First of all, I would like to say that I enjoy SNL and late night comedy shows like Jimmy Fallon or Conan. However, ever since the rise of Trump in 2015, after eight years of silence during Obama’s tenure, all these shows do is attack, smear and insult Republicans and the president every single night. There is so much to talk about when it comes to the regressive content of late night comedy TV, but in this column I will focus on Saturday Night Live’s summer edition episode from August 17th, where the popular segment, Weekend Update with Michael Che and Colin Jost take on the Charlottesville protests, where they spread not only historical errors, but misleading news that have dangerous consequences.
For those of you who don’t know, “Weekend Update” is a segment on SNL that satirizes a real news show by making witty one liners and interviewing celebrity impersonators. I, personally, despite the anti-conservative and republican jokes and rhetoric, find the segment funny and entertaining. Hosts Michael Che and Colin Jost are very funny when they avoid politics, but when they dip their toes in political commentary, they cherry-pick facts and spread misinformation for the purpose of the joke as well as drive the mainstream liberal agenda. This was especially clear in the August 17th episode, where not only they make untrue historic claims, they also perpetuate the “there was only one side causing violence at the rally” fallacy.
Firstly, after Michael Che cracks a few one liners regarding the riots in Charlottesville, SNL introduces George Washington, portrayed by Jimmy Fallon, to discuss the issues of slavery and the removal of the Confederate statues. Michael Che first interviewed “George Washington” about owning slaves, just as Robert E. Lee did.
Michae h: “Look Mr. President, I think the issue is that both you and Robert E Lee owned slaves.”
Jimm allon: “ight, that was bad that was wrong, but if you want to talk about owning slaves, you should be talking about Thomas Jefferson!”
A quick Google search would show you that General Lee did not own slaves, he in fact he fought the war for states rights. In a letter to his wife in 1856, Lee had written these words:
“In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.”
When Lee’s fellow lieutenants and colonels asked him about what side he would fight on, the General responded, "I shall never bear arms against the Union, but it may be necessary for me to carry a musket in the defense of my native state, Virginia, in which case I shall not prove recreant to my duty.”
If you ask any credible historian or do the bare minimum research, you would clearly find evidence that Robert E Lee opposed the institution of slavery and fought for the defense of his native state, Virginia, which joined the Confederacy. Yet, this did not prevent Michael Che from making a false statement on primetime television, watched by millions of Americans, whom many do not know much about the history of our nation.
The second misleading and incorrect statement comes from Tina Fey, who was featured in an unfunny segment of her stuffing her mouth with cake while spitting out terrible jokes and false equivalencies. Fey said to Jost, “anyway, Johnny John comes out and he says that he condemns violence on many sides on many sides Colin and I'm feeling sick because you know I've seen a Raiders of the Lost Ark and I wasn't confused by it no Colin Nazis are always bad I don't care what you say!”
Of course, multiple videos and sources show that both sides who attended this rally were at fault. Antifa(Anti-facist) were charging at “Alt-Right protesters with clubs and bats looking for a fight, yet, Tina Fey abides to the one sided argument. "The media has scarcely covered this violent left wing group known as Antifa, and has been doing so with all left wing protests since President Trump was elected" Tina Fey continues her tirade, “Colin, next time when you see black and white boys those in polo shirts screaming about taking our country back when you want to scream a country we stole it then stole from the Native Americans, and when they have a peaceful protest at Standing Rock, we shoot them with rubber bullets but we let you chant and march through the streets.”
I’m not defending the Neo-Nazis and Alt-Right protesters, but this is a very misleading comment and a false equivalency. First of all, I don’t know how many times we have to argue the fact that America was not stolen from the Native Americans. Most tribes and groups didn’t even have permanent settlements and migrated throughout the continent. Some colonists conducted trade with Native Americans throughout the New World, and many didn’t even die at the hands of European weaponry. Diseases brought from the west that they had no immunity to like smallpox were the main culprits of many first nations deaths. Yes, we did fight the Navajo, Apache and Iroquois for land, but we did so by teaming up with rival tribes who shared common enemies. Ironically, Seth Meyers, who portrayed Thomas Jefferson earlier in the show, said “It was a different time man! It was the 70s man!”. During the founding of our nation, virtually every group in human history fought and conquered rivals. s Standing Rock protests were demonstrated on privately owned property, which allows the owner of that land to disperse the protest through non lethal means. As a private business, the owners of the land at Standing Rock can refuse the First Amendment rights of protestors. In Charlottesville, it was a public area, and since rights are what the government cannot take away from you, they were allowed to peacefully assemble and protest. The Alt-Right protestors even legally obtained a permit. This does not mean that their cause or equate to the protestors of Standing Rock, but response to free speech on public and private property are different.
So, you might be asking, why is this so important? Why have I dedicated over 1,000 words to pick apart some historical fallacies presented by comedians? It’s because of their sphere of influence. Many people today get their news from comedians, because they’re funny, entertaining and straight to the point. Not a lot of people are willing to sit and watch panels with different opinions or having a Ben Shapiro or Joe Rogan discuss the context, history and in depth analysis to get a full picture on what’s going on. A Late Night Show clip on YouTube or episode draws significantly more viewers than any substantive political or news show, so it’s not ok when comedians make faulty and cherry picked statements, because they’re misinforming the public on a large scale. Also, a lot of people who watch those shows are middle school and high school students, which will lead to comedians developing the next generation of youth with a very misinformed world view. Most people, myself included, don’t like it when entertainment mix with politics, but in 2017, all of the sudden everything is political. Comedians like Fallon, Meyers and Fey, who probably have zero conservative friends and never read a page of Sowell, Hayek, Friedman, Stuart Mill, Mises, Keynes or Smith, are all of the sudden experts on American politics and beacons for insightful commentary on economic issues. Therefore, it is important that we expose their youth and inexperience before more of their one sided strawman arguments covered with half witted one liners continue to delude the American public.