The ability to reinvent ourselves in America has no greater example than Jimmy Kimmel’s transformation from the guy who introduced women on trampolines on something unapologetically called “The Man Show” to one of the late-night talk show hosts who are now “the nation’s moral conscience,” at least according to The Post’s TV critic.
Late-night comedy shows such as “Saturday Night Live” and those hosted by Stephen Colbert, Seth Myers, John Oliver, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee and Kimmel do, without doubt, reflect the left’s moral conscience. Newspaper stories regurgitating their cutting remarks and skits targeting President Trump or Republicans in general have become standard weekly assignments. But fact-checkers should note that “the nation” includes 30 states that voted for Trump. Here we have another glaring example of big-media disconnect.
Gone are the days when viewers on both sides could equally enjoy late-night comedy programming. “SNL” historically went to great lengths to be equal- opportunity offenders without cutting too deep. The right could chuckle along with the interpretations of Ford, Reagan and both Bushes, and the left could find humor in bits targeting Carter, Clinton and Obama. Today, the shows are written to please one side only.
The end of “SNL” caring about half its audience was signaled when it unceremoniously dumped Darrell Hammond and his finely honed impression of Trump in favor of Alec Baldwin — not because Baldwin was a superior impersonator but because Hammond’s impression was not sufficiently demeaning.
Implicit in the comedy and commentary from the left on the latest hot topic — guns — is that conservatives are ignorant or uncaring, and usually both. Once again, such an accusatory starting point does nothing to build a consensus.
It is not likely that the left, by and large, hates guns. As has often been noted, left-leaning politicians, entertainers and other such liberals often own guns themselves (or are protected by people who do). Similarly, only in caricatures from the left does most of the right harbor some romanticized, inexplicable love for this particular piece of steel, which is merely an inanimate object until it is employed by a user.
The typical political accusations leveled by one side at the other are that the left wants to disarm Americans and leave us all at the mercy of a militarized government, while the right is in the pocket of the National Rifle Association. These are dependable talking points but don’t get to the heart of the differing attitudes.
The left generally believes that the response to events such as the Las Vegas massacre should be the passage of additional laws and regulations. They will identify an item — in this case the “bump stock” device that morphed a semiautomatic rifle into fully automatic mode — and argue that if we could outlaw or more severely regulate it, we could prevent attacks like this one. This solution this time is so benign that even the NRA is not objecting.
Of course, many on the left want to go much further. They believe society has the power to prevent such catastrophe through more laws and regulations. Meanwhile, many on the right do not believe that events such as the Las Vegas massacre are merely evil acts. They believe in the existence of evil itself, with a capital E. They reasonably ask: How are you going to legislate against that?
The perspectives of the left and the right are difficult to reconcile, because the left believes in crafting more legislation that the right believes will only restrict the rights of citizens while having no effect on evil incarnate.
One of the worst consequences of an event such as the Las Vegas bloodbath is watching some Americans accuse other Americans of not caring enough. It is likely that people on the left and right care equally about the victims in Las Vegas, as they do about victims of floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, famine and genocide.
We are good at formulating a legislative or regulatory response that will stop a particular attack that will, in all likelihood, never be duplicated. Regardless, we’ll feel better about ourselves for having “done something.”
But while we figure out together whether there is something effective to be done about a man consumed by his inner demons, let’s stop demonizing each other — even if we have to sacrifice a cheap laugh or stifle our tears on late-night TV.
Gary Abernathy is publisher and editor of the (Hillsboro, Ohio) Times-Gazette.