Soulless, Capitalist Vampires Making Money Off Human Pain

|

As an infrequent viewer of Bill Maher's unfunny HBO chat fest Real Time (though when you pit Christopher Hitchens against Mos Def, it can't be all bad), I wasn't entirely aware of just how thick the comedian-cum-policy analyst is. Sure, I had heard him tell viewers that Type II diabetes and acid reflux were invented by drug companies to maximize profits, reveal that France's president was someone called Nicolas "Sakorsky," explain in his "ode to government" why we must all have faith in Washington, and argue that Obama wasn't actually liberal. But this column on why capitalism is destroying health care—all those medical innovations were, as all know, developed in Enver Hoxha's Albania—is wonderfully idiotic. A sample:

Because medicine is now for-profit we have things like "recision" where insurance companies hire people to figure out ways to deny you coverage when you get sick, even though you've been paying into your plan for years.

When did the profit motive become the only reason to do anything? When did that become the new patriotism? Ask not what you could do for your country, ask what's in it for Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

If conservatives get to call universal health care "socialized medicine," I get to call private health care "soulless vampires making money off human pain." The problem with President Obama's health care plan isn't socialism, it's capitalism.

And if medicine is for profit, and war, and the news, and the penal system, my question is: what's wrong with firemen? Why don't they charge? They must be commies. Oh my God! That explains the red trucks!

As a true-believing atheist, it would follow that I would be somewhat eager to see a film skewering pious, sanctimonious, and deeply radical religious leaders that, in the Hitchens phrasing, "poison everything." But Maher's pious and sanctimonious film Religulous is enough to make one enroll at Liberty University. British journalist Peter Whittle, writing in Standpoint, had much the same reaction:

The governing principles of filming seem to have been set by the Louis Theroux and Ruby Wax school of factual programming. Find the softest targets you can, set them up and go in for the kill. Occasionally, this is entertaining in an embarrassing kind of way, such as when Maher interviews a spectacularly thick Evangelical Democratic congressman. But mostly the result is repetitive and demoralising. What possible point is served by interviewing—at some length—an actor who plays the part of Jesus in some tacky Holy Land theme park in Middle America? Is he going to talk himself out of a presumably much-needed gig? Why stroll into a tiny truckers' chapel on the edge of some highway and get chummy with the down-home guys, who are perfectly welcoming until the penny finally drops that they're being used as stooges? It's always a bad sign when film-makers determined to make a point resort to filming Speakers Corner in Hyde Park but on their global travels Maher and Charles and their crew leave no such cliché unturned.

Maher—the child of a Jew and a Catholic—is occasionally funny with his wry asides but the relentlessness of the overall approach is counterproductive. Something is wrong if, like me, you are an agnostic with atheistic tendencies and you find yourself rooting for the other side.

NEXT: Senators Brownback and Landrieu Want to Outlaw Centaurs and Minotaurs

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Communism never really goes out of style, does it?

  2. Libertarians really have a hard time liking Bill Maher. Fuck ,he’s just a comedian. Like Conan O’Brien, I laugh at every 8th joke.

  3. I had heard him tell viewers that Type II diabetes and acid reflux were invented by drug companies to maximize profits

    I’m going to find him, fuck his pancreas to death and then see what happens.

    Maher is an assdrizzling gigatard.

  4. Maher, IMHO, is the most successful of the trolls. He just spouts whatever shit he thinks might get the biggest reaction. His old show was so hard to watch because his opinons seemed to be formed on the spot simply to counter his guests.

  5. I haven’t seen Religulous, but I did notice that it was made by Larry Charles, who also directed Borat and Bruno. I wonder if the flavor of the movie would change if you pretended while watching it that Bill Maher is a fictional buffoon played by Sacha Baron Cohen.

  6. Because medicine is now for-profit

    What a tool.

    Every doctor and nurse since time immemorial has been for-profit (excepting those working for, um, religious organizations, Mr. Religulous).

    Many hospitals in the US right now are not-for-profit, and many of those have large not-for-profit physician clinics and miscellaneous other providers under their wings.

