March 25th, 1998
Guests on this program were:
Faye Anderson
Ron Silver
Matthew Modine
Harlan Ellison
Bill's Opening

[ Applause ]

Bill: Thank you, folks.
Oh, you're very kind.

[ Applause ]

Thank you so much.
Oh, well, you're very kind.
People are in such a good mood every time Clinton goes to Africa.

[ Laughter ]

They just --

[ Laughter ]

I don't know what it is.
But have you been following the President?
He's on his big African vacation.
It's really quite an amazing thing.
And he's been in a very repentant mood because he has apologized, almost, for slavery.
Also said he felt bad about the --

[ Laughter ]

-- The genocide in Rwanda.
But of course, Clinton always gives mixed signals about what the White man has done.
'Cause today, he launched into a rousing defense of the missionary position.

[ Laughter ]

So I -- I don't know.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Yeah, I don't know -- I don't know if you've been watching the footage of the news of the Clintons in Africa, but they're doing some things they've never done before.
He was in Uganda, and he and Hillary, both the President and the First Lady, participated in a tribal dance.

[ Laughter ]

I'm not kidding.
And the villagers were delighted when it started to rain subpoenas.

[ Laughter and applause ]

It's amazing.
Now, he is over there in Africa with a delegation of 800 people went with him, including many prominent African-Americans, headed by Jesse Jackson.
And Jesse Jackson gave a press briefing yesterday explaining how slavery actually operated.
It was a very detailed briefing.
In fact, it was so realistic at one point, he accidentally sold Gary Coleman for $75.

[ Laughter and applause ]

Now, just because the President is away doesn't mean that the business of his administration doesn't go on here, because it does.
And very important news today, the Clinton administration announced they are changing the way we are distributing donated organs.
If you need an organ, it was always done by regional.
You know, if you were in Pittsburgh, you got a liver from a guy in Pittsburgh.
Well, now they're changing it so it's national.
The person who is most sick all across the country will get the organ.
And efficient transplantation is a pet project of Clinton's because among people in this country, he above all, knows the devastation of having an organ rejected.
I think --

[ Laughter ]

-- We know that.

[ Cheers and applause ]

And finally, if -- anybody from Texas?
Because there was a big brouhaha in Texas.
God was supposed to appear on TV last night, you know this.
Well, this is quite a story.
A Taiwanese from Taiwan, which is off the coast of China, these people believe that God -- I don't know how they get these ideas.
They thought God was going to appear on a Texas -- Garland, Texas, television station at midnight on channel 18.
So they all -- they moved to Garland, Texas, two months ago to witness this.
Midnight, channel 18, they were by the sets.
God did not show up.

[ Laughter ]

But ironically, among Jerry Springer's guests --

[ Laughter ]

-- was a woman named Mary, telling a guy named Joseph that the baby was not his.

[ Laughter and applause ]

So anyway, thanks for coming.
It's all been satirized for your protection.
Thank you, folks.

[ Applause ]

Panel Discussion

[ Applause ]

Bill: All right, let's meet our panel.
She is the President of the Douglas Policy Institute and the Washington Correspondent for "Headway" magazine, Faye Anderson.

[ Cheers and applause ]

There you are again.
How are you, kid?
Thanks for coming.
He is the most honored writer in the history of fantastic literature.
His new volume in the "Edgework" series is "Volume Four." Look for it right after "Volume Three," Harlan Ellison.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Harlan, how are you, pally?
Good to see you.
The star of "Reversal of Fortune" and "Kissinger and Nixon," and the President of the Creative Coalition, Ron Silver!

[ Cheers and applause ]

Hey, you look good.
What are you doing?
And he's an actor whose films include "Full Metal Jacket" and "Short Cuts." His new one is "The Real Blonde." Matthew Modine.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Hey, pleasure to meet you, I'm a fan of yours.
Thanks for coming.
All right.

[ Applause ]

Well, you know, this horrible shooting that occurred in Arkansas, Jonesboro is the town.
It's not the first time it's happened.
It's happened a couple -- three times in the last year.
Kentucky, Arkansas and Mississippi.
And of course, as soon as it happens, the blame, the finger-pointing starts going around.
The Governor of Arkansas said, "A national culture of violence fueled by film and TV."

