Are you now or have you ever been a person who doesn’t “get it” and therefore needs to have the shit beaten out of him/her on Twitter? Are you now or have you ever been disturbingly non-progressive, in some way out-of-step or guilty of insufficient understanding of a pressing social issue or agenda? Are you now or have you ever been some kind of closet discriminator? A person whose views are (or once were) politically retrograde, politically insensitive or in any way dismissive of any socially marginalized or discriminated-upon group?
What is the difference between (a) scanning a person’s Twitter feed from two or three or four years ago in search of politically incorrect or insensitive tweets to use against him/her and (b) a HUAC committee in the late 1940s or early ’50s searching through a Hollywood filmmaker’s political associations or statements from the 1930s? Or, for that matter, a Chinese Communist Party official looking to discredit and re-educate a nonloyal person in the midst of the Cultural Revolution of ’66 to the mid ’70s? It’s the same basic impulse — i.e., to identify, shame and punish the miscreant, the outlier, “the other.”
The victim this time, of course, was future Daily Show host Trevor Noah, and more particularly his backdated, somewhat controversial tweets (i.e., jokes that “didn’t land”) about Israel, “Jewish chicks,” overweight women, etc. But the villain in yesterday’s Don Lemon discussion on CNN, welcomely, was Washington Post culture and race blogger Wendy Todd. She was righteously criticized and schooled by Artie Lange, Natalie Shure, Jay Thomas (who called Twitter “the death of comedy”) and John Fugelsang.
On a LinkIn event Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi offered similar thoughts. “I think [the Noah controversy is] more a question about Twitter,” he said. “I think it’s much ado about nothing, first of all. The guy made some sort of, you know, off-color, irresponsible tweets, but he was trying to be funny. I think the millennials understand this more than the people who are sort of upset about this. Which is this sense of, what is Twitter in our culture? Is Twitter just a constant sort of…is it just disposable? You know what I mean?
“There’s gonna be a presidential candidate 25 years from now, who’s gonna be running for president. Are we going to go back and look at his Twitter feed from when he was 14 years old? Because he’s gonna have a lot of really stupid things in there, you know?”