Growing up, I was always a fan of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show with his news-styled satire comedy show. Here is a sample of his genius.
I found myself enraptured whenever he was presenting his “news”. He had a razor sharp political acumen in highlighting the bipartisan gridlock in the Senate, the dangerous feedback loop of the media. Each episode had its own pot of comedy gold, where the viewer is treated to brutal honesty and a fair dose of cynicism guaranteeing an ab workout of laughter. What I really loved about Jon was that he was unafraid to stand for what he believed in. It was apparent to the viewer that he was telling the truth that he saw, and he took his opinion wherever he went. He appeared on Fox News criticising for their media bias and went on CNN criticising them for their sensationalistic reporting that trapped viewers in the 24/7/365 cycle of breaking news. He criticised Democrats and Republican alike for their hypocrisy and failure for co-operation. It was clear that though he was informed by ideologies, he was no ideological warrior that sought to push a political agenda. He was the jester who said the things that no one wanted to say and saw the blind spots where no one bothered to look. I would invite you to watch this video as you could see Stewart in his untouchable prime.
Well, that was the Old Daily Show.
Since Donald Trump was elected as President and Trevor Noah took over this show, I found myself increasingly frustrated with the show. The show meant to poke fun at the problems of America became increasingly partisan and left-leaning. The lazy journalism, sensationalistic reporting and distorted perception of the politics that Stewart vehemently opposed start to creep into The Daily Show.
The Daily Show transfigured itself into the very political machine it fought against. I will attempt to go into greater detail in explaining my (probably unpopular) stance as I break down this short 4-minute clip of the following episode.
This clip was part of a segment where Trevor Noah was joking about the Trump selecting Gorsuch as the Judge of the Supreme Court. The typical jokes aimed at Donald Trump have routinely continued which in my humble opinion is totally fine because that’s what comedy is about. Instead, what I found was scary was the amount of misinformation presented in this short clip. Among the many factual inaccuracies, I will just choose to expound on one.
As an Associate Justice, Gorsuch is subject to hearings by Senators who would grill and question him so as to ensure he is the right man for the job. Being an independent judiciary meant that he was to be free of any political alliance so as to ensure a fair and objective interpretation of the law and Constitution for cases brought up in the Supreme Court.
Noah highlighted that the Republicans were merely “dicking around”, asking irrelevant questions. Among these figures, Ted Cruz was the guiltiest of them all. Embedded in this statement was the idea that the Republicans were just bantering to make their pick for Judge look favourable and that they were disregarding the serious role of ensuring the legitimacy of the Associate Judge.
Just a quick search through the depths of Youtube, one would find the full hearing of Gorsuch by the Senators from Mike Crapo, Jeff Flake to Ted Cruz.
For example, we can look at the hearing with Ted Cruz.
In the short snippet on The Daily Show, Ted Cruz was seen to be having a ‘man-crush’ on Gorsuch where they were merely having a coffee shop talk. Yet, this 20s snippet was a gross misrepresentation of what actually transpired. If one bothered to watch the entire 30-minute proceeding, one would realise the important and grave matters they discussed. The conversation ranged from constitutionalism, the importance of an independent judiciary, how the constitution/the law should be interpreted (Gorsuch believed in originalism, where the constitution should be interpreted as how the founders desired it to be)
At this point, it should be apparent that I am not against joking or having a good sense of humour. However, I am very much against the exact misrepresentation that inspired Stewart to start the Daily Show in the first place. Yet the evil that Stewart critiqued was the exact evil perpetrated by The Daily Show.
The insightful and productive part of the hearing was completely glossed over in favour of a 2-minute bathroom-break conversation which was meant to create a caricature of Gorsuch and Cruz.
Furthermore, as one went down the abyss of Youtube, (like myself), one found problematic things that Democrats did for the hearing of Gorsuch which was completely ignored by Noah. For example, Senator Franken when questioning Gorsuch asked about his political opinion on the failed nomination of Judge Garland. It became apparent to even a student like myself that the idea of an independent judiciary meant that judges do not participate or comment about politics. Yet Senator Franken did not seem to fully understand that and wanted to corner him into making a political comment. Or, Franken’s ill-understanding of the scrivener’s error caused him to make an uninformed comment on judicial proceedings.
The jester through comedy pointed people towards the uncomfortable truth. Unfortunately now, comedy shows like the Daily Show (with the political slant) do not seek to draw out the truth anymore, they merely wish to confirm their own narrative.
At the end of the day, I wish not to discourage us from watching shows like these but as consumers of the media, news or any piece of literature, I would encourage all of us to be as critical of The Daily Show as we would with Fox News, Breitbart (and for Singaporeans, all/any of the State News Channels)