Comedy Central'sThe Daily Show has always been at the forefront of honest, common sense-based satirical reporting. The thing about satire is that, while it's meant to use humor and irony to exaggerate peoples' stupidity or ignorance (usually about political topics), it's hard to do so when irony and exaggeration are the very definition of what those people are all about. What people in particular? Sigh. Why, everyone's favorite group of alleged insurrectionists, of course. This is what sent Daily