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Earlier this week, Mos Def appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher (SIDENOTE: turns out Real Time with Bill Maher is still on the air. So, the more you know, bong-bing-bong-booong) on a panel with Salman Rushdie and Christopher Hitchens. Eventually, the conversation turned to Al Qaeda, as conversations so often do, 9/11, Never Forget, and that’s when things got kind of ugly. Mos Def’s position seems to be that he’s unwilling to take a political position on the Taliban and Al Qaeda until he’s shown some unmediatized source material on who they are, where they’re coming from, what they want, and how those things conflict with what the world he wants to live in. Christopher Hitchens takes the counter-argument of “Mos Def is a fucking idiot.” To be fair to Christopher Hitchens, Mos Def’s suggestion that there hasn’t been enough information on Al Qaeda is thin, due to the fact that it’s false, and does make him sound intellectually inadequate to the conversation at hand. And while I get what he’s saying about distrusting the media to the point of not believing the subtitles on a Bin Laden video, come on now, Mos Def. But at the same time, the argument that you want all the information before you take a position on a particular issue, even the issue of Al Qaeda (a.k.a. the scariest issue!), and that you’re not going to just demonize a group because Bill Maher tells you to seems totally legitimate and not mockery-worthy.

And to be fair to Mos Def, FUCK CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS. That guy. If you look up “condescension” in the dictionary, there’s a picture of him but you can barely make it out through the grease stain.

An extended clip after the jump of these two mind titans cold sparring.

So now the internet is asking whether or not Mos Def was set up, which he himself alludes to at the end of this clip, suggesting that Bill Maher did, in fact, want a mean-spirited dough-faced bully dripping with half-lidded disdain to dickslap him on national TV to get attention. Which is fair. Did anyone even remember that this show existed? No. So was he set up? Team Ben or Team Widmore? Personally, I don’t even think Mos Def comes off that badly. I think that he takes his overly simplistic babe in the woods argument and runs with it a little too long, like kind of into the ground too long, but better that than Christopher Hitchens, who if you listen to what he’s saying doesn’t actually say anything at all, but still somehow manages to come off as the most insufferably egotistical puffed up asshole. And just mean! Take that mean puffed up asshole to a doctor and have it looked at. And by looked at I mean bombed. Bomb him. (Thanks for the tip, Sam.)

Comments (56)
  1. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  2. Interesting theory on whether or not Mos Def was intentionally set up – my gut reaction is think that’s not the case, as Mos Def has been a guest on the show in the past, but in talking about Bill Maher’s show being on the decline this season and a stunt like this to garner attention also makes sense – he’s had an unusual mix of guests this season, often times using only 2 panel members for the main portion of the show – I’m wondering if Religuous had anything to do with turning off even the more liberal minded “celebrity” types that have appeared in the past – with his intro speech for best documentary at the Oscars also lending to that possible blacklisting. But I digress…
    While I often enjoy hearing what Hitchens has to say about many diff topics, I do think he was obviously enamored with picking on Mos Def just for the sake of it, and trying to mock him openly “Should I call you Mr. Def?” came off as crass and childish – when Mos Def speaks, I get the open opinion that he cares about what he’s saying – when Hithcens speaks, in this case anyhow, I get the impression he wants desperately to sound above any silly notions we “commoners” might have – that said, it’s an interesting topic – more so for the fact it’s being brought up a few days after the event when possibly more information has come to light – I wonder if Bill Maher will talk about it this week.

  3. Mos Def goes on a show with Hitchens AND Salman Rushdie and he doesn’t expect the subject of Al Qaeda to come up? Or Hitch to be the condescending prick he always is without fail? The guy needs to fire his handlers. This is painful all around.

  4. TC  |   Posted on Apr 1st, 2009 +16

    What answer is Mos Def looking for? He keeps asking the same thing over and over, and when the rest of the guys give an answer, he just asks again, and then basically says “Whatever you tell me I won’t believe.” So what’s the proper way to respond to him? Hitchens is a dick but Mos looks pretty foolish.

