Hullabaloo over comic’s tweets reveals bigger worry for society
The controversy over the questionable tweets by the designated successor to Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” causes me trepidation for the future.
No, my anxiety has nothing to do with comic Trevor Noah himself or his intent when he tweeted what some considered to be offensive jokes about women and Jews way back in 2009, before Twitter was on the radar of most Americans and before many had become astute in its use.
Scrutiny into 9,000 tweets
A mere day after Comedy Central announced it selected the South African comedian to replace Stewart when the 16-year host retires this year, pundits had already delved into Noah’s 9,000 tweets. They quickly scrutinized the man who would host a television show that, while award-winning, draws just around 1.5 million viewers daily on TV and online combined.
In years past, I expected such scrutiny of presidential candidates, Supreme Court nominees and other top governmental appointees requiring Congressional confirmation.
By no means am I defending Noah for any offensive jokes he posted. I detest racism, sexism, ageism, homomisia, religious intolerance, weightism and other –isms that aren’t immediately coming to mind. (Noah defended himself in a tweet: “To reduce my views to a handful of jokes that didn’t land is not a true reflection of my character, nor my evolution as a comedian.” This week Stewart, on his show, asked people to give Noah a chance.)
PC standards for comics?
This hullabaloo gives me pause for a couple reasons. First, this appointment is for a host of a TV show. A comedy TV show. The comics I’ve watched on television over my life have been outrageous, over-the-top, equal-opportunity insulters, jabbing everyone and everything from mom to apple pie. We always expected that lack of sensitivity and political correctness from them, and we rewarded them with fame and fortune or at least laughter. We still expect that aberrant behavior from our celebrities; we feed on it, emboldening the paparazzi and media to expand their coverage of celebrities’ bawdy behavior, and beguiling Twitter users to follow these stars in the millions.
Archiving our poor choices
Second, this undesirable situation in which Noah finds himself particularly worries me because this is just the beginning. Not just for comics, celebrities or public figures of all kinds. This trickling down to the general public will soon become a downpour–especially for social media users among the Millennial and Z generations. Members of these two generations are boldly recording for present and future public viewing every immature, insensitive, crude, sexist, racist and otherwise off-color action and remark. Through these social media missteps–-I’m being generous by characterizing their behavior as such–they are following in those celebrities’ footsteps.
As we seek people to become our next government leaders, teachers or even TV-show hosts, how will we ever find anyone we can tolerate with all this incivility documented and readily available within a few clicks?