Megan Garber’s critique of Samantha Bee spotlights white male privilege. (More)
“A string of invective”
For those who don’t know, Samantha Bee is a Canadian-born comic and The Daily Show alum who recently joined the late-night news-comedy lineup with Full Frontal, airing Mondays on TBS. Contrary to media-driven rumors, Bee wasn’t “passed over” to replace Jon Stewart as The Daily Show host. Indeed she had already pitched a project to TBS and didn’t want to host a nightly show, and she earned solid enough ratings for TBS to renew her show beyond its initial trial. For a late night TV host, that’s “success.”
But apparently it’s not good enough for The Atlantic’s Megan Garber:
Bee’s job, certainly, is not to reflect campaign-driven talking points. Nor is it to model civility. Nor is it, officially, to do anything beyond making viewers love her or hate her and thereby watch her, week after week. Full Frontal, though, is one of the many current late-night shows – hybrids of comedy and commentary – that strive to live in the legacy of the Jon Stewart-helmed Daily Show: to use humor, as The Wrap put it, to “become part of the cultural conversation.” Full Frontal set as its challenge from the outset, Rebecca Traister reported, to parse the delicate lines “between horror and humor, between outrage and hilarity,” provoking not just laughter, but action and impact. And Full Frontal has been for the most part extremely effective at striking that balance, via segments that marry the best of investigative journalism with the worst of cathartic indignation.
Monday’s show, though, featured very little of either. It offered, for the most part, a string of invective that simply reiterated what anyone who had paid attention as “Pussyghazi” played out over the weekend was already well aware of: that “pussy,” the word, was not the problem; that bragging about sexual predation was; that it’s extremely hypocritical for GOP lawmakers who endorsed a known racist/misogynist/demagogue to decide that the Access Hollywood revelations represented the thing that, in the end, would make the candidate unworthy of the presidency. Mostly, though, the episode offered anger – anger that didn’t attempt to temper itself under the guise of “satire.” Anger that seethed. Anger that directed itself at the “leering dildos” who presented themselves on the tapes. Anger that trusted in itself as its own end.
“Oh, and he also did something that upset Republicans!”
Here’s the monologue that Garber critiques:
Note that Bee opens with a story the media have largely ignored: Trump insisting the Central Park Five were guilty, despite having been cleared by DNA evidence and the actual attacker’s confession. Yeah, you have to go to the BBC for a follow-up story, because the U.S. media dropped it like a hot rock once the Washington Post broke the sex tape.
As a journalist, Garber should appreciate the significance of a lead. By opening with the Central Park Five – segueing with the line “Oh, and he also did something that upset Republicans!” – Bee satirizes one of the most important element of the story. Trump’s tape swamped the political dialogue because Trump “upset Republicans” by offending a vital GOP demographic: white women. Yes, people of color like Eugene Robinson were outraged by Trump’s renewed attack on five innocent men:
There is no explanation but racism for this stubborn denial of the truth, which no officials still dispute. Trump decided from the beginning that these black and brown men had to be guilty. They fit the profile. He still believes the discredited confessions that detectives sweated out of them, and he believes the men deserve no compensation for their long unjust imprisonment. He holds these views despite unambiguous DNA evidence that everyone else now accepts.
For young African American and Latino men, Trump has a clear and ominous message: You must be guilty of something. Not even scientific proof can convince him otherwise. If that is not racism, the word has no meaning.
Trump’s Central Park Five redux barely tickled the news needle because the GOP – and too many whites – just don’t give a damn if people of color are upset.
Bee led with it.
Garber apparently didn’t notice.
“Anger that seethed”
But let’s zoom in on this bit of Garber’s critique:
Mostly, though, the episode offered anger – anger that didn’t attempt to temper itself under the guise of “satire.” Anger that seethed. Anger that directed itself at the “leering dildos” who presented themselves on the tapes. Anger that trusted in itself as its own end.
Ironically, that sums up the media narrative of the 2016 election. From the Esquire story headlined “American Rage” – which that survey showed was really white male rage – to a Salon piece headlined “America is mad as hell” – about white male Sanders supporters – to a CNBC piece headlined “Trump taps into voter anger” – yet again, about white male voters – we’ve been marinated in rage for months, even though data show that anger correlates to lost privilege rather than real hardship, indeed even though data show that anger is mostly a media-hyped myth, as Yahoo News’ Matt Bai explained last summer:
Here’s something interesting to consider: According to the Pew Research Center, which to my mind does the best polling on public attitudes across a range of topics, anger in the American electorate actually peaked in 2013 (at about 30 percent), after Republicans in Washington decided to turn the budget process into a series of hostage crises. Since then, the number of voters who identify themselves as angry has actually dipped precipitously, to about 19 percent last year.
