Holding historical figures up to modern-day woke values is silly scholarship, Bill Maher declared Friday in his latest ‘Real Time’ lecture to leftists.
The old-school liberal made the point about so-called “presentisim” in the “New Rules” segment of his HBO show while discussing a controversial essay by American Historical Society President James Sweet. The historian, who later apologized for writing that judging historical figures by contemporary standards “ignores the values and mores of people in their own times,” shouldn’t be sorry, Maher said.
“Being woke is like a magic moral time machine in which you judge everyone by what you think you would have done in 1066, and you always win,” Maher said, adding that presentism is “just a way to congratulate yourself about being better than George Washington because you have a gay friend and he didn’t.”
“But if he were alive today, he would too, and if you were alive then, you wouldn’t,” Maher added.
Brooks’ essay called out The 1619 Project and The Woman King as examples of historical presentism, which enraged many on the Left. The 1619 Project, by former New York Times writer Nikole Hannah-Jones, claimed that America’s true founding took place when slavery began on the continent, not with the Declaration of Independence. Several historians have disputed Hannah-Jones’ theory, and the author herself had to walk back her central claim that colonists revolted against England in order to preserve slavery.
Hannah-Jones, who won a Pulitzer prize for the 1619 Project, is now a professor at Howard University. Earlier this year, she claimed the practice of tipping waiters and waitresses was linked to slavery.
Maher said slavery was not simply a racist institution, noting “the capacity for cruelty is a human thing, not a white thing.”
“Everybody who could afford one, had a slave – including people of color,” Maher said. “The way people talk about slavery these days, you’d think it was a uniquely American thing that we invented in 1619. But slavery throughout history has been the rule, not the exception.”
Presentism, Maher said, puts “race, gay, gender, and colonizers” into a wokeness blender as if “the New World was a great big diverse dance club, and the pilgrims were the bridge and tunnel crowd who came in and ruined everything.”
Maher, who has increasingly been tweaking modern progressive liberals, also joked about liberals’ reaction to Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’s decision to send 50 illegal immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard.
“The migrants, first, they went to Martha’s Vineyard, and then they — today, they sent them to Cape Cod,” Maher said. “Just throw in a stop in Nantucket, and it’s the same cruise I got my parents a few years back.”