The Daily Show and Guns
On Oct. 9, a clip went up on The Daily Show’s Youtube Channel that featured Trevor Noah and Neal Brennan as they assessed the debate on gun control following the Las Vegas shooting. Describing the issue “a lot like John Travolta’s Botox face: there’s no movement,” Brennan said everything in America is about symbols, which resulted in him suggesting NFL players stand to the national anthem, holding an AR-15 above their heads in order to “have new gun control legislation by halftime.”
Known for its satirical take on the news, The Daily Show is known to be a part of people’s media diets. This is not the first time the show has explored the issue of gun control and gun violence. Noah has spoken out several times on the aftermaths of major shooting incidents like the Orlando nightclub shooting in 2016. Jordan Klepper, former correspondent and current host of The Opposition, has done a segment examining the NRA’s assertion that a “good guy with a gun” is the only solution to solving gun violence in the United States.
Even though the show is satire, is Brennan justified to make that statement? Brennan cites an incident in 1967 where a heavily-armed group of Black Panthers marched into the California state capital, which resulted in the state, under then-Governor Ronald Reagan, to pass the Mulford Act. This Act repealed a law allowing public carrying of loaded firearms, within twelve weeks. Bringing a divisive issue into another may be controversial, but if issues about race are always acknowledged, then what about guns?
Despite taking the above into consideration, late night shows do have a considerable amount of power. One example of this is “The John Oliver effect,” named after John Oliver, the host of Last Week Tonight. During a segment on net neutrality, a subject that was previously considered obscure and technical, Oliver encouraged viewers to submit public comments on the FCC’s website, prompting FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to publically address the video. Similar attention has been drawn to issues that would normally be ignored -- such as protections on chicken farmers or the lack of funding of public defenders’ offices -- with action usually taken for the better.
Most notable of the display of Late Night’s power is Jimmy Kimmel. Five months ago, Jimmy Kimmel recounted the open-heart surgery his newborn son, who had been diagnosed with a congenital disease, had to go through. Kimmel pleaded to lawmakers on both sides to ensure that everyone has access to healthcare in response to the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy proposed a “Jimmy Kimmel test” -- would a child in a similiar situation be covered for their first year -- for health reform, but the proposal that Cassidy co-authored with Senator Lindsey Graham would not, according to experts, fulfill any promises. While the healthcare issue is still in limbo, the plight of Kimmel’s son brought light to what the end of the Affordable Care Act could look like, showing that Late Night’s voice carries significant weight.
In the case of guns, various late night hosts have acknowledged the lack of action concerning control, a sentiment that is increasingly common in the past several years. With segments from the shows being uploaded onto Youtube, it’s now easier for people to view these hosts’ statements after every shooting. If America is all about symbols, then guns, which were once a symbol of protection and patriotism, are now a symbol of tragedy and political division. Hosts must react knowing that addressing a shooting over late night television is slowly, yet surely, becoming normalized.