Douche of the Week: Bill Maher
By Jack Mandaville
I not only love contributing to The Rhino Den, but I’m also an avid fan. The modern veteran community is as politically diverse—on certain issues—as the American population as a whole. The Den provides a place where we can steer our collective future through thought-provoking articles that often challenge our opinions and, by maintaining an open-minded dialogue in the process, we have the opportunity to buck certain stereotypes and stigmas that plague us.
But there are times when the veteran community almost unanimously comes together on something. And when those times arise; my yearning to write isn’t because I have a desire to guide a discussion. Instead, I do it purely for cathartic reasons—a needed outlet to prevent myself from making physical mistakes. In these cases, I have to write because my only other option is throwing my laptop through the first fucking window I see.
Enter Bill Maher.
On an episode of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher which aired on April 5, 2013, the often controversial talk show host was interviewing bestselling author Sebastian Junger (noted book and film works include War, The Perfect Storm and Restrepo) about his HBO documentary on deceased colleague Tim Hetherington. During the interview, Junger articulated why American veterans long for combat situations post-service:
Everything has a kind of intensity. The soldiers aren’t psychopaths, they don’t miss killing, they don’t miss getting killed, but what they miss is that sense of meaning and the bond that arises in that situation. You know, platoon, most of the guys in a platoon would risk their life for everyone else in the platoon. You can’t recreate that back home and that’s what they miss.
Folks, Junger is one of a few civilian journalists who have the ability to accurately communicate the sentiments of the American veteran. That nailed it.
Alright… let’s go to Maher’s immediate response:
Well, some of them are psychopaths. I mean, let’s be honest. Some people join the Army because it’s the one place where you can kill people for free—where you’re not charged with murder. I’m not saying that’s the main component of it, but I mean that is some attraction.
… Holy. Fucking. Shitballs. Never in the history of Douchedom have I heard such an asinine remark regarding American veterans. (Okay, I’ll admit, there are certainly some contenders out there.) And the funniest thing was you heard nothing but crickets coming from Maher’s otherwise fiercely loyal audience. Even they were like, “Uh… you’re on your own, Bill.”
Before I go into my denunciation of this ass-nugget, I want to give you Junger’s response… because it was spot-on:
There are probably psychopaths in every population. But the guys that I knew out there actually were, they were incredibly aware of the Afghans because they knew if they alienated the local population they would be in more danger. And they were really, really careful, actually.
That first sentence in Junger’s retort pretty much summed up why Maher’s response was so epically douchetastic. Maher propagated the erroneous belief that psychopathic individuals are somehow attracted to military service because of the nature of the job—meaning there would be a significant portion of personnel who fit the textbook definition of a psychopath. That couldn’t be farther from the truth for so many reasons. The main being that in order to successfully manage a cohesive military unit (especially in the 21st Century) you must create an atmosphere where numerous people utilize critical thinking skills to benefit the group as a whole. This entails selfless, well-disciplined individual behavior to promote the long-term goals of the group.
Concerning the textbook definition, psychopaths are not well-disciplined nor are they selfless. They act purely for their own self-interest. And anyone who has ever served in an infantry unit can tell you that individuals like that are typically recognized and weeded out. Furthermore, as Junger pointed out in his brief reply, soldiers operating in warzones make certain decision in the interest of their own survival, whereas psychopathic individuals usually act with little concern of consequences.
Are there individuals serving in the US Military who would fit the textbook definition of a psychopath? Abso-fucking-lutely. But it’s safe to say—again, as Junger briefly pointed out—that these individuals have also swarmed into other occupations and lifestyles. (Let’s not forget that we couldn’t go one week in the 90s without hearing about a postal worker going on a rampage.)
Before I end this, I’d like to make a point on two issues:
1) What this (Maher’s) mentality does to returning veterans. I could write an entire dissertation on negative stereotypes that harm the reputation of the American Veteran. The bullshit coming from high profile entertainers and media members like Maher is precisely why veterans are fighting an uphill battle in the sphere of unemployment. Who wants to hire somebody when they’re repeatedly being told that certain individuals are psychopaths?
2) Maher gives liberals a black eye. I’ve seen a lot of commentary on the internet trying to link Maher’s utterly idiotic statement with American liberalism. Bill Maher didn’t say that because he’s a liberal. He said it because he’s a douchebag. (Hence why he’s Douche of the Week.) There are plenty of liberals who don’t feel this way and, moreover, there are liberals serving in our armed forces. He represents liberal ideology the same way that fuck-face Michael Savage represents conservatism—meaning they’re fringe assholes who get paid to shock people.
Folks, the men and women serving our nation are some of the best individuals in our population. And like any workforce, you’re going to get a few bad apples every once in a while. The fact that Bill Maher used the actions of a few to tarnish the reputation of the majority is why he’s our Douche of the Week.