It’s also worth noting that, according to the latest data from the University of Michigan, consumer confidence in the economy – which is what voters are said to be most angry about – is considerably higher than it was a year or two ago.
That angry 19% were overwhelmingly white men – like most Trump voters and most Sanders voters and indeed most of our media – so we’ve been warned we must “understand” it, lest we seem “out of touch.”
But Samantha Bee – a comic – spends six minutes channeling women’s anger at being talked about like sex organs with feet … and gets criticized for not “striking that balance, via segments that marry the best of investigative journalism with the worst of cathartic indignation.”
Squirrels don’t wear jewelry … so please, someone, send Megan Garber some pearls to clutch.
“Clinton would defeat Trump among women by a margin similar to … actually, there’s no good comparison”
But while we’re in something of a wait-and-see mode, one demographic split caught my eye. That was from a Public Religion Research Institute poll conducted on behalf of The Atlantic. It showed a massive gender split, with Clinton trailing Trump by 11 percentage points among men but leading him by 33 points among women. To put those numbers in perspective, that’s saying Trump would defeat Clinton among men by a margin similar to Dwight D. Eisenhower’s landslide victory over Adlai Stevenson in 1952, while Clinton would defeat Trump among women by a margin similar to … actually, there’s no good comparison, since no candidate has won a presidential election by more than 26 percentage points since the popular vote became a widespread means of voting in 1824. To get to 33 points, you’d have to take the Eisenhower-Stevenson margin and add Lyndon B. Johnson’s 23-point win over Barry Goldwater in 1964 on top of it.
Yes, that PRRI poll looks to be an outlier, but Silver crunched a polling average that found Clinton leading by 15% among women. That’s three times Trump’s average lead among men. Indeed Silver crunched more polls and found that if the electorate were only women, Clinton would win 38 states and 458 Electoral College votes.
Yes, Silver concedes, if voting were women-only then our politics would be “really, really different, perhaps with entirely different coalitions than the ones that prevail now.” That said, he concludes:
But it seems fair to say that, if Trump loses the election, it will be because women voted against him. I took a look at how men and women split their votes four years ago, according to polls conducted in November 2012. On average, Mitt Romney led President Obama by 7 percentage points among men, about the same as Trump’s 5-point lead among men now. But Romney held his own among women, losing them by 8 points, whereas they’re going against Trump by 15 points.
That’s the difference between a close election – as you’ll remember, those national polls in late 2012 showed the race neck-and-neck – and one that’s starting to look like a blowout.
Fact is, Bill Clinton was the first candidate to win the White House without winning white men. The next was Barack Obama, who did so both in 2008 when John McCain won 57% of white men and in 2012 when Mitt Romney won 62% of white men. They both still lost, prompting the much-ballyhooed GOP autopsy.
But Trump threw the broader-coalition idea in the dumpster, and the Wall Street Journal reports that he’s doubling-down on his white-men-only strategy with a “no-holds-barred” campaign that hopes to “curb” voting among women and people of color. Indeed PRRI poll showed Trump winning 57% of all white men and a late-September Washington Post/ABC poll found Trump winning 76% of non-college-educated white men. So he might out-pace Romney among white men, who out-paced McCain among white men … and still lose.
How dare she?!?
That’s what Trump means by “Make America Great Again.” He’s a white guy promising white guys a return to the days when white guys made all the rules. And we’re all supposed to “understand” their anger … but oh-dearie-me-such-anger! if Samantha Bee or Hillary Clinton don’t “strike a balance” or “smile enough.”
That’s why I tweeted this yesterday:
.@AngryBlackLady Alas, if a white guy can tie his shoes without getting his thumb stuck in the laces, Americans must say "Great job, Zane!"
— BPI Squirrel (@bpicampus) October 11, 2016
.@AngryBlackLady While if a woman or POC tap-dances backward across a beam between two skyscrapers, the response is "No leaping pirouette?"
— BPI Squirrel (@bpicampus) October 11, 2016
Good day and good nuts