LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE

The latest scare stories – the terrorists are going to give us a display of nuclear fireworks on July 4, commandeer dams, electrical grids, and traffic lights via the Internet, and launch suicide attacks in shopping malls – don’t phase me. I guess we’re all so used to the hysterics of our demagogic leaders that we’re immunized to its demoralizing effects. Besides, I tend to be an optimist. My motto: Look on the bright side, and you’ll see there’s lots of good stuff happening….

AND THE GOOD NEWS IS …

First and foremost, that prick Bill Maher is off the air. Glory, glory, hallelujah! I went on that puffed-up popinjay‘s misnamed show when it was on cable, in 1996, before Maher made the leap from minor obnoxious lout to bigtime bullsh*tter. They invited me on because, back in the days before Andrew Sullivan’s relentless self-promotion really paid off, and Pim Fortuyn‘s name was on everyone’s lips, the idea of an "out" homosexual with political opinions to the right of Barney Frank was – to Bill Maher, at least – somewhat scandalous.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being "out," but I had never made an issue of my sexuality. I disagree with practically everything advocated by the "gay movement" of the 1990s – "hate crime" laws (Orwell called it "thoughtcrime"), anti-discrimination legislation (yeah, but does it work both ways?), and an unattractive tendency to whine. To invert a bromide coined in the 1960s: the personal, I emphatically believe, is not the political.

At any rate, to Maher and his staff, my support for Pat Buchanan’s presidential bid was a major issue on account on my sexuality. I had never hid my preferences: I once spoke at a National Review conference on the subject of why there’s no such thing as "gay rights," only individual (i.e. property) rights, and I had written a few articles on the subject. At any rate, a news story appeared in one of the local Bay Area newspapers – not unsympathetic to me, by any means – that mentioned my sexuality in the context of explaining that ideas, in this case at least, trump "cultural" issues. Buchanan had, after all, written the Introduction to my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, and we both agreed on the vitally important issue of foreign policy, as well as on the desirability of radically reducing the size of the federal government. To a Hollywood airhead like Maher and his glitzy guests, however, such intellectual bonds are meaningless, since, as we all know, everything is really all about sex, drugs, and rock-&-roll.

Yes, it really was that tiresome, sitting there [March 6, 1996] with Maher, Dweezil Zappa, Cheech Marin, and purported comedienne Cathy Ladman – a female version of Maher: bitchier, more leftish, and just as vulgar, with a perpetual smirk plastered across her heavily-made up face. While Cheech just sat there looking like an Aztec Buddha, Dweezil, Maher, and the B*tch yapped at me: you’re gay, you’re a conservative, Yawp! Yawp! Yawp! After pointing out the absurdity of making sexuality central to one’s politics, I changed the subject to one more to my liking: foreign policy.

Your man Clinton, I said to Maher, is about to embroil us in a major war in the Balkans.

Oh, but everything’s so peaceful over there in Bosnia right now, Know-it-all-Maher replied.

"Watch Kosovo, Bill," but I doubt whether he knew that this wasn’t a new sitcom.

During the commercial break, Maher, without looking at me, barked at the others: "Hey, he’s dominating the show – will somebody please stand up to him?" I laughed: "How about you, Bill? Think you’re up to the job?" But when gay-baiting me didn’t work – Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have a lot to learn from their counterparts on the Left – Maher’s bag of tricks was empty. It was left to poor little Dweezil, wearing a $500 sweater made by impoverished peasants of the Guatamalan rainforest, to take me on. The kid had the most puzzled expression on his face, as if the idea of confronting someone who didn’t fit his preconceived stereotypes was profoundly unsettling: "How can you support that… that … uh, fascist Buchanan?!" he exclaimed. The clueless little twerp didn’t understand or care about foreign policy, isolationism, or any of the other issues I talked about – the federal Leviathan, immigration, our dwindling national sovereignty. To him, and his Hollywood ilk, the only issues are social issues: abortion, homosexuality, and drugs.

While these shows are usually lighthearted affairs, things got pretty intense – and I was happy, because I stayed on message. The applause sign – yes, they had one – never went on for my benefit, but Dweezil needed all the help he could get. NAFTA? Duh-uh! Who dat?

In any case, as the show finally ground to a halt, we retired to the Green Room, where the atmosphere was chilly. Dweezil had really waded in over his head, and got quite a sour look on his face when one of the staff told me I had given them "a good show." I sat there nibbling on cheese and grapes: yes, a good show indeed, I thought, wondering at the strange circumstances I found myself in. Here I was on national television, explaining the plain and simple truth about homosexuals: that they are individuals, like anyone else, human beings with the capacity to think, choose, and act in a variety of ways and according to strictures peculiar to themselves. After all the "liberation" we are supposed to have experienced, I wondered, does this really need to be spelled out?