  5. potion lords  |   Posted on Apr 1st, 2009 -14

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  6. Gabe, I don’t understand all the Bill Maher hate. Some episodes of Real Time are better than others but coming from a guy who wears a faggy karate suit in youtube videos I find it a little hard to take you serious.

  7. njoy  |   Posted on Apr 1st, 2009 +17

    Fuck Mos Def on Bill Maher, did you see him on HOUSE? I was yelling “OH NOMOS DEF! You will beat this shit!!” the whole time…

  8. matt  |   Posted on Apr 1st, 2009 +3

    Mos Def refuses to acknowledge the fault of anyone who is: A. African American or B. Islamic . It’s fine to stick up for groups/ people you feel passionately about but his defense of bin Laden is hopeless at best.

    Mos Def and Hitchens are frequent guests on Maher so I don’t think he was set up or anything. Especially for media attention. Since when have you heard of anything that happens on Real Time mentioned in the mainstream media? I do think something is awry at Real Time, however. His guest list is getting shorter, usually only 2 panel members, and rarely does the panel include a “celebrity” pitching a new project. It’s made up of his close friends and intellectuals now. This might be the end of his run at HBO.

  9. poor salman rushdie stuck in the middle. and I just realized why I hate chris hitchens so much. he reminds me of william fucking buckley.

  10. ta-nehisi pretty much covered this one this morning.

    I like Mos Def’s rap singing and so was a trifle dismayed to hear him argue that he can’t trust any translations of Al Qaeda statements from Arab to English (because obviously no Arabic speaker who also knows English would have a vested interested in putting forth a proper, accurate translation of Bin Laden’s pronouncements over the past decade. There’s no demand for that, is there?).

    The thing was, Hitchens and Rushdie could have pwned him really hard if they weren’t so dad-gum prickish about it. And overreaching – when Hitchens refers to Mos’s “mythical” comment about Bin Laden from earlier in the program, he twists what Mos actually said (“it’s like the govt was presenting him as this mythical figure” or something).

    Of course, Mos Def is a millionaire who thinks the moon landing was faked, so it’s hard to feel too bad for him. Pretty hard to put Bill Maher and Salman Rushdie in the bottom 50 percentile in terms of ego size in the room, but Mos and Hitchens succeed in doing so!

  11. The US govt set up Mos Def. It was an afterthought to their plan to take down the Towers.

    It’s all been a conspiracy to promote Talib Kweli’s next album.

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  13. Sibtiger  |   Posted on Apr 1st, 2009 -4

    Christopher Hitchens is basically a real life troll. I can’t really fault him for getting paid to do something thousands of people do every day for free.

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  15. yomomma  |   Posted on Apr 1st, 2009 +13

    The only way Mos Def was set up is if Maher’s producers dubbed over his real voice because the shit coming out of his mouth was retarded.

    He needs to stop getting political advice from Talib.

    And this is coming from someone who truly likes his music.

  16. stella  |   Posted on Apr 1st, 2009 -6

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  17. when mos defended his question he acknowledged that he wouldn’t believe the answer. why ask it?

  18. charles boyd  |   Posted on Apr 1st, 2009 +2

    I think Hitchens is just jealous that he didn’t get to narrate a whole episode of House, while sounding stoned, while the episode of House was ripping off the Diving Bell and the Butterfly while being awesome.

  19. Choam Nomsky  |   Posted on Apr 1st, 2009 0

    You only could really think that Hitchens is ‘condescending’ here if you’ve never seen him open his mouth before. This is roughly less than par for the course.

    Hitchens is correct, and more than justified, in his meager berating of Mos Def, who not only comes across as a blathering idiot, but reeks of entitlement to his ignorance. Usually, there comes a basic impulse of ‘shame’ or ‘deep mortification’ when the bullshit in your head gets casually swept away by world-class thinkers that Mos Def, embarrassingly, decided to exempt himself from.

    If your response to the exchange is a half-hearted defense of Mos Def, I’d venture to hyothesize that you too might also subscribe to a hazy belief that (most likely) all media corporations collaborate to brainwash the people, the Middle East might not exist (‘No one’s ever showed it to me!’) and Pepsi brought crack to the ghetto. I sympathize.

