Bill Maher Took On Dating Apps and Deepfakes on “Real Time”
Plus, a firsthand report from the war in Ukraine
Some Real Time With Bill Maher episodes open with Maher riffing on political happenings; others kick off with nods to current events. Friday’s episode began with a monologue that encompassed a busy and wide-ranging week, with nods to everything from spy balloons to the Super Bowl before circling back around to the State of the Union address. “Don’t worry — you don’t have to say you saw it,” Maher said. ”I didn’t either.”
He had, however, watched clips from it — and he wasn’t impressed with some Republican members of Congress for heckling during the speech. Maher went on to compare Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s behavior to that of an attendee at a midnight screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Maher didn’t make any digs at Donald Trump in the monologue this week — but Greene and fellow Rep. George Santos are proving Maher with plenty of punchlines in his stead.
Maher’s first guest was counterterrorism specialist Malcolm Nance, author of the book They Want to Kill Americans: The Militias, Terrorists, and Deranged Ideology of the Trump Insurgency. Nance had recently returned from 10 months of fighting in Ukraine — “it’s not often that you get to defend democracy,” he told Maher. And he offered some details of what it was like and the process of joining the Ukrainian Army as a combatant from overseas.
Citing Tucker Carlson, Maher brought up the ways in which Fox News has opted to take the Russian side of the conflict. Nance shared memories of watching Russian state television while he was in Ukraine, and seeing how the war was depicted — and of Russian television’s penchant for airing Carlson’s segments.
It was one of the most interesting interviews Maher has done in a while. Nance mentioned that 52 countries are represented in the Ukrainian military. “My best fighters were from Colombia,” he told Maher. From there, Nance also offered some thoughts on all things spy balloon-related — and echoed Maher’s comments from the opening monologue that most of the information the balloon would have brought in is fairly accessible via Google. And he also raised an alarm over TikTok’s ability to collect data.
Pollster Kristen Soltis Anerson and political strategist Paul Begala — both repeat guests — joined Maher for the panel discussion. The first subject up for debate was the 2024 election, and whether it would find both major parties with the same nominees as 2020. “I don’t see DeSantis stopping [Trump],” Begala said. The two also addressed the question of President Biden’s age, with Begala bringing up the fact that Biden is all of nine months older than Mick Jagger.
Maher steered the conversation to the subject of the 2024 Republican nomination — and what Ron DeSantis’s odds of getting it might be. “Running against Donald Trump is like running into a woodchipper,” Anderson observed. She and Maher differed on whether DeSantis should seek the nomination now or wait until 2028.
In the second half of the panel discussion, Maher and his guests discussed the State of the Union address and some of the policies Biden had called for. That eventually segued to a broader discussion of the Republican and Democratic Parties’ stances on regulating corporations. And that, in turn, led Begala and Maher to discuss whether the nation might see what Maher dubbed a “grand bargain” in which the number of police went up and the number of guns declined.
Later in the discussion, Maher brought up something that, he said, “scared the shit out of me.” Which is to say, deepfakes. Anderson pointed to another way that this alarming — depfakes could crate a fake speech, and then AI could write authentic-looking articles about the speech in question. As disinformation goes, there are plenty of reasons to worry. And Begala called for viewers to be “savvier.” Begala and Anderson both come from different ideological places, but it speaks volumes that they’re both very concerned about this.
New Rules found Maher lauding LeBron James for setting a new NBA scoring record and mocking an organization that had raised a considerable amount of money to advertise Christianity. “You’ve got a billion dollars? Feed some poor people,” Maher said.
The focus of the segment, though, was Maher lauding the comeback of in-person dating. Apparently there’s a growing number of people posting on TikTok about going to Home Depot to find prospective significant others.
“The phone ruined dating and porn ruined sex,” Maher said, and advised men looking to date women to, you know, have conversations with them. It’s part of a broader argument against the apps — or, as he phrased it, “Dating apps took the worst tendencies of men and exacerbated them by a factor of infinity.”
And while Maher noted that this was a relatively traditionalist argument, he also cited the ongoing popularity of The Bachelor (and about a dozen other shows) as evidence that he was on to something. The episode closed with a Valentine’s Day message — and a list of towns across the country with bawdy names. It was an irreverent end to one of the more interesting episodes of Real Time this season to date.
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