Harlan: Horse manure.

Bill: Horse manure?

Harlan: Yeah, horse manure.
One of the people in Jonesboro today was saying, "Yeah, we all got guns.
We got them in the House.
They're all part of our family."

Bill: Right.

Harlan: Well, if you got guns in your house, eventually, somebody's going to shoot one.
That's what they're there for, to kill people.
That's what they're there for.
And now, everybody wants to blame -- they always want to blame whatever the popular entertainment is, whether it's pulp magazines, radio, television, comic books.
They never want to accept the blame themselves.

Bill: So you think it's the gun culture of Southern society?

Harlan: No, I think it's just society.
I think we are living in mad times.
Any time --

Bill: Yeah, but it always -- the last three times this happened, Kentucky, Arkansas and Pearl, Mississippi, okay?

Matthew: It has something to do with the South?

Bill: Well, I think they love huntin' down there.

Harlan: Well, what about, what about --

[ Laughter ]

But the guy who shot 16 kids was in England or Scotland, was it?

Bill: Scotland.
And the next day, there was a call for a banning of guns.
You don't see that in this country.
The next day, the NRA is energized by this.

Ron: You know, in Arkansas, I think it's also legal for minors to possess guns.
But don't you think it's determined by more than one thing?
You can't say it's because of guns, or because of the culture or because of Hollywood.
It's probably the truth is closer that it's a combination of a lot of things going on.
You know, you walk into a pharmacy --

Bill: I agree with him, actually.

Ron: You think it's the one thing, the guns?

Bill: Yes, I don't think it's TV.
I think -- I heard some of what these people said.
And they were like, you know, "Huntin', we have guns all around the House."

Ron: Oh, Bill, that could happen in New York.
It could happen in Paris.
It could happen anywhere today.

Bill: Is there a lot of huntin' in New York?

[ Laughter ]

Ron: Oh, yeah!
You obviously haven't been to New York in a while, have you?

Faye: It actually, in New York, unlike in places like Arkansas and Mississippi, where it has happened, in New York, they do hunt humans.
I agree with both Ron --

[ Laughter ]

And I'm a New Yorker.
I agree with both Ron and Harlan.
It is the culture.
But unlike Harlan, I don't believe they have guns to kill people.
Hunting is very much a part of the Southern culture.
In fact, kids get off a few days from schools at the beginning of deer season.
So I think a lot has to --

Harlan: To kill.

Faye: To kill deer.

[ Talking over each other ]

Bill: -- In a culture where you're into killing things.
Every kid that they find who does a sadistic thing to humans did it first to animals.
They torture animals.
It's a pattern over and over again.
You raise kids, "Hey, it's fun to kill," and that's what happens.

Faye: Well, hunting is not torturing animals.

[ Laughter ]

Bill: How ridiculous.

Harlan: You put a bullet into something and it's not torturing them?

Ron: We can go hunt people in New York City, but we can't jaywalk anymore, that's the good news.

[ Laughter ]

There's no jaywalking.

Bill: What do you mean hunting is not torturing animals?

Faye: No, it's -- you know, they're hunting them.
That's what they're there for, to be hunted.

Harlan: That's what animals are there for?

Faye: I mean, if you are an animal hunter, yes, that's what they are there for.
I mean, they're not --

Harlan: So that means if I'm a pederast, that's what children are there for, too, right?

[ Laughter ]

Faye: No, no.

[ Applause ]

No, it doesn't mean that.
No, no, it doesn't mean that.
Because, because --

Bill: And what do you mean, "If"?

[ Laughter ]

Faye: First of all -- first of all, pedophilia is illegal.
Hunting is perfectly legal in Arkansas.

Bill: It's legal everywhere.

Faye: Well, yeah.
I mean, they have hunting seasons, right.
But pedophilia is not legal anywhere.

Harlan: I contend that the mentality --

Faye: At least not yet.

