Bill Maher is sharing his thoughts on the way information is spread among young people on social media, particularly TikTok.
On the latest episode of Real Time, the host addressed a now-deleted recent viral video on the social platform of a teen reading 9/11 terrorist leader Osama bin Laden’s 2002 “Letter to America,” which includes antisemitic statements and seeks to justify the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. that left nearly 3,000 people dead and thousands of others injured.
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“The kids now have jumped on TikTok from supporting Hamas to supporting Osama bin Laden,” Maher said in his opening monologue. “Is this the Tide pods? Is this the eating the Tide… is this where this is coming from? Are their minds literally poisoned now?” He was referencing the viral and dangerous TikTok challenge from several years back, where teens dared each other to eat Tide pods.
Maher’s comments come after several Jewish celebrities, including Sacha Baron Cohen, Debra Messing and Amy Schumer, criticized the social media app following a surge of antisemitic rhetoric going viral on TikTok after Hamas‘ Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel. It has also led to some young people supporting bin Laden.
According to The New York Times, more than 30 influential people had a confrontational call with TikTok executives earlier in the week, where Cohen at one point declared on the call, “What is happening at TikTok is it is creating the biggest antisemitic movement since the Nazis. Shame on you.”
Later on Friday’s Real Time episode, Maher brought up TikTok again during a panel discussion with Donna Brazile, a Georgetown University professor and award-winning media contributor to ABC News, USA Today and The Hill, and former Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger.
The host went on to read a line from a Washington Post story, which said that by Wednesday night, bin Laden’s “Letter to America,” had “become a point of discussion among left-wing creators on the video app, with some saying its critiques of American foreign policy had opened their eyes to a history they’d never learned.”
“Yeah, they didn’t learn any history. That’s the problem. So now you’re gonna get it from bin Laden,” Maher said in response. “bin Laden, really?”
“It is a failure of parenting. It’s a failure of the education system, that to tell people how evil this stuff is. And there’s something with TikTok,” Kinzinger added. “This is a serious national security threat when you have young Americans saying that bin Laden is getting it right and our own foreign policy is wrong because of whatever reasons they’ve come up with. This is a serious issue.”
Brazile proceeded to chime in, saying she’s “surprised that social media companies have not gotten smart about how algorithms are used,” adding, “It is used to sort of like pipe up and amplify the most incendiary thing out there. And the fact that young people don’t know right from wrong, good from evil.”
Though the episode the week before Thanksgiving is typically Maher’s last Real Time episode of the fall season, the host said the it will continue into December since the season was delayed due to the writers strike.
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