So I’m watching the Bill Maher show and starting to doze off as Sheila Jackson Lee spouts some sort of moronic socialist nonsense, and all of a sudden I’m jarred alert as the show gets sucked into a bizarre alternate reality by a loud shouting voice from the audience. I have no idea what the guy was shouting, but all of a sudden Bill Maher is charging into the audience, calling for security and they’ve got the guy surrounded and are dragging him from the hall.
At this point it all becomes clear – thanks to my DVR at 1/15th speed – because I can read the sign he’s attempting to hold up and it says “Expose the 9/11 Coverup.” After he’s hustled out spraying flyers in his wake, Maher attempts to get things back on track to be interrupted first by a woman shouting “What about Building 7, Bill?” and then by a man shouting “Tell us what happened to building 7, Bill” and some other incomprehensible business about the government blowing up the towers. Well, they’re dragged out in turn, and the discussion got back on track after a few sarcastic comments and Maher pointing out that of all the groups he’s offended the only ones regularly protesting outside his studio are the 9/11 ‘Truthers’.
We have to thank the miracle of live television which made this spectacle possible. Live cameras make Maher’s show a target of opportunity for desperate conspiracy nuts who are so sure no one is listening to them – with good reason – that they think shouting slogans at random guests on a live cable TV show is a smart way to get taken seriously. What they don’t seem to get is that people who have serious political agendas and ideas which don’t require them to wear tinfoil hats are going to be invited to be on the stage at the Bill Maher show. They’re not going to be protesting in the street out front or shouting disruptive slogans from the audience.
Maher’s not exactly discriminating. He’s an equal opportunity exploiter and he’s more than willing to have just about any silly position aired on his show, even if only to rip a guest to shreds with nihilistic sarcasm. The fact that Maher won’t even give them as much consideration as he gives to radical vegans, activist homophobes or creationists, must really irk them. There’s nothing more frustrating when you’re sure you have a direct line to the one, absolute truth than to have someone with a media platform think you’re such a joke that he just ignores you. Thus, Maher must be attacked, disrupted, silenced until he has the courtesy to listen and give them the respect they think they deserve.
Which brings me around to what I think is a telling observation. Everyone who has a political position or message wants to be taken seriously. And we’d all love to have a forum for our views, even if it’s just a few minutes on a comedic cable show run by a bitter, priapic, prematurely gray egomaniac. But most of us are willing to go through normal channels, to wait our turn and work our way up to national exposure. We understand that if we have something worth saying then someone is going to want to give us a chance to say it.
The 9/11 fanatics are different. They seem to have come to the conclusion that no one is going to give their views an airing in the media. They probably see multiple levels of conspiracy, including a conspiracy to ignore them and their brilliant discoveries. What they don’t seem to get is that being obnoxious doesn’t make people respect them, it makes those they want to influence and the audience they want to reach take them even less seriously. If you have a controversial cause and behave like a whacko, then people conclude that your cause is silly even before they have a chance to consider the evidence. “Stupid is as stupid does” is the operating principle under which they seem to be eager to be judged.
As they marginalize themselves more and more with their ridiculous claims and increasingly outrageous behavior, I’m afraid we can expect to see more and more desperate and extreme attention-seeking behavior. That’s the pattern of the kind of narcissistic mindset which drives conspiracy fanatics. It’s even believable that in the ultimate irony, as they retreat into a world of paranoia and frustration, the 9/11 conspiracy fanatics might themselves turn to violent terrorism to get the attention they so desperately crave. It’s easy to laugh at the conspiracists, but it’s a grim truth that someone protesting Bill Maher this week might be the next Timothy McVeigh or Ted Kaczynski a few frustrated and ignored years down the road.