Some of the most popular late night comedians and hosts are also the some of the most influential.
I am for free speech. I am for adding to discourse, not blocking or censoring it. Everyone should be allowed to share with the World whatever they like, without fear from boycotts and/or social media viral bullying. If you don’t like what’s being said, then add your own voice or turn the proverbial channel.
There does seem to be, however, a special lane of discourse exclusively for celebrities in the mold of Jon Stewart, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert. They have enormous audiences and unprecedented reach. They make no secret of their political leanings. They have strong opinions and aren’t afraid to voice and debate them forcefully. So far, that’s all good. I have no problem with it as long as their freedoms extend to people of all political stripes.
Here is a typical cycle:
- Celebrity selects a political figure ‘du jour’ with whom they disagree. (no problem)
- This is usually a safe and popular target, so they don’t hesitate to lay it on thick. (no problem)
- While making people laugh they maintain a serious undertone. They want us to appreciate their sincerity on these issues and the righteousness of their critiques. (no problem)
- As the feedback loop from their audience increases and as they compete to outdo all the other celebrities atop their own comedic soapboxes, they sometimes take it too far (in my opinion). Colbert’s outrageous comments about Putin and Trump, for example. Absolutely vulgar language that would not be tolerated in most settings. But, again, they have every right to say it, their audiences have every right to laugh. (so far, still no problem)
- What bugs me, is when these celebrities do take a step too far and really say something offensive to some, they are often not willing to defend what they said outright. They pull out the “Hey, I’m a just a comedian” card and wave it around.
These are the same comedians and celebrities who will take one snippet of one sentence out of context from a political figure they dislike and stretch it, twist it, and distort it. They will mercilessly take any innocent slip or perceived slight and drop it into the amplification machine that is their platform and crank the volume up until it’s fully distorted. Because in their minds those politicians, those people do not deserve any benefit of the doubt. But if anyone pushes back on the comedian’s words — “Hey, I’m just a comedian”.
I’ll just finish with this. It’s not the stuff the comedians say that offends me. Knock yourself out. Be as outrageous as you want. There’s an audience for everything and you wouldn’t be where you are if you weren’t funny and popular. Rock on. But if you’re going to put yourself up in front of your massive audience and use your influence and visibility to weigh in strongly on a political issue or figure, then be prepared to defend everything you say as you expect your targets to be able to do. Because pulling out the “comedian card”, is a cop-out.