December 6, 2016 | Letter No. 12
There are a lot of good things in life. Cup of coffee, going to sleep and never waking up. But there’s truly nothing better than an opinion piece that begins, “When I took over ‘The Daily Show’ from Jon Stewart in 2015, I was surprised to learn that my job as a late-night comedy host was not merely to entertain but to eviscerate.”
Comedians. Why? There are a lot of bad men in the world, and it’s interesting how many of them are comedians. One such man is Trevor Noah, who wrote the piece quoted above in The New York Times, which is about how America needs to unite and move past racism by "breaking bread" with racists in a post-Donald Trump world.
AhhhH. Do you ever just scream into the wind?
There are many brow-furrowing things about this piece, beyond the many casual references to “Jon” (Stewart, NOT Hamm). In what may be the most significant false equivalency recorded since the election, Noah relates his experience of growing up biracial in apartheid-era South Africa to the current climate in America to underscore his main point, which is that “divided people are easier to rule.” Somewhere in Australia, J.M. Coetzee chews silently on a stalk of celery, anger burning in his eyes. Noah goes on to evoke how Nelson Mandela was able to bridge the chasm between races with thoughtful politique, inadvertently comparing one of history’s most genius politicians to Donald Trump. (Sidenote: The best way to tell if an op-ed is bad is if Nick Kristof praises it.)
Donald Trump, of course, is not Nelson Mandela. South Africa is not America. And Trevor Noah is not that smart.
Noah is one of the few who has benefited greatly from Trump’s election; it has finally edged him out of Jon’s (Stewart, NOT Snow) shadow, where he languished awkwardly since taking over from the former roommate of Anthony Weiner last year. Now Vocks writes breathless pieces about how great he is, and he can apparently write anything he wants in the Times, even if it makes no sense and is borderline offensive.
I’d almost rather our nation’s talk show hosts stay in the benign realm of Jay Leno, a giant airbag who shined the most when communing with exotic animals, than attempt to be didacts who also tell jokes. That Trevor Noah was able to somewhat critically interview The Blaze’s Tomi Lahren using journalism 101 tactics is being treated with the gravity of a Mideast Peace Summit; in reality, it was an act of entertainment put on by two expert performers. “‘We can disagree without being disagreeable!' say two flops whose entire life is convincing people they are important figures worth listening to,” as my friend wrote me after watching it.
Liberals love this shit, though, and put a lot of faith in the men and woman of late night in order to feed their delusions about how the world works. If Jon (Stewart, NOT -benet Ramsey) ran for office, even against Bernie Sanders, he would get 100 percent of the Democrat vote. If the cast of SNL composed the cabinet, people would love the government. And the media functions excitedly as an arm of Big Comedy, racing to package clips about John Oliver’s latest rant for breakfast consumption. This SNL-to-Buzzfeed feeding tube has served to further the normalization of horrible politicians.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to laugh. I love a clown with a balloon animal. Laughter is necessary to process, cope, heal, and drown out screams. But most comedians, especially those who are the face of multi-million dollar operations owned mainstream television networks, are ultimately menaces to thought. They will not save anyone. They exist to heighten their own impact, fame, and brand, and make liberals feel like watching a television show is a political act. The politics of late-night are not real politics because what is said has little consequence (we must not forget Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” in 2010, a joke run amok, and after which the Tea Party routed Democrats in the midterms). And that’s why the Noah op-ed rankles, not only because it is so bad but because it is being promoted and treated on a typically tightly-edited platform as if the man is a great thought leader of our time, rather than an unfunny comedian.
It’s curious that in all the hubbub over “fake news,” we don’t do much examining of programs like The Daily Show, which literally describes itself as a “fake news program.” But it’s fake news for liberals, and fake news that hides behind the scrim of comedy, so it’s not seen as something as mendacious as fake news from the other side. But it’s still pervasive to the complacency and misinformation of those who consume it. It’s fake news that’s become – wait for it – completely normalized.
Kill your idols!