  20. FlimFlam  |   Posted on Apr 2nd, 2009 +6

    Rushdie comes out looking like the only smart fucker in the room. The rest just sound like stoned college students who took a political science class semester.

  21. gah!  |   Posted on Apr 2nd, 2009 +6

    Does anyone else wish that Hitchens had quieted himself and let Rushdie and Def talk? My take on it was that Mos Def was taking the position of his community, which is to distrust the media because it had levelled so many unjust accusations in the past. Maher continually saying ‘Who? Who?’ was priceless. He also said that Osama Bin Laden was a mythical creature, which is different than Hitchen’s accusation that he called him a fictional creature and, I think, a fair point (made earlier).

    Also, sorry, longtime Videogum reader, first time commenter, big time arguer on political points. Sometimes I agree with Hitchens, but here he was just being an ass. Explain why being from Hampshire makes you hard, Chris. Explain yourself, for once, rather than only calling out others. And Mos Def did say that Bill knew ‘something like this would happen’, which I think is also fair.

  22. IN THE YEAR 2000…. Mos Def will pretend to still not know what the Al Queda are up to.

  23. Oh big bad Christopher Hitchens. Scary tough guy beating up on poor Mos Def. If you go on a show like that and you know you’re going to be talking to other guests on air, do some research. Mos Def should’ve known what he was getting into and Hitchens has every right to call Mos Def out for being willfully ignorant or if not ignorant, blatantly ignoring information because of misplaced paranoia.

    Even if you don’t know Al Queda’s motivations, it’s pretty fucking obvious they’re bad. Saying you’re not taking a stance because you don’t know all the information isn’t being open minded, it’s being too damn self assured for your own good. I don’t have to know Hitler’s motivations to know that he was a prick and that Nazi’s aren’t good guys. That whole thing was stupid. No one in this day and age should be hesitant to call Al Queda bad. I mean, honestly, at the very least they’re devout Muslims which means they’re xenophobic and misogynistic. That alone is enough to dislike some group.

    • “at the very least they’re devout Muslims which means they’re xenophobic…”

      One of the most blatant examples of hypocrisy I’ve heard in a while.

      • I’m sorry, do you know ANYTHING about devout Muslims or are you just going off your innate sense of douchey condescension? What you’re doing is like going “Well, it’s a little more complicated then that” and then just leaving it at that without adding any new information. That way, it looks like you actually know what you’re talking about when you actually don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.

        I have very little against Muslims, but most devout religious people have severe problems and Muslims are no exception. Muslims who strictly abide by the Koran ARE misogynistic and xenophobic. The teachings in the Koran are EXACTLY those things.

        How ’bout instead of making some simplistic reactionary remark designed to make yourself look clever you actually learn about the things your discussing and say something constructive?

        • Nope, sorry. There’s a difference between devout and militant/extremist/Islamist or any number of words that would’ve actually made your point instead of making you look like an asshole. It’s called fucking semantics.

  24. Choam Nomsky  |   Posted on Apr 2nd, 2009 -4

    “Explain why being from Hampshire makes you hard, Chris.”
    It doesn’t-it substantiates nothing, just as wherever Mos Def happens to be from does not validate any of his ‘points’ (but rather explain his perspective).

    “Explain yourself, for once, rather than only calling out others.”
    Are you referring to Hitchens? His ‘half’ of the conversation is founded on concrete knowledge of the subject matter (note Mos Def confusing ‘Taliban’/'al-Qaeda’ within a minute of opening his dumbshit mouth). Please read Hitchen’s Slate columns and tell me he doesn’t articulate his views.

    While I may come off as some sort of Hitchens-apologist, I happen to believe that he’s a maniacal asshole (c.p. remorseless defense of Iraq War, Daily Show interview). This ‘showdown’ fits into the broader narrative of ‘willful ignorance’ as an acceptable, at times encouraged, political perspective.

    Not entitled to our own facts, Mr. Definitely. I’m sure you find it comfortable to belligerently reject any and all information that contradicts your uneducated worldview. It’s whitey putting folks like you down, I suppose.