Harlan: -- That goes out and shoots innocent animals is also the same mentality that does not make much of a leap to bombing a church or striking down someone or hanging someone from a tree or going out and taking a gun --

Ron: That's a pretty big leap, Harlan.
Yeah, I think it's a tremendous leap.

Bill: Okay, well, we have to take a commercial.
We'll get back to that leap in a second.

[ Applause ]

Bill: Okay.
We were talking about this horrible shooting in Arkansas.
And I guess the debate got down to really, "Whose fault is it?" Is it TV and the culture of violence, the media?
Or is it having guns around the house and a culture of hunting?
Now, I heard this -- I heard this in the other two places where there were shootings.
Somebody said, "This is the last place you'd expect this to happen." It's the first place I'd expect this to happen.

[ Laughter ]

And I think that's a racial comment.
I really do.
When they say, "This is the last place," they mean, "Yeah, we expect this in the inner city.
But here, with a bunch of White people in this little town where we kill things all the time, who would ever expect a shooting?"

[ Laughter ]

Faye: Yeah, and you're right, Bill.
Actually, yesterday, I was watching Peter Jennings on this network on the report on the killing, he said, "This stuff, only these shootings only happen in the blackboard jungle, in urban inner cities." I find that -- I found that very racially offensive.
That, here it is --

Bill: Why?

Faye: Because it's always White faces in rural areas that it's not supposed to happen.

Ron: You know, we can see racial overtones in almost any situation.
I think what was clearly implied there was that this is a town that's very small, about 40,000 people.
Most everybody is related to everybody, everybody knows.

[ Laughter ]

There's an intimacy about everybody.

[ Talking over each other ]

No, we'll talk about incest in a moment.
But what I'm saying is it was a close-knit community.
And some intimacy, you would expect the responsibility when people know each other, they weren't anonymous, they weren't in a city.
There wasn't a lot of unexpressed rage and people wandering around, wackos.
Everybody knew everybody else.
So it seems surprising.
That's what I think was implied.
Nothing racial was at all.

Faye: Who lives in the inner city?

Bill: Yeah.
I think that means, you know, "We don't expect this to happen here."

Harlan: It happens everywhere.
It happened in Honolulu, for God's sakes.
A guy got annoyed at his supervisor, and he took people hostage.

Bill: Honolulu is a big city.
Where have you been?

[ Laughter ]

Harlan: I'm not talking about big/small.
I'm talking about -- you know, you start talking about places where it's gonna happen.
It's not inner city, and it's not down in Cornponeville.
It's Honolulu.
If it happens in Honolulu, it happens everywhere.
It happens in L.A., we got our own breed.
We got drive-by shootings.
Every day, somebody's found dead in a dumpster.
It's happening everywhere.
People are nuts!
People are just nuts everywhere.

Bill: Yeah, but kids --

Ron: You're right, they are very excitable these days.

[ Laughter and applause ]

Harlan: I just find it annoying to keep trying to find a logical reason when there is no logical reason.

Ron: But why can't it be more --

Bill: No.

Ron: Why does it have to be guns, why does it have to be Hollywood?
Why do we have to isolate it?
Why don't they all work together in synergy?

Harlan: Absolutely.

Matthew: How old were the children in "Romeo and Juliet"?
How old was Romeo?

Ron: Depends how you cast it, Matthew.

[ Laughter ]

Matthew: Wasn't he meant to be about 13, 14?

Bill: Yes, you're right.
I believe he was.

Matthew: And isn't this boy, I mean --

Bill: 13 years old, because he was jilted, good point.
That's why he did this.
He said because his ex-girlfriend.
I would be happy to have a girlfriend, let alone an ex-girlfriend.

[ Laughter ]

Matthew: The only reason I bring it up is the possibility of this being historic is, you know, you were just saying that this is something that seems to be happening more and more today.
But I mean, here's, in fact, something that was happening --

Bill: Yeah, but Romeo and Juliet didn't take out the rest of the courtyard.

Matthew: Well, they didn't have the --

[ Laughter ]

Ron: That's true.

Bill: They just did it to themselves.

Matthew: But it was gang warfare, wasn't it?
I mean, the two families?

