by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Sara Pequeño of McClatchy’s North Carolina Opinion Team published a thoughtful response to The Daily Show segment ridiculing Johnston County parents.
Klepper’s segment, “Finger the Pulse,” involves him going to different parts of the country to interview vocal conservatives on their political takes. His September 23 segment from Johnston County included anti-maskers worried about mask smells and acne, a protester who said she didn’t vote in school board elections, and another woman who drew parallels between Satanism and COVID protocol.
He didn’t correct misinformation or mention the school board’s eventual vote to keep requiring masks, because he didn’t have to: the segment assumes its audience only wants to have a quick laugh, not that they want to think more about those living in Johnston County. The viewer is a voyeur in the South as they believe it to be: mostly white, mostly rural, mostly conservative.
This brand of political humor is popular in a post-Trump United States. It looks at the chasm between similar people on the right and the left and gives the left binoculars in which they can observe across the aisle, ignoring their own leaders’ failures to enact change. Even for those of us firmly progressive in the South, these stories are embarrassing and infuriating; there’s one more barrier to productive conversation.
My colleague, Leah Byers, wrote a superb response as well.
There is no grace in twisting the words of people who have little to no on-camera training or experience to score cheap political points. The parents at the rally appear to be average folks – presumably, they have jobs and lives outside of memorizing talking points on these issues. Yet, they have enough concern over what they are seeing to take time out of those lives to protest. Should we ridicule them for that? Gaslight them by saying their experiences and opinions aren’t valid because they don’t align with the elite-sanctioned narrative?
Take the time to read both responses in their entirety.
It’s easy for journalist comedians to parachute into the state and get the soundbites they need to convey their chosen narrative. And it is nothing new. When conservatives had a school board majority in Wake County a decade ago, Stephen Colbert (who sent his children to an elite private school) pounced. Colbert poked fun at the board’s decision to eliminate Wake’s busing scheme, a policy that progressive majorities maintained for years after they retook control of the board. Different people. Same policy. Different treatment.