We thought political commentators could actually have some snap and bite, and wouldn’t let folly pass by without mocking it. Boy, were we ever wrong, as Jimmy Fallon enthusiastically demonstrated for us.
On Thursday, Jimmy Fallon had Donald Trump on the Tonight Show and ended the segment by saying, “Donald I want to ask you, because the next time I see you you could be the President of the United States. I just want to know if there is something we could do that’s just not really presidential, really – can I mess your hair up?” Trump let him and the NBC audience roared with laughter. But, for many of us, this is very far from being a joke.
Giving comic cover to Trump just isn’t funny when he’s unleashed forces of anti-blackness and anti-immigrant sentiment. He’s labelled Mexicans rapists, raised the prospect of a ban on Muslims, patronized and insulted African Americans while pretending to be a potential new hope. As a result, Fallon managed to come over as one powerful white man protecting another.
Not only was it not funny. It didn’t do anything to take Trump down a notch (if it was even meant to). Instead, it humanized him, boosting him on that stupid metric so many Americans use when choosing a president: “Hey, he’s a guy I’d want to have a beer with! Look at him, letting Fallon have fun with him!”
I’d threaten to boycott Fallon’s show, but I never watched it anyway. Oh, yeah, I never watched Jay Leno, either.
We see you, Jimmy Fallon. You are as “apolitical” as the wretched Jay Leno was, a champion of the status quo. You think the idea of Trump in the White House is as harmless as your face on a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
Maybe it is to you, as a powerful white man on TV who doesn’t have to worry about life as a woman, Muslim, Black or Latin person, immigrant, or queer American living under Trumpism (an era which has already begun and will continue, regardless of whether Trump is elected). Your skit was nothing like Charlie Chaplin’s Great Dictator, which brilliantly skewered a rising leader of the right. In fact, you did the opposite, making Trump seem more palatable. When history looks back on this moment, we may well say: Jimmy Fallon, you helped build a monster.
If you want further dissection of how media personalities are often grossly incompetent at actual critical thinking, read Jen Gunter’s analysis of the Oz-Trump interview. I’d boycott Oz, too, except that’s another show I already never watch.