Ron: That's right.

Bill: Yes, it was.

Matthew: I don't know what kind of point it is I'm trying to make.

[ Laughter ]

Ron: Violence has a very honorable history that goes back quite a ways.

Matthew: And there's an awful lot of killing that goes on in The Bible, isn't there?

Faye: Well, Harlan would know, he's an Atheist.

Matthew: In this business --

Harlan: Yeah, I am, as a matter of fact.
That doesn't mean I can't laugh at The Bible.

[ Laughter ]

Matthew: In one of those Tolstoy's books, it's about as big as yours.
Maybe a little bit bigger.

Bill: Nothing is as big as his, though.

[ Laughter ]

Matthew: I think he says that so long as there's abattoirs that man will kill man.
That there's something that's kind of important about human beings having a covenant with the animals that they kill.
If you're going to eat meat, I think it's important to be able to spill the blood of that animal onto your hands.
And that we have a responsibility to the life that we take, you know.
And everybody today going to grocery stores and buying meat and hot dogs and hamburgers, we've lost that relationship with animals that we eat.
And you know, so I think we've lost what the meaning of life is and killing.

Ron: I got scared for a second.

[ Applause ]

No, I understand.

Bill: I know what you're saying.

Ron: I thought we were getting into Santeria.
I thought we were moving in a totally different direction.

Bill: We're getting into sangria.
But you're right, I know what you're saying.
It's like it's hypocritical to say, "Oh, you know what?
It's wrong to hunt." But then if you eat a hamburger, well, you know, somebody's clubbing that animal.

[ Laughter ]

But I mean, sometimes people who hunt, and I've been educated about this, I know a lot of times they're closer to nature than New York City types.
But you know, there's something in the mind that wants to kill.
And I think to transfer from an animal to a person is not a big leap.

Matthew: I don't think so at all.

Bill: Okay, so, I mean, don't you --

Ron: I think it's a tremendous leap.
I think human beings have rules which govern their behavior with one another.
And they have -- they make a distinction between animals and human beings.

Bill: Not animals who -- not human beings who are animals.

Ron: Going back to scripture, it says clearly that the human -- the human species will have dominion over the animals.
How that is manifested, whether it's deliberate cruelty, which nobody --

Bill: That's wrong right there.
We shouldn't have dominion over the animals.

Ron: It was somebody's opinion.
But it's a book that's had pretty much of a far-ranging influence over the years.

Harlan: Yeah, but so did "Mein Kampf." That doesn't mean it makes it right.

Bill: Right.

Ron: You're certainly not comparing scripture to "Mein Kampf," are you, Harlan?

Harlan: It's okay, 'cause yeah, I would, yeah.
Yeah, every time you look at The Bible --

Ron: If you thought about it for a moment, you would?

Harlan: No, no, no, every time you look at The Bible --

Matthew: There's been more blood spilt in the name of God than any other thing on the planet.

Harlan: Yeah, there's more evil done in the name of God.
God is on our side.
Wars are waged.

Ron: You know what?
I have not been appointed his counsel.
So I'm not going to defend him right now, or her, God, okay?
But in terms of scripture, there were dysfunctional families from the very beginning.
They were doing things that have become totally unacceptable in terms of scripture.
So it's not a goody-two-shoes-type of thing with our values being defended by the Christian Right or this or that.
But certainly, you can't diminish the impact of the literature in the book.
The people who have fought many, many, wars over the years.
The people who have been elevated --

Bill: Harlan, I have to take a commercial.
But I do want to address that point when we come back.

[ Applause ]

Bill: All right, we were talking about what caused this horrible tragedy in Jonesboro.
And Mr. Liberal, Mr. Creative Coalition, Mr. Defending The Bible, I would be on Harlan's side in this.

Ron: I think they're mutually exclusive, being a Liberal and feeling that The Bible had a tremendous impact and has a lot of value.

Bill: An impact, but was it a good impact?

Ron: Absolutely, it's provided a tremendous amount of strength.

Bill: But just that idea in The Bible that we have --

[ Applause ]

Harlan: Tell that to the people who were burned at the Spanish Inquisition.

