Once again, on this past week’s episode of his HBO TV show Real Time with Bill Maher, Maher talked about Covid-19 without having any real medical, public health, or Covid-19 experts on his show. This time he claimed that having kids wear face masks in schools will turn them into Howie Mandels.
Now he didn’t mean that all children will go on to host the game show Deal or No Deal, or be a judge on the TV show America’s Got Talent like Mandel did. You wouldn’t be able to fit over 50 million people at the America’s Got Talent judges’ table. For example, where would Heidi Klum sit?
No, Maher was referring specifically to Mandel’s well-publicized germaphobia. Germaphobia is the fear of germs. And yes, Maher didn’t have any real psychologists on the show either. Instead, he had CNN’s senior political analyst, John Avlon, on the segment because why not have a political analyst when you are talking about science. Maybe next time Maher talks about politics he can have a diarrhea specialist on the show.
Maher made the Howie Mandel statement during the Overtime segment of his show, which was shown in the following video:
As you can see in this clip, Maher looked like a kid in a candy store anxious to interject with, “They don’t need them,” with “they” meaning children and “them” meaning face masks. He added, “I mean, kids are the least, least vulnerable. To make these little children into Howie Mandels is what you’re doing.”
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Maher didn’t stop there and re-emphasized, “No, it’s true! You’re creating a generation of Howie Mandels, of little germ-paranoid munchkins. It’s so ridic.”
Avlon responded, “It’s a huge chunk of their lives, I mean, we’ve got young kids-“
But then Maher continued with, “Especially when they’re young, I mean, that’s the first thing they remember and it’s going to get imprinted on them. I mean, kids are gross to begin with, you have to let them be gross. … They need also to get germs in their body!”
Avlon replied, “Up to a point.” To which Maher said, “But it’s true! It’s how you get healthy! It’s how you live with … you can’t live in a world by getting rid of all germs or avoiding them! It’s insane!”
OK, first of all, call it a hunch. Something says that Maher and Mandel won’t be having a pleasant candlelit dinner together anytime soon, especially if it’s indoors. Of course, you can tell for sure. Who knows what TV personalities are really like when they are off camera. Maybe they’ll get together soon, and Mandel will say, “hey remember that time you told everyone to not have their kids grow up like me? Thanks a ton for that,” followed by a bro hug. But there’s a decent chance that Mandel won’t take too kindly to Maher’s remarks.
Secondly, where’s the evidence that a mere two years of face mask wearing will turn kids into germaphobes? Maher is oversimplifying the potential causes of germaphobia, which like any other fear is much more complex. Will simply having too many lights in your house lead to achluophobia, a fear of darkness? Will using too many short words too often like “bruh” cause hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia, a fear of long words? Will having too much intact clothing lead to trypophobia, a fear of holes? Will listing to too many Selena Gomez songs result in Selenophobia, a fear of the moon?
Plus, kids aren’t snowflakes that are made out of glass. Throughout history, children have survived the 1918 influenza pandemic, the Great Depression, two World Wars, all the stuff in the 1960’s, and Justin Timberlake leaving *NSYNC. Kids may be much more resilient and adaptable than Maher may have you believe. The key is explaining to kids that this pandemic is an emergency, a temporary situation.
Third of all, just because kids may be less likely to suffer severe Covid-19 outcomes, doesn’t mean that it’s not possible for them to get very sick. Asking kids to wear face masks is not the same as asking them jump out of an airplane or pull a tractor. It’s a face covering for Pete’s sake. The risks of a child getting Covid-19 may be still much greater than the risk of wearing a face covering.
Fourth, Maher continues to overlook the whole “we’re all in this together” aspect of Covid-19 precautions. Wearing a face mask is not just all about you. It’s to protect others, especially those who can’t get vaccinated such as infants and those who may not have as strong a response to vaccination such as the immunocompromised and older adults.
Finally, it’s a freaking face mask. What’s the big deal? If wearing a face mask for about two years were the worst aspect of our school years, many of us would have said, “hallelujah!” Who knows what Maher’s schooling was like. But many other kids have had to go through much tougher times in school such as getting bullied, dealing with racism, struggling with inequities, not getting the resources and teaching that they need, and in some cases, not even getting the food that they need. If Maher is so worried about school-aged children, why doesn’t he talk about the sorry state of the public education system in the U.S.? Why doesn’t he do more to support hiring more teachers and raising more funding to increase teachers’ salaries and create more effective programs?
Maher’s Mandel statements came a week after Maher had compared Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Hitler, presumably Adolph Hitler rather than someone named Jim Hitler. On a previous episode of his show, Maher had said, “Justin Trudeau, I mean I thought he was kind of a cool guy, then I started to read what he said. This is a couple of weeks ago, he was, or maybe this is September, but he was talking about people who are not vaccinated. He said they don’t believe in science. They’re often misogynistic, often racist.” Maher continued with “No, they’re not. He said, but they take up space. And with that, we have to make a choice in terms of the leader as a country, do we tolerate these people?” “It’s like, tolerate them?” Then Maher concluded, “Now you do sound like Hitler. And recently, he talked about them holding unacceptable views.” Yes, Maher actually compared Trudeau being frustrated with people pushing anti-vaccination information with Hitler, who committed major atrocities, attempted genocide, and began World War II? But then again isn’t brining up Hitler, Nazis, and the Holocaust what some politicians have been doing throughout this pandemic?
The “Howie Mandel” segment was yet another example of Maher making statements about Covid-19 and Covid-19 precautions on his show without having the proper experts in the room. His guests appear to be hand-picked and not very diverse. Talking about medicine and health is not the same as talking about politics. You can’t just spout opinions while ignoring scientific facts. By saying inaccurate things, you can end up doing real harm.