Liberal comedian Bill Maher roasted the woke concept of “presentism,” where historical figures and events are judged in the prism of the present – further arguing against the oft-claimed leftist position that White people are usually to blame for history’s lesser moments.
“New rule: You can get creative with a novel, a TV show or a movie, but history books – that’s not supposed to be fan fiction,” Maher said on “Real Time.”
The host added that gradeschool history class has indeed become controversial as of late, however also pushing back on both ideological sides of that controversy.
“[L]iberals [are] accusing conservatives of wanting to whitewash the past — And sometimes that’s true, sometimes they do. But plenty of liberals also want to abuse history to control the present.”
He cited a recent essay by scholar James Sweet, noting the Wisconsin professor “caught Hell” for criticizing presentism.
Maher said it is “stupid” to think that people from centuries or millennia ago “really should have known better,” remarking that most kids regret a lot of what they did in their youth as humanity regrets much of what it has done in its earlier years.
“I read Ayn Rand. I smoked. I was into numerology. Yes. Because we hadn’t then grown into the persons we would become. And humanity writ-large is just the collective version of that. Did Columbus commit atrocities? Of course. The people back then were generally atrocious. Everybody who could afford one had a slave, including people of color.”
Maher pushed back on assertions that slavery was basically unique to America, pointing out the root of the term is Slav – adding that Slavic people are not Black.
“Slavery throughout history has been the rule, not the exception,” he went on, adding that human capacity for cruelty is just that – human – and not explicitly White.
“But in today’s world, when truth conflicts with narrative, it’s the truth that has to apologize – Being woke is like a magic moral time machine where you judge everybody against what you imagine you would have done in 1066: And you always win.”
Maher riffed that presentists like to think they are better than George Washington because of the diversity of their friends versus his, arguing if the Founding Father was alive today, he would likely have just as diverse a circle.
“[That] is not to say that there is some truth to the old rubric that ‘history is written by the winners’ and it is subjective,” he added later in his monologue. “It’s also true that much of history is indisputably factual because we have artifacts and coins and birth records and archaeology.”
“[S]omebody in Mesopotamia kept a record of how much grain they ate: It’s not all up in the air to change or delete or make up based on what makes you feel better today,” Maher concluded.