An Open Letter to Trevor Noah of The Daily Show
Dear Trevor Noah,
For about five years now The Daily Show has been my main source of news. This is somewhat problematic since it is on a comedy network, and not a professional news outlet. So I’ve had the impression that liberals use common sense, conservatives are generally uneducated, and Fox News regularly trades with the Devil. While the first two are evident of my liberal bias, the third is arguably true. Jon Stewart’s career was built on exploiting Fox News’ propagandistic reporting. His criticism of their network brought a hidden conservative media agenda into explicit conversation with liberal arguments. This, compounded with self-reflective skits where The Daily Show would make fun of its own biases had created a narrative of the inherent influence political bias has over news broadcasting. When Jon Stewart left The Daily Show ratings dropped, and they have continued to drop. Despite having a similar comedic style to him, your skill set is clearly very different from his. You have a long way to go before you will be able to bring your ratings back up to his standard, but in that time there are things you need to pay attention to.
The role of The Daily Show is to make people laugh while you tell them the news, but what you have done as host is otherize an entire group because of their presidential candidate. While Donald Trump was a ludicrous nominee for the republican party, he was the legitimate party candidate. Your show, as well as the mainstream media, chose not to focus on the legitimate issues he brought to the table, and instead conflated his incendiary rhetoric so that it became so much louder than it should have been. Yes, it is racist, sexist, uninformed, and full of impossible nonsensical declarations; but, that was always clear to everybody watching. None of his supporters are bothered by it. That is clear too, so who are you convincing by repeatedly delegitimizing his claims? Now he is the president elect, and there is no point in delegitimizing his belligerent rhetoric. Instead of focusing on what doesn’t make sense, then becoming baffled by his apparent insanity, if you discuss the topics that do mean something, then liberals will have something to hang onto and there is a chance his supporters will change their minds.
The struggle between Fox News and The Daily Show has defined your role as a comedian newscaster to provide as much news as you do comedy. Trevor Noah, during an interview with CBS you claimed that due to your past as an outsider in South Africa, you have the ability to see other people’s’ points of view. If this is so, then why are you so easily baffled by Trump supporters? In an interview with Ana M. Cox published by the New York Times, you said, “Destroying another person’s argument is not an appealing thing.” How can you make this claim and then do exactly that to Tomi Lahren’s argument when she came onto your show for an interview? You are not just a comedian, you are a news broadcaster. When Jon Stewart argued with his respectable rival Bill O’Reilly, the two would disagree on even ground where the other was always matched with understanding, if not agreement. You had this opportunity of a civil dispute with Tomi Lahren, but instead of compromising on any points for the sake of professionalism, you tried to trap her with unproductive questions and “eviscerate” her argument with implicitly irrefutable points.
Don’t forget that liberal elitism is just as toxic as conservative bigotry. During the election, your team took the Trump rallies as opportunity to mock people to their faces; this was funny for a while when the liberal elites thought they were leading the race, and even in the final moments when Trump passed Hillary in electoral votes, the possibility that he could win was as unreal as were the uneducated fanatics interviewed by The Daily Show’s correspondents. Your presentation of the political climate added to this disorientation that was felt by liberal America, because it unfairly represented conservative support of Donald Trump as purely Alt-Right. From your perspective on The Daily Show, there was nothing to agree with, no possible compromises, and Trump could only ever be a babbling mad man. This is demonization, otherization, it is a tactic used in racism, bigotry, and fear-politics; your liberal elitism is responsible for liberal ignorance. What The Daily Show stood for with Jon Stewart was never what it stands for now.
What you have brought to The Daily Show that has improved its quality is the sense of joy for being in America that is lacking in most other programs. Your patriotism and principled morality are uplifting. Even in face of the recent election, your movement to give the president elect a chance, not because you would like to, but because we have to, is an inspiring position which should be the normal sentiment. It is clear that your principles come from a belief in the constitution and the freedom our government represents. I understand that being new to The Daily Show you can hardly be expected to match the standard of Jon Stewart’s excellency, and that in your position as host you will inevitably have to test out the waters before finding ways to improve yourself. The criticism I have to offer is not meant to demean your efforts, but rather to show you what can be improved on. It is important that your show practices progressive arguments which do not pointlessly belittle the opposition, but rather offer the audience an opportunity to grow through bipartisan rivalry, and support. I am excited to see the direction you will take The Daily Show.