Bill Maher's When You Ride Alone
How controversial is television host Bill Maher? Let’s just say John Ashcroft is bugging his phone right now.
Maher’s latest book, When You Ride Alone You Ride with Bin Laden: What the Government Should Be Telling Us to Help Fight the War on Terrorism, revives classic World War II propaganda posters and gives them a contemporary treatment. Oh yeah, there’s a ton of commentary from the Master of Controversy himself, without the pseudo-intellectual rebuttals from B-list movie stars found on his television show.
Ride Alone tallies in at just over 100 pages, a quick read with lots of pretty pictures for those ADD kids in the audience. Each revamped propaganda poster has a corresponding essay/rant from Maher. The essays brim with pithy one-liners and comic absurdity, and read like a transcript of his stand-up routines and monologues. This is either good or bad, depending on your sense of humor.
Let me dispense some sage advice to remember while reading this book. Interpreting When You Ride Alone as a handbook for saving America is a mistake. Maher doesn’t outline a specific plan of action. He is simply crying in the wilderness, “Look at me. At least I’m trying.” The man desperately wants to preserve a way of life that he both loves and hates.
Quoted in the book is F. Scott Fitzgerald, who said “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at once and still retain the ability to function.” It is a poignant reference, considering that Maher’s mind seems a philosophical contradiction at times. He melds a big-government mentality with Kennedy-era patriotic fervor, with a big scoop of libertarianism thrown in for flavor. He berates Americans for gorging on fast food and driving gas guzzlers, then in the next chapter salivates over his love of America. He chastises government for the War on Drugs, then demands better management of the War on Terror.
These apparent contradictions don’t weaken Maher’s presentation.
They just make the book seem like one man’s rambling thoughts on important
issues, much like talking to a drunken uncle over Thanksgiving dinner –
a pleasant dialogue if taken with a grain of salt or a couple shots of bourbon.
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