Ron: Well, listen, there are abuses.

Harlan: See, the people who bomb churches, the people who bomb churches and synagogues, they quote The Bible.
The people who shoot doctors use The Bible.
The Bible is a wonderful book.
But in the hands of a looney toon, it's just as bad as "Mein Kampf."

Ron: There are many things of value.

[ Applause ]

There are many things -- I'm sure you would agree with this that there are many things of value that given the time, the place, how people use them or abuse them, you walk into any pharmacy, there is poison lining that shelf.
However, in a certain dose, in a certain dose, a certain amount, if it's prescribed medically and all that kind of stuff, it does a tremendous amount of good.
I would say when all is said and done, The Bible has provided a tremendous source of strength for people.
It has --

[ Cheers and applause ]

Faye: And you know, and Harlan, to judge the value of The Bible based on what a lunatic does with it, any book in the hands of a lunatic --

Bill: The crusades was inspired by The Bible.
And that wasn't lunatics.
That was all of Europe.

Faye: But a lot of people throughout the ages --

Bill: All of Europe thought that it was a good idea to kill infidels.

Harlan: How did we get from two kids, 11 and 13 years old, picking up guns and shooting down 16 people to defending The Bible?
I mean, it's kind of a loaded game, isn't it?
You don't really need that much defense, it's been around 2,000 years.

Ron: It's kind of like the leap from hunting to killing other human beings, isn't it?

Harlan: Well, no.

[ Applause ]

It seems to me -- it seems to me, as Bill said, that anybody who will burn --

Ron: No currying favor with the host, that's unfair.

Harlan: God knows I've never done that, God knows.
You notice I used your voice.
But Bill says that -- it's a point that is well-made.
If you will set fire to a cat, if you'll tie a rope around a dog's neck, it ain't much of a leap to starting to beat up on your playmates and then kill them.

Bill: And it's borne out by statistics.
Every time they find one of these things, they find that the kid also tortured animals.

Ron: But that is not what you said before.
And you were making the analogy from hunting.

Bill: But The Bible says we have dominion over animals.
That idea that we have dominion --

Ron: But The Bible also says that animals should be killed in a certain way.
That you do not take the young from its mother and kill the young in a certain amount of time, et cetera and this and that.
There are lots of rules.
There's an entire book in The Bible, Leviticus, that is devoted to treating animals in a certain fashion.

Matthew: Do you eat veal?

Ron: Whoa, I love it.

Matthew: You took the animal, the baby away from its mother.

Ron: That's right, that's right.
Because I am somewhat hypocritical.

[ Laughter and applause ]

Harlan: Oh, oh!
No, no!

Ron: I have some conflicting loyalties that I haven't resolved yet.

[ Laughter ]

I also have inconsistent ways of thinking and I can hold two ambivalent and contradictory thoughts in my mind at the same time.

[ Laughter ]

And it makes me very unhappy, but that's who I am.

[ Applause ]

Bill: I'm seeing you two doing "Love Letters" sometime soon at the Phillip Mark theater.
We have to take a commercial.
We'll be right back.

[ Applause ]

Announcer: Join us tomorrow when our guests will be -- Steve Guttenberg, Victoria Rowell, Governor Frank Keating and Russell Banks.

[ Applause ]

Bill: All right, one of the aspects of this story is that these kids cannot be tried as adults.
Do you think that's right?
If kids commit adult acts, should they be tried that way?

Harlan: That's a tough one.

Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher

Executive Producers
Scott Carter
Bill Maher
Nancy Geller

Senior Producer
Douglas M. Wilson

Supervising Producer
Kevin E. Hamburger

Created By
Bill Maher

Directed By
Michael Dimich

Writing Supervised By
Chris Kelly

K.P. Anderson
Bill Kelley
Bill Maher
Billy Martin
Jerry Nachman
Ned Rice
Cliff Schoenberg
Danny Vermont
Scott Carter

Executive in Charge of Production
John Fisher

Executive Producers
Brad Grey
Bernie Brillstein
Marc Gurvitz

©1997 Brillstein-Grey Communications