Rothman agreed, saying it was “right wing for most of our lives.” But now the left wants to “emphasize their own moral code. “
Rampell didn’t quite buy it, noting, “We just had a vice president who couldn’t be alone with a woman.” She said she was “more concerned about the original recipe than the progressives.”
The people who now have the power to control the culture are “not the right ones,” Rothman objected.
Maher claimed it “is not the government that is Big Brother. It’s social media.” He later added that there is a “silent resentment” brewing caused by people who are afraid to speak out in an era of cancellation culture.
He brought up the recent shutdown of a Shonda Rimes production due to a word in the script. “It was like a reactor leak,” Maher said.
Such actions, Rampell said, are “currency to show they are offended.” Maher agreed. “The only allowed reaction now is overreaction.”
Rothman added that such actions are “how you communicate your zeal for the cause, twist yourself most zealously for the cause. You get a lot of points with it, but you take away something nice from us.”
In his editorial “New Rules,” Maher suggested making America great again to a more modest goal: “Let’s make the mall great again.”
Online shopping, Maher claimed, “makes us psychologically deadly”. In the mall’s Golden Age, it was called “America’s Town Square.”
Not only does online shopping exacerbate loneliness and isolation, it’s also an ecological nightmare, with excessive packaging and the idea of having people ride your pants around town, wasting resources.
Only 14% of packaging is recycled, Maher said. So his message to people under 30 was simple. Just because an app on the phone makes ordering easy “doesn’t make it cool”.
“It came with a price,” Maher said, referring to the child labor, fuel wastage and other drawbacks. “I hear a lot about my generation that has devastated the environment,” Maher said. “I don’t think it’s my generation.”
“Go play outside,” Maher concluded. “Going to the mall. Our social skills are declining. Amazon is at its peak, but you are not.”