“THERE WAS A STUDY DONE that found out online conversations that were intercepted and stored by the NSA—nine out of ten were not from foreigners. They are from ordinary citizens, and I want to read this: ‘Many files … described as useless by the analysts had a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. Stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental health crises, and disappointed hopes.’
This is exactly what they said they weren’t going to do. Just, you know, be nosy and look into the lives of private people for their own shits and giggles. And I just want to say, if this was happening under Bush, liberals would be apoplectic. I’m sorry, but liberals are just sometimes useless Obama hacks without a shred of intellectual honesty.”
From “Bill Maher Blasts ‘Useless Obama Hacks’ Who Refuse To Criticize NSA Surveilance” on the Huffington Post site (July 13, 2014). The study that he is citing was done by The Washington Post about the data from the ‘Snowden files’ (“In NSA-intercepted data, those not targeted far outnumber the foreigners who are”).
The quotes that follow below are from the Comments section of the HuffPost page above. They echo my own response to Maher’s statement and virtually every other person I know who voted for Obama. (Note that I have edited/corrected the grammar/punctuation where necessary, not to alter the writer’s meaning but because many of them are written on spur-of-the-moment and errors were left uncorrected when the writer presses the SEND COMMENT button.)
“I say this as a staunch liberal: I do not approve of the NSA and what they are doing as far as spying on everyone. I do feel they have a legitimate job to do. There are people in the world that want to hurt this country and it’s citizens.” – Jeffrey Howard
“I’m a liberal and I don’t have a single liberal friend who isn’t outraged by Obama’s support for and expansion of the NSA. The idea that liberals support everything Obama says and does is nonsense from Fox News.” – Xtfr Em
“This is one of the issues over which the Left dislikes Obama. They call him a Moderate Republican for a reason.” – Kevin Bain
“It’s awful when the otherwise sharp Bill Maher makes an absurd comment in one of those mandatory, even-steven jabs to the left. I don’t know of a single liberal who embraces Obama no matter what, and certainly not a single liberal who supports NSA spying on Americans.” – Mike Tucker
Attacking a straw man time
Please reread Bill Maher’s statement above: he is NOT discussing statements that were made by anyone! He is, in fact, discussing the lack of statements from “liberals” who he believes should be berating Obama for the continuing NSA surveillance of American citizens. Also in fact, he offers no evidence to support his argument because his argument is based on a presumed lack of evidence! It is a variation of the time-dishonored straw man argument.
“A straw man argument (also known as an Aunt Sally in the UK) is an informal fallacy based on the misrepresentation of an opponent’s argument. To be successful, a straw man argument requires that the audience be ignorant or uninformed of the original argument.
Attacking a straw man implies an adversarial, polemic, or combative debate, and creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent’s proposition by covertly replacing it with a different proposition and then to refute or defeat that false argument instead of the original proposition.
This technique has been used throughout history in polemical debate, particularly in arguments about highly charged emotional issues where a fiery, entertaining ‘battle’ and the defeat of an ‘enemy’ may be more valued than critical thinking or understanding both sides of the issue.” (Wikipedia)
That is, because Maher is discussing what allegedly is NOT being said, there is no source to which he can point to buttress his argument. All that those who think he was overbroad in his pronouncement have to do is to find a few sources where criticism of Obama by liberals do exist.
And they abound!
They are everywhere, especially in the conversations that we hear every day from those around us. Normal Joes who vote and read and have conversations about politics.
Therefore, he is equating silence (no statements of derision) with actual statements of non-derision (and presumably therefore of support) that no one made. He then attributes these non-statements, this silence, to no recognizable entity—the term “Obama hacks” describes no one in particular, whether or not such people exist. (Which we can assume they do, but I prefer to assume as little as possible …)
Rhetorical question time
How did Bill arrive at this conclusion? Did he monitor every website and blog, newspaper and magazine column, and radio and television show to determine that “liberals” were not, in fact, quite “apoplectic” about the NSA surveillance?
A good monitor of liberal and progressive attitude and opinion did exist for a few years: it was called progressive talk radio. Brought to national attention by the launching of Air America in 2004, it allowed such hosts as Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz (both of whom went onto television) along with Thom Hartman, Randi Rhodes, NorMan GoldMan, Ron Reagan, Al Franken, Mike Malloy, Mike Pappantonio, Stephanie Miller, etc., to reflect the views of approximately 50% of the electorate on a national podium.
Except the DLM (damn liberal media) removed most of these outlets from AM stations around the country. And that includes liberal markets (Seattle and Portland come to mind) and markets where the shows were rated at the top of their time slot.
Finally, to end this piece, I will quote another message from the Huffington Post Comments section:
“The problem with the right’s over-the-top, hyperbolic reaction to every single teeny tiny [thing] Obama does [is] that it unbalances all objectivity—so when he does do something legitimately worth criticizing, it’s hard to [separate] the wheat from the chaff.” – Wendelyn Wood Anderson
PS: Yeah yeah yeah I titled this “bill maher identifies new political species: the non-apoplectic obama hack” but I am a fan and almost always enjoy his shows and recommend his sorta documentary movie Religulous …