The replacement for Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” is named Trevor Noah. His Twitter stream has revealed some…interesting…”jokes,” like this one:
South Africans know how to recycle like Israel knows how to be peaceful.
Apparently, the Israel-is-an-aggressor meme has oozed its way into the popular consciousness to the degree that Israel is stereotypically non-peaceful in the way that dogs stereotypically dislike cats. I expect this sort of thing will go over quite well with the audience (generally left-leaning, I feel sure) of The Daily Show. They will also probably like this one:
When flying over the middle of America the turbulence is so bad. It’s like all the ignorance is rising through the air.
…although perhaps this won’t go over as well coming from a non-American (Noah is South African) as it would coming from a suitably hipsterish American.
Here’s another example of Trevor Noah’s humor:
Behind every successful Rap Billionaire is a double as rich Jewish man.
I don’t think there is any “right to not be offended,” and I don’t generally have a problem with ethnic humor–but these jokes of Noah’s seem pretty mean-spirited as well as not particularly funny. And his hostility toward Israel seems to be deeper than just as a platform for bad jokes: see this and note his apparently-approving tweet about what he specifically calls an “anti-Israel protest.”
I wouldn’t normally be too concerned about a few Jewish jokes by someone about to be handed a very powerful microphone, unfunny and in bad taste though those jokes be–but we live in an era when anti-Semitism is on the rise, especially in Europe and also in Noah’s native South Africa, and and era when the President of the United States was a long-time member of Jeremiah Wright’s church and is presently a frequent consorter with Al Sharpton.
In the excellent made-for-German-TV movie Dresden (my review here), which is set during the last months of WWII, one of the characters is a Jewish man named Simon Goldberg, who has been allowed to remain at liberty so far only because of his marriage to a gentile woman. He is, however, taunted by children on the street:
Jew-boy, Jew-boy, tell me quick
How it is you do your tricks?
When I saw this movie in 2009, I would have deprecated the idea that there was any serious danger of things like this happening on the streets of an American city. It no longer seems so totally improbable. Trevor Noah’s line Behind every successful Rap Billionaire is a double as rich Jewish man does not go as far as Jew-boy, Jew-boy, tell me quick / How it is you do your tricks?
…but it points in the same direction, the stereotyping of Jews as exploitive tricksters.
The post at the leftist blog Mondoweiss (linked above) says:
We welcome Noah too. Jon Stewart was always too careful/cute about the conflict for our taste. Noah is more likely to solidify a cultural trend: more and more young Democrats, women and people of color are taking a very dim view of the belligerent actions of the so-called only democracy in the Middle East.
Certainly, comedy can have a substantial political influence, and I’m afraid that in America today there are a substantial number of people who get their political news and opinion only or mainly from pseudo-news/pseudo-humor/ain’t-I-cool sources such as The Daily Show.
In the memoirs of Sebastian Haffner (my review here), he tells of the day when the Nazis came to the Prussian Supreme Court, the Kammergericht, and destroyed what remained of the judicial system’s independence. That evening, Haffner went with his girlfriend to a nightclub called the Katacombe, where the master of ceremonies was a comedian named Werner Fink:
His act remained full of harmless amiability in a country where these qualities were on the liquidation list. This harmless amiability hid a kernel of real, indomitable courage. He dared to speak openly about the reality of the Nazis, and that in the middle of Germany. His patter contained references to concentration camps, the raids on people’s homes, the general fear and general lies. He spoke of these things with infinitely quiet mockery, melancholy, and sadness. Listening to him was extraordinarily comforting…The Kammergericht had fallen, but the Katacombe stood upright.
We need more comedians like Werner Fink…people who really do possess the courage to “speak the truth to power”….and fewer like Trevor Noah, who pretend to courage while mocking accepted and pre-designated targets.