The Daily Show and the New York Daily News drew a startling line in the sand with Donald Trump this week after comments from the GOP frontrunner that the country needed to suspend welcoming Muslims into the country until “we know what’s going on.”
The two outlets have led the way on the left side of the media spectrum, likening Trump’s comments to something that Adolf Hitler might have said and running some pretty provocative pieces.
One — from The Daily Show — dared to draw a comparison between Trump and the ISIS terrorist organization. Show host Trevor Noah even called Trump “white ISIS.”
On the NY Daily News front, the struggling tabloid printed a cartoon as its cover showing Trump with a sword and standing over the decapitated Statue of Liberty.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) December 9, 2015
The tactics were certainly provocative, but they were also demonstrative of a greater threat than anything Trump is capable of doing.
Most people realize Trump is the runaway favorite to win the Republican nomination, but that he is far too extreme in his views to motivate centrist voters — and he will need LOTS of centrist voters if he plans to defeat Hillary Clinton next November.
The Republican base alone won’t be able to do it for him. In other words, the things coming out of Trump’s mouth at present could be considered inflammatory for many, but they are in no danger — at least not yet — of influencing policy.
But The Daily Show, the NY Daily News, and all other Hitler-comparing media outlets? That’s another story entirely. Why?
Because through their influence on the American people — and particularly young voters, who would prefer a Democrat in the White House, according to a recent piece from USA Today — they are preaching false equivalencies that could lead to Americans giving up their most precious right of all.
Freedom of speech.
Case in point, a Pew Research report from November 20, 2015, notes that over 40 percent of millennials are okay with “limiting free speech” offensive to minorities.
While no one should get joy out of offending people based simply on their gender, identity, or color of skin, the dangerous thing about this ideology is that it invokes a cautionary Martin Niemöller quote that, coincidentally, the NY Daily News paraphrased on its cover against Trump.
“When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat. When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist. When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn’t a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.”
As a commenter for the site Mediaite pointed out, “No. Trump’s an a-hole, but he’s not a murderer. He’s never beheaded anybody, never sold somebody into sex slavery, never destroyed ancient cultural artifacts, etc., etc. This is the stupid false equivalency the left always engages in. Just f’ing stop.”
The problem with what the NY Daily News and The Daily Show just did is that it sought to characterized speech with action.
When people start to believe that words are the equivalent of shooting up a clinic, throwing gays off buildings, or beheading innocent reporters, they tend to remove the “threat.”
— Complex (@ComplexMag) December 11, 2015
The problem with this line of thought is that America is a country built on freedom of speech, but the more we draw false equivalencies between what is said (or thought) and what is acted upon, the less likely that we’ll still have the power to be heard in future generations.
If millennials are already “bending” on free speech thanks to programs like The Daily Show, then we’re in a lot more danger than Donald Trump will ever put us in.
[Image via The Daily Show screen grab]