If you need a good indicator of the cultural insularity of the American Left, consider the case of Trevor Noah, the biracial South African comedian selected to take over The Daily Show from Jon Stewart. At the time of the announcement, Salon predicted a deluge of “right-wing rage,” with television critic Sonia Saraiya’s warning that “the tenor of conservative criticism of The Daily Show is about to get very, very ugly.” Why? “Noah is also a man of color — a literal product of apartheid, as his mother was black and his father was white, an illegal union at the time in South Africa,” Saraiya wrote. “It’s this, ultimately, that is going to get the most attention.”
As Salon predicted, the backlash was immediate and intense. But it did not come in the form of “right-wing rage.” It came from Salon, among other progressive outlets, which were offended — they are always offended about something — by Noah’s Twitter history and the lame jokes found there, a predictable assortment of “drunk guys will hit on fat girls” shtick with a very large dose of ugly derision aimed at Jews, e.g., a bit about running over a Jewish child in a German car.
Salon deputy entertainment editor Anna Silman led the charge.
Why didn’t Comedy Central (or Noah himself) go back and give his Twitter account a deeper read before making him the public face of their biggest show? And do these tweets express genuinely racist and sexist sensibilities that we should be concerned about, or are they just bad jokes? . . . Is this PC culture going into overdrive, or is the deep-rooted ignorance and puerility expressed in some of these tweets a red flag for an (aspiring) political satirist?
Why didn’t Comedy Central apply strict scrutiny here? There are a few answers to that question that are obvious — but not if you are inside the progressive cultural bubble. Those being:
- So-called liberals habitually tolerate black anti-Semitism. Jesse “Hymietown” Jackson remains a revered figure in the Democratic party; Al “Bloodsuckers” Sharpton was inflicted upon the general viewing public, or at least a couple of hundred members of it, by MSNBC; progressives are happy to stand with vile anti-Semites such as Louis Farrakhan, and Democratic organizations are happy to host them. So-called liberals tolerate black anti-Semitism because they believe in their hearts that blacks are their wards and that they cannot be expected to know any better. If unfunny anti-Semitism of the Nation of Islam variety is to be indulged, what’s an unkind joke or three?
- #related#Comedy Central knows that Jon Stewart’s viewers are cheap dates. They are not very bright, and they are not very interested in the world around them. The function of The Daily Show is to flatter the prejudices of a certain segment of largely white and middle-aged metropolitan liberals. Daily Show viewers are not interested in original insight — indeed, the utterance of an original thought or the indulgence of an unpredictable angle of analysis would undermine the entire structure of the program. Daily Show viewers tune in so that they can be made to feel clever for continuing to believe the things they already believe. There is no reason to believe that Noah is going to fail to deliver those exceedingly modest goods.
- Comedy Central was probably counting on the usual double standard, which is, generally, a safe bet. When a couple of nobody RNC staffers ran up a $2,000 bill at a lesbian-bondage-themed strip club — it is a big tent, after all! — that was a national story, with Jon Stewart providing a Muppet reenactment. (Really.) Bill Clinton parties with Jeff Epstein on Pedophile Island? A strange quiet falls upon the land. If Rush Limbaugh had joked about running over Jewish children with his German car, there would be a presidential speech on the matter in the works.
- As for the fat-girl jokes and the other offenses against feminist sensibilities, Comedy Central et al. were no doubt counting on what we may as well call, since his name came up, the “Clinton Rule,” which is, roughly: Men with sufficient liberal credentials are allowed to mistreat women, and women without sufficiently liberal credentials are subject to any sort of abuse that can be meted out. Bill Maher can call Sarah Palin a . . . very unkind term for a woman, and the world is hunky-dory. When Sarah Palin is greeted by crowds of well-scrubbed liberals wearing “Sarah Palin Is a . . . ,” T-shirts, the progressive world yawns. If Sarah Palin’s organization uses crosshairs as a graphic element in a campaign ad, then we are having a national emergency about civility in public discourse. So of course a certified liberal can make fat-girl jokes.
None of this should come as a surprise to anybody — at least, to anybody who doesn’t get his news from Comedy Central.
— Kevin D. Williamson is roving correspondent for National Review.