  25. AP  |   Posted on Apr 2nd, 2009 +6

    but we already went through all this. mos def said the exact same thing on the last season of real time. he also said that he doesnt believe thaht the US landed on the moon.

  26. Doesn’t Salman Rushdie pretty much win the Tough As Balls award given his political past? Rushdie wanted him BEHEADED and Hitchins is all “yeah well I’m from Hampshire” haha wtf?

    I agree, love that Mos Def and bless him for being all “I aint scared of ya, I aint scared of shit,” but it was at a minimum a lousy argument against ‘the media’ and at worst self-sustained willful ignorance. But ew. Hitchins.

  27. Dave  |   Posted on Apr 2nd, 2009 -4

    Fuck Christopher Hitchens? What are you, some sort of fucking douchebag moron? That guy takes shits that can score a higher IQ than you… and write better articles.

  28. Haven’t read all the comments, sorry if I’m repeating what someone else wrote…

    BUT, Mos Def was on this show last year and said similar stupid shit about the 9/11 attacks being an “inside” job and mentioned something about Israel’s purported involvement.

    Mos Def was not set up, he is an actual, bonafide idiot.

    Chris Hitchens is a drunken blowhard.

    Salman Rushdie’s ex-wife sells Carl’s Jr burgers now.

    This world is truly fucked up.

  29. R Flowers  |   Posted on Apr 4th, 2009 -1

    Say what you want about Christopher Hitchens, he had the balls to write “…Fuck the SNPP [Syrian Social Nationalist Party]” while in Beirut, and was about beaten to a pulp for his efforts.

    http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/2009/02/christopher-hit.php

    As for Mos Def, he was set up by his own ignorance.

  30. AreYouKiddingMe?  |   Posted on Apr 4th, 2009 -3

    Mos Def – The monkey speaks.

  31. Mos Def is clearly an idiot. Hitchens displayed quite a lot of patience with this fool in my opinion.

  32. Christopher Hitchens is always like this.

    I hate Real Time cause they always get two really intelligent people in, then stick some dumbass musician in there (who usually happens to be black) so they build a rapport with the audience. But all that happens is the two on the panel who actually know their shit spend the whole time explaing to Will.i.am or whoever what the G20 is.

  33. eric Han  |   Posted on Apr 5th, 2009 -2

    I watched the whole show and was shocked to see how much of a prick Christopher Hitchens was. I couldn’t believe Mos Def didn’t just get up and start verbally battling him (in rhymes, of course). The best part was when Hitchens responded to Mos Def’s point with the preface of: “Obviously, you didn’t listen to what Mr. Rushdie said, and that’s a shame”. WHOOA BRO. JUST CHILL.

  34. Carne  |   Posted on Apr 6th, 2009 -4

    First, yes, we know this show is still on the air. Talk about condescending. Second, Mos Def may be misguided, but he’s not an “idiot.” Try expanding your vocabularies, young fanboys. I remember why I don’t visit this site much anymore. Blech. I guess the comments just follow the example set by this “Gabe” person. Double blech.

  35. So I’m late to the party on this one, but, seriously, Gabe? Mos Def comes across as a fucking retard, and instead of letting anyone else get a word in he goes on a rant about how he’s “strong enough to hold unpopular ideas” or some bullshit.

    If he didn’t have a career as a rapper, the next career in line for him is cutting Christian movie trailers.

  36. jwormyk  |   Posted on Apr 8th, 2009 0

    If you watch this whole episode, Mos Def was intolerable. All he did was talk over people and talk loud nonsense. You could tell Bill Maher was getting really annoyed. I am sure this was just Mos Defs “blowhardness” coming to a head.

  37. Bill Maher is a fucking idiot. If I hear him try to make another loose connection from the topic at hand to pot legalization I just might become a Republican.

    Mos Def had a good point, too bad he can’t articulate it: moron

    It’s amazing that I can almost consistently agree with someone who I loathe as much as Christopher Hitchens.

    Did anyone see Maxine Waters on this show a few weeks ago? She seems totally incompetent. Not one good idea.

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