This fan-created video in support of Bernie Sanders includes an important rebuke to that once much-more-popular satirical offering of Comedy Central, The Daily Show.
In May, The Daily Show went through the archives of Sanders’ 1980s public access TV show, Bernie Speaks With the Community, made while he was the mayor of Burlington, Vt. After showcasing Sanders asking a group of grade schoolers if they had ever seen cocaine, host Trevor Noah declared, “It’s almost like Bernie can’t tell the difference between kids and adults.” The show then cut to Sanders telling some child, “Alright, I think you’re dumb.” The audience gasps and groans, and Noah cracks up.
But the fan video follows that Daily Show snippet with the complete context of Sanders’ exchange with the kids. Sanders’ sentence doesn’t end with “dumb.” The mayor told the kids, “I think you’re dumb if you don’t sit down and learn how to read and write. No, you were not born stupid. Come here. The only way I think you’re dumb? I think when you think you’re dumb. Because you’re not.”
Whatever else you think of Sanders, that out-of-context clip is unrepresentative of his remarks. He’s trying to convince the kids that they have great potential and encouraging them to study and working hard.
For a long while, folks who weren’t such a fan of The Daily Show and the previous host Jon Stewart — usually conservatives – noted the “clown nose on, clown nose off” defense.
Various cultural high mucky-mucks would declare Stewart and his various wannabes were some of the most important and consequential voices in our political discourse, but their defenders also insisted they didn’t have to be fair or accurate when they talked about issues because they were comedians, not journalists. One moment you’re being told that the court jesters were the real truth-tellers in our society; the next you’re being told that their inaccuracies or exaggerations didn’t matter, because hey, they’re just comedians telling jokes, man, lighten up.
Back in 2015, I wrote, “Heavily editing interviews and misleading interview guests are pretty minor sins for a comedy show; if everyone knows the aim of the show is to make viewers laugh, and not inform them, it’s pointless to argue about the need for fairness, objectivity, or even-handedness. But if the show is real journalism, as its most passionate advocates insist, then it’s a sneeringly dishonest practitioner.”
Maybe you can’t stand Bernie Sanders, maybe you love him. But maybe now some folks on the other side of the aisle will grasp that a dishonest, out-of-context video snippet on a television program is bad, even when it’s in the service of comedy. If you want to oppose or dislike Sanders, do it for things he actually said and did – not because Trevor Noah leaves you believing that he calls little kids dumb.