We Need to Talk About Tomi Lahren on The Daily Show

giphy (22).gifFor those of you who don’t know who Tomi Lahren is, she is a young conservative pundit with her own show, Tomi, on TheBlaze. TheBlaze is a multimedia network owned by universally recognized crazy person, Glenn Beck; but don’t let that distract you from Tomi. While it’s true that networks tend to drift towards a political spectrum (in this case, conservative), Tomi and Glenn Beck have very little in common. To put it in perspective, if this were InfoWars, Glenn Beck would be Alex Jones, and Tomi Lahren would be Paul Joseph Watson. Tomi outperforms Glenn Beck in every way, and her sociopolitical value is only going up among conservative millennials, as she is one of them. Because of this, there will undoubtedly be a place for Tomi once Beck fades into obscurity.

Tomi rose to universal notoriety–because, let’s be real, not many people watch TheBlaze–when clips of her Final Thoughts segments were shared on social media, discussing issues like Colin Kaepernick, Black Lives Matter, Beyonce and the Black Panthers, and Anti-Trump Protests.

For those of you who don’t rememberThe Daily Show is a Comedy Central program which parodies mainstream media news outlets by offering alternate takes on current events with a staff full of talented comedians and personalities. Or at least, it used to be.

giphy (22).gifThe Daily Show was created in 1996 as a replacement for ABC’s Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. At that time, the show was hosted by ESPN‘s Craig Kilborn and only lasted about two years, before it was picked up and turned into a powerhouse by the objectively talented and knowledgeable Jon Stewart. Though met with criticism, the show worked, and at its peak was mostly criticized for not being newsy enough for a news show; despite it being a comedy show. And that’s a good sign.

Since being handed over to its current host, Trevor Noah, the show has taken a turn for the negative. It doesn’t completely fall on his shoulders, but there is a level of responsibility to be had for the declining interest in the Daily Show brand. And one of the sharpest criticisms, for a comedy show, is that it just isn’t nearly as funny as it used to be.

One of the most disappointing aspects of the show has been the rapid decline in integrity and discourse present in The Daily Show‘s interview segment. Regardless of his political views, Jon Stewart typically came off as informed and curious…while trying to keep things light when comedy was a priority. Noah, on the other hand, seems to feed on the audience, and lacks the substantive confidence, experience and knowledge necessary to have a reasoned debate…or even a discussion.

Let’s talk about this latest Daily Show interview. And we’ll see very fucking clearly that nobody “DESTROYED” anybody.

FULL VIDEO ON COMEDY CENTRAL

Without wasting a moment, Trevor Noah sets up how the entire interview is going to play out with a very telling joke:

I’m in the lion’s den, Trevor.”
I’m not a lion at all. Is that an African thing? No…

Clearly a joke targeted specifically to make Tomi seem like a racist right out of the gate; immediately dismissed by the host, but preparing the audience for what to expect, as if to say: Tomi is going to speak, and I’m going to hear something completely different.

Noah’s first question is “Why are you so angry?” Immediately putting Tomi at a disadvantage, battling a characterization of herself rather than any dispute over something she’s actually said.

The audible groans and grumbles from the audience are heightened whenever Tomi utters anything that upsets the apple cart…even if it’s as flippant and innocuous as “It’s time to make America great again.”

Noah takes issue with comments made by Donald Trump and allows Tomi to explain, but he institutes a rule that she can’t help but break. He asks Tomi to excuse Trump’s pussy grab remarks without putting it in a context of Hillary Clinton or the election…an impossible feat; to which she merely says she can’t excuse the remarks–but that they simply don’t bother her as much as actions do.

It’s this disconnect that blows the conversation wide open. In Trevor’s corner, it’s words matter and have large societal impact. In Tomi’s corner, words can offend and cause alarm, but it’s the action that truly matters; essentially, the “sticks and stones” argument in its rawest form.

(Note: The above video is edited by at least 10 Minutes. Why?)

Then, Noah asks possibly the most condescending question of all. He asks Tomi what her purpose is, and what it is she’s trying to do…when she calls out Black Lives Matter or Colin Kaepernick. She holds her own and explains she feels that she is a voice for the voiceless, or rather, those who believe that they can’t share their opinions publicly because they will be labeled, ridiculed, or doxed. My words, not hers.

