Maher Mocks Liberals for Loving Stalin - and His Liberal Audience Sits on Their Hands

On his latest "Real Time with Bill Maher" show on HBO over the weekend, Bill Maher went where no comedian wants to find himself -- the dead zone of awkward silence from an audience.

Maher and his guests were talking about textbook bad hire/turncoat Edward Snowden seeking asylum in Russia and a WikiLeaks tweet praising this allegedly "democratic country" under Putin. (Video after the jump)

I've seen this before, Maher exclaimed, then serving up a gem that should gladden the hearts of conservatives everywhere --

MAHER: But what do you think about this? Now, I'm so glad that you exist (referring to one of his guests, national security writer Jeremy Scahill) and Glenn Greenwald and Snowden, all these people, Bradley Manning, they've done a service. They're also, very often, a little nuts. Uh, when Wiki- ...

SCAHILL (realizing he's been insulted): Wait, you're calling me nuts?

MAHER (backpedaling): Not you, not you ...

SCAHILL: You just said ...

MAHER: ... you are not nuts ...

SCAHILL: All right.

MAHER: ... but when, I've been watching Putin this week (and this somehow explains why I just insulted you; audience dutifully laughs) so, you know, you know. But listen, when he took Snowden in, WikiLeaks tweeted, 'WikiLeaks has assisted Mr. Snowden in gaining political asylum in a democratic country.' Really?! A democratic country? And Snowden tweeted, 'Russia has my gratitude and respect for being the first to stand against human rights violations.' Yeah, if anybody deserves a clap on the back (sarcastically; polite laughter from audience), I mean, for that it's Russia. And, you know ...

SCAHILL: Russia is one of the most atrocious human-rights violating governments on the planet, uh ...

MAHER (interrupting, eager to share a keen insight): I know, it reminds me of the 1930s when the liberals all thought Stalin was a great guy. (Pin-drop silence from audience)

SCAHILL (realizing it's time to change subject) Well, no, look, I mean ...

Remember back during the GOP debates in the 2012 campaign, when liberals in media elevated audience reaction to remarks by candidates to cosmic significance, as if a yahoo or two in the back rows braying in favor of capital punishment represented the views of all conservatives? Fair enough -- audience reaction is fair game. And in the example from Maher's show, the response wasn't muddied by a few people in the audience cutting one way or the other. The response was uniform and the type most dreaded by comedians -- none at all.

No, I wasn't in that audience, so I can't claim to have seen its reaction first hand. But ask a dozen people who were and you'll get a dozen answers as to why the audience did not laugh, clap, jeer, or all of the above in response to Maher accurately pointing out how lefties of yore positively swooned for Uncle Joe.

At least a few people there were surely astute enough to have heard Maher's remark and said to themselves, hmm, I think I've just been insulted. But rather than react as Scahill did to Maher's earlier insinuation that he -- like Snowden, Greenwald and Manning -- is "a little nuts" -- those members of the audience who understood what Maher said decided the best response was silence.

Given that illiteracy of history is at historic levels, a more likely explanation is that many people watching the show live heard what Maher said and asked themselves this -- who was Stalin and why did liberals love him?

In the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, the left has largely succeeded in keeping their embarrassing reverence of this butcherous monster under wraps, lest it scare the children. Left wingers were also successful in a similar effort over recent decades, in claiming that it was Joseph McCarthy who was the problem, not all those communists who'd infiltrated the highest reaches of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations.

The release of the Venona cables in the 1990s proved that McCarthy was right and, ever since, liberals have taken to criticizing McCarthy's tactics. OK, they sheepishly admit, there may have been a communist or three in the State Department, working way down in the basement, and only on weekends. But McCarthy was a drunken boor with bad table manners, and we can all agree that's far worse.

Liberals have tougher sledding with Stalin, what with those awkward photos of him with FDR and Churchill that can't be airbrushed away, at least not yet. Better that Stalin is mentioned infrequently if at all, and ignore it when he is.

Jack Coleman
Liberated ex-liberal from the People's Republic of Massachusetts