I walked away chortling to myself. Not only had I managed to stay on message, and get out the Buchananite-America First-isolationist message – actually getting to talk for five whole minutes about the evils of our Balkan interventionism on national tv! – but I also got to stay in one of those ritzy West Hollywood hotels, with starlets in the lobby and everyone glued to their cell phones, talking in hushed but clearly audible tones: "Letterman? I suppose he’ll have to do…."

A blonde bellboy with "for rent" written all over his cherubic face showed me to my room – a space three times the size of my San Francisco apartment. The place had six television sets: two in the living room, two in the bedroom, and two in the bathroom. The refrigerator was filled with ice-cream, cakes, and confections of every sort, and another ice-box was stuffed to the brim with juices, colas, sodas, and bottled water. Every table was covered with dishes of fruits, nuts, and after-dinner mints. The bed was big enough for a five-some, and there was what looked to be a month’s supply of condoms (for five people) in the bathroom cabinet. It was a glutton’s paradise. I went over to the window and opened the sliding glass door. A warm draught of aromatic air wafted into the room, heavy with the sultry scents of southern California: the perfume of passionflowers, the chlorine-smell of the pool, all mixed with an unnatural, luxurious sweetness….

I became intimately acquainted with Room Service that night: dinner, a midnight snack, a 2 a.m. refrigerator raid, and lots of telephone calls, until finally collapsing into a bloated, hyper-caffeinated shuddering heap.

I woke in a sweat, and for one queasy moment thought I had ventured onto the set of Caligula. Candy wrappers littered the plush carpet; piles of dishes, the contents half-eaten, were strewn about the place; the room was thick with the acrid aroma of tobacco spiced with marijuana. I lurched over to the balcony, and gulped fresh air. After a few sips of coffee – good morning, Room Service! It’s me again! – my head began to clear.

As lucidity returned, it seemed to me there was something distinctively evil about all this extravagance, like a beautiful flower infected with some secret corruption at its core. Thinking back over the events of the previous evening – Maher’s mean-mouthed malice, Ms. Laden’s putrid persona, the pathetically ineffective attempt to ambush me – I felt as if I’d come in contact with a force so powerful, and so malignant, that the mere contemplation of it left me feeling slightly ill. I kept seeing that sinister "applause!" sign flashing overhead, commanding the obedience of the audience at strategic moments.

Hurriedly, I packed my bags. Although the limousine wouldn’t arrive to pick me up for another half hour, I was suddenly eager to get out of that room and on my way home. Down at the desk, the clerk glanced at my bill and said: "I guess the show is picking up the tab. " But of course, I replied, in all sincerity.

A month later, I received a bill for $480 from the hotel. The Maher people claimed nonresponsibility for the tab. I sent it back, naturally, with a terse note. After all, what poor writer of obscure right-wing tracts (or writer of anything, for that matter) is expected to pay for his own Room Service?

I have little doubt that Maher and his movie mogul friends, who spend billions each year corrupting the culture, are still contesting that bill – and doesn’t that underscore the perfect tackiness of Hollywood?

Maher’s exit is cause for celebration not only on account of his lack of appreciation for this writer, but because he’s a raving militarist, and always has been. During the Kosovo war, he cheered on Clinton’s war of "liberation" that devastated the Balkans, and he has always been a kneejerk defender of Israel. His supposedly offensive comments were made in the context of support for the war, which is why militarist nutballs like David Horowitz came to his defense. As Maher put it in a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, in purging him the War Party was turning on one of their own:

"I was angry that (critics) were twisting my words and taking advantage of tricks to get rid of me, and that it was working and that it did work. People should be angry about that. The thing that made me most angry was that I was probably the most pro-military commentator on television for all my years on the air, way before it was cool."

Gee, I guess that’s what happens to great innovators: they wind up destroyed by the popularity of their own innovations. In Maher’s case, it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy….

GOOD MOVE

Look on the bright side: the Israelis have decided against exiling the families of suicide bombers overseas. Not out of any sense of decency, or justice, mind you, and certainly not out of repulsion at the idea of collective guilt, but on account of the threat of prosecution by the International War Crimes Tribunal. After all, the Tribunal might not look too kindly on such a blatantly violation of Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, which forbids the ethnic cleansing of conquered peoples and their transfer to another country.

LET’S PRETEND

Things are getting better – aren’t they? I mean, the FBI may still be refusing to arrest the real Anthrax Mass Terrorist – whose identity they cannot possibly be unaware of – but at least they’re pretending to have an interest in cracking the case. That’s an improvement, of sorts – and they’re even halfway convincing.

PROGRESS – OF A SORT

Instead of getting rid of the settlements, all the little Brooklyns-in-the-desert that are such a thorn in the side of the Palestinians, the state-owned Israel Broadcasting Authority has banned its editorial departments from using the words “settlers” or “settlements” on radio and TV. Instead, they are to be called "neighborhoods" – as in, "It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood." No word yet on whether Mr. Rogers has agreed to head up the Ministry of Lebensraum.

Read more by Justin Raimondo

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].