The “destroying” really enters the frame at this point, as the audience is encouraged to be more vocal. They see a back and forth between two adults that needs to be reformatted into a brawl. Trevor throws out a dismissive point about Donald Trump (after repeatedly saying he wants to turn the discussion away from Trump) which Tomi is forced to defend. He proceeds to throw out applause-lines suggesting Trump is beholden to other countries or that Trump’s building the White House from the same shit he was trying to get rid of. And still, Tomi holds her own, and calmly explains why she doesn’t feel that way…or that the accusation is false; as having a business in a country doesn’t mean you work for that country, and hiring someone who used to work for a bank doesn’t mean you now work for that bank.

Trever Noah gains an upper hand in the debate because it’s his show and he has silencing power. But if you listen to his points clearly, each is a non sequitur at best, and intellectually dishonest at worst. Noah asks what Lahren’s issue is with Black Lives Matter, which she admits was built from good intentions but was corrupted by the actions of the protesters and violent individuals co-opting the cause. Noah brings up that just because the protesters say they’re in a movement, it doesn’t discredit the movement. But then he switches the focus to Trump, saying that just because the KKK supports Trump, doesn’t mean Trump is in the KKK.

The trouble with this connection is that the Black Lives Matter movement is has been co-opted by radicals and cop killing enthusiasts. Those voices have become the movement. And the spokespersons for the movement sympathize with those voices, even if they don’t outwardly condone them. The same can not be said for Trump.

Noah creates another false equivalency, saying that protests turning into riots is not unique to Black Lives Matter as every protest turns into a riot…like when a sports team wins. Which is not a protest, and is not condoned by anyone. The truth is, no…not every protest turns into a riot…unless the examples are: Black Lives Matter, Bernie Supporters, Dakota Pipeline Protesters, Anti-Trump Protesters. And what’s the common denominator?

The audience laughs off Tomi’s statistics as Noah attempts to make the police out to be racist because they’ve shot black people. Half-way through the interview, and I’m waiting for anyone to destroy anyone.

If this were an actual moderated debate, Tomi Lahren would win with golden gloves; as all Trevor Noah seems to be doing is pivoting, ignoring, and moving-on…which doesn’t imply that he is being destroyed, but his questions are all being answered honestly. Noah’s only weapon is his audience’s interminable scripted cheers and jeers.

From here, we get to possibly the most mind-boggling segment of this entire interview: Trevor Noah attempting to change the definition of “mainstream” to mean “team who won.” He explicitly says that Tomi Lahren is now the Mainstream Media because the candidate she supports has won the election.

Should this interview be reversed, Noah’s reactionary audience would immediately disembowel him for what they would call “mansplaining”of the highest order. Not only is he belittling the very honest comments, facts and opinions Tomi puts forth, but he is effectively covering his ears and going “Lalala!”

This is most telling as Noah struggles to separate Black Lives Matter from its objective representation, saying “There is a difference between a movement and its people.” A statement that is categorically false any way you could possibly interpret it.

Trevor Noah must realize this glaring mistake. He gets agitated, irate, and more animated as he demands Tomi explain how a black man should protest without rioting, as, according to Noah, even if he does nothing but takes a knee during the National Anthem, he is criticized. To which Tomi calmly explained that his freedom to express his perceived frustrations do not render him free from criticism if people feel, as she does, that he was being disrespectful and that his politics are flawed.

This is where Noah finds his opening. He harps on one question that Tomi Lahren feels that she’s already answered. She misreads the situation and the tables are turned. Noah keeps driving at the question: How should a black man protest?

To which there is a simple answer, which Tomi already brought to light when she admitted her respect for the Black Lives Matter movement’s initial intentions. The answer is “peacefully; just like everyone else.” But that doesn’t mean a silly protest, like Colin Kaepernick’s, would be free from criticism. When Noah asks Tomi how she would protest, she comes back with one of her best lines of the night: I wouldn’t. Because I don’t consider myself a victim.

To wrap up, Trevor inquires why Tomi would say immigrants should be grateful to be in America. She declares American exceptionalism and says that once they are citizens, then they have the right to criticize the government which took them in. Tomi fires back, asking what Noah would say to legal immigrants who broke the bank and waited in line for their path to citizenship who are upset that illegals sneak in and could be granted amnesty. To which Noah responds that he’d tell them some people come here one way and some people come another way. A ludicrous response to a question no one really wants to answer…but someone has to.

The interview was unfair, but it was not one-sided. Tomi Lahren held her own, did not buckle, and did not stutter or stumble. She was a formidable opponent; despite the fact that she was clearly brought on for the audience to point and laugh at. Tomi proved that the finger pointing and the easy jokes aren’t going to cut the mustard anymore.

Tomi proved that her opponents truly have to bring their A-Game.

And Trevor Noah proved he doesn’t have one.

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