  7. I wonder if the flavor of the movie would change if you pretended while watching it that Bill Maher is a fictional buffoon played by Sacha Baron Cohen.

    Pretend? Wait, he isn’t?

    There were some pretty good episodes of Politically Incorrect back in the day, though. Like the one where Curtis Sliwa’s wife Lisa Evers was on and countered every opposition to her with “you’re incredibly attracted to me, aren’t you”. Gold.

  8. I like his show, but I hate the fact that he describes himself as a libertarian, when he really is little more than a limo liberal.

  9. >Communism never really goes out of style, does >it?

    Sadly, no. I guess butchering 100 million people in a single century isn’t enough of a faux pas for some people.

  10. I don’t care what else you say about Maher, but religilous was hilarious

  11. When did the profit motive become the only reason to do anything?

    Can I conclude from this that Maher works pro bono?

  12. Maher’s movie was entertaining at times. Of course it was unfair and went after easy targets. But any “true believing atheist” would have found some of it funny.

    I thought Borat was funny, but Bruno, not so much…

  13. Firemen do charge, it’s called property taxes. On top of that the community providing the fire protection charges more based on the value provided by the fire protection to the property owner – the more property and the more expensive it is the more you’re going to pay. The community also gets to set a lot of conditions on the fire protection through zoning, building codes, and inspections.

    Is Maher and company going to propose analogous conditions on government provided healthcare?

  14. Does anyone know the last time Maher actually described himself as a libertarian? His problem seems to be that he bought the idea that Bush’s screw-ups were failures of libertarian economics (which then challenges how libertarian he ever was). Maybe he will scale back as the Obama era sinks in, and maybe someone from reason should be the one to tell him?

    Also, Religuluous was good. That review was terrible. The point of Maher interviewing the Jesus actor was that religion= money/jobs, increasing the likelihood of defending the indefensible. If I recall, the people at the trucker’s chapel were welcoming of discussion the whole time, except the one guy who made a scene and left when he didn’t like the (perfectly reasonable) questions. I believe he thanked and shook hands with them all when he left.

    The overall point seemed to be that there were some cool religious people (Francis Collins, that Bishop with the sense of humor), but that religion tends to close minds and make people behave irrationally. I’m not sure how any skeptic could sympathize with the vast majority of the interviewees.

  15. Does Maher realize that farmers and grocers profit from human hunger? The architects and builders and clothing makers profit from the basic human need for shelter from the elements? My God, those soulless vampires are everywhere!

  16. So, is “thick” the word the cool kids are all using for “stupid/ignorant” now?

  17. When did the profit motive become the only reason to do anything? When did that become the new patriotism? Ask not what you could do for your country, ask what’s in it for Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

    It’s been quite a long time since I had Blue Cross health insurance, but isn’t Blue Cross a non-profit? I seem to recall that it was when I was a customer.

  18. “I don’t care what else you say about Maher, but religilous was hilarious”

    Totally agree. The people he picked were pretty much the kind of people you meet in everyday life. Nice people for the most part, who have crazy religious beliefs they can’t logically defend. Most religious people don’t spend much time thinking about why they believe what they do. I think the movie was just trying to point out how dangerous that is in a funny way.

    For the most part Bill Maher is just a narcissitic liberal douche bag IMHO.

  19. “It’s been quite a long time since I had Blue Cross health insurance, but isn’t Blue Cross a non-profit? I seem to recall that it was when I was a customer.”

    Blus Cross Blue Shield is a franchise that health insurance companies purchase. They have to agree to operate in the way the national Blue Cross Blue Shield orginization dictates in order to buy the franchise. I don’t know if being non-profit is one of those conditions or not. The Blue Cross I work for is non-profit & customer owned. I think most Blue Cross companies operate the same way.

  20. Interesting reviews concerning Religulous. I never watched it out of fear it would come across like a Michael Moore flick, i.e. a reasonably debatable idea being defended by a shit-storm of hyperbole, and a few lies for good measure. Kind of like Maher’s “Real Time”.

    Interesting that Religulous “rose above”. 🙂

  21. Just like Dear Leader said: maybe if we remove some of the profit motive we will get better health care.

    Of course, when you get rid of the profit motive, you get the situation that John Stossell illustrates in this clip: in Canada you can find a place to get a CT scan for a dog in about an hour and a half, but people have to wait months. The difference, of course, is that in Canada health care is “free” for humans.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yO9L3oyQhQ8

  22. I laugh at every 8th joke.

    Since his comeback in June even that would be a big stretch. He needs to be Andy’s second banana, not the other way around. Oh, except for the bits he does with a producer who is such a Tony. Conan is a huge Masshole to the guy, but the guy is very deserving of it.

  23. You get what you pay for. Perhaps Mr. Maher would prefer a Witch Doctor, I hear they work cheap.

  24. “Many hospitals in the US right now are not-for-profit…”

    Which doesn’t mean that they never actually make a profit – it just means that they don’t have to pay taxes on it.

  25. Man, you libertarians really come down hard and anybody who promotes a heresy. In another time and age you would be burning poor Bill Maher at the stake.

  26. I liked Religulous, but for the most part Maher is a left-liberal with a penchant for contrary opinions. He’s far from libertarian.

    Also, he’s a big promoter of pseudo-science; see the following entry from Skeptoid:

    Ten Most Wanted: Celebrities Who Promote Harmful Pseudoscience
    “#4 – Bill Maher

    While we love Bill Maher’s movie Religulous and appreciate that his is one of the very few public voices opposing the 9/11 conspiracy myths, we can’t deny that he has a darker side. Bill Maher is a board member of PETA – one of the people actually approving their payments to people like convicted arsonist Rod Coronado – but his ongoing act that’s most harmful to the world is his outspoken denial of evidence-based medicine. Yes, Bill is correct that a good diet and exercise are good for you, but he seems to think that doctors deny this. Not any doctor I’ve ever spoken to. Bill made it clear on a four-minute speech on his show that he believes government and Big Pharma conspire to keep everyone sick by prescribing drugs. If even a single person takes Bill’s claims to heart and avoids needed medical treatment as a result, Bill Maher is guilty of a terrible moral crime. Considering the huge size of his audience, this seems all too likely.”

  27. “Considering the huge size of his audience”

    Were they being ironic?

  28. Maher’s not close to as funny as Conan O’ Brien.

  29. I remeber on one Real Time Ep., Maher said of Hitchens “…the ego has landed”.

    Pot? Kettle?

  30. Pot? Kettle?

    Envy.

  31. When did the profit motive become the only reason to do anything?

    It’s funny Maher would say this, rich narcissistic fame-whore that he is.

    I know a girl who had a short relationship with him about ten years ago. She sent him modelling pictures, they corresponded and evenutally met, etc., your fairly typical starfucking scenario. Anyways, they had dinner then went to his hotel room, and when he toook his pants off she started laughing uncontrollably at his leopard thong and he was very hurt.

  32. he toook his pants off she started laughing uncontrollably at his leopard thong and he was very hurt

    I want this on a t-shirt or his tombstone.

  33. Lepus,

    You’re right. That’s poetry.

    All hail TallDave (or at least that girl he knows who (nearly?) slept with Bill Maher).

  34. “He’s far from libertarian.”

    Maher made the common mistake of confusing “libertarian” for “libertine”.

  35. “Many hospitals in the US right now are not-for-profit…”

    Which doesn’t mean that they never actually make a profit – it just means that they don’t have to pay taxes on it.

    No business can stay in business indefinitely at a loss. Hospitals have to make a profit, or they will close.

    The difference between for-profits and not-for-profits isn’t whether they are financially viable. Not-for-profit hospitals have to (1) devote all of their revenue to their mission (they can’t send surplus revenue to owners as dividends); and (2) provide care to people who can’t pay.

  36. Everyone has their favorite way of using the internet. Many of us search to find what we want, click in to a specific website, read what’s available and click out. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because it’s efficient. We learn to tune out things we don’t need and go straight for what’s essential.
    http://www.onlineuniversalwork.com

  37. Hello UK students!!!!
    Register before Jan 15thand get 1000 pounds student aid.

    http://www.eurocallingcards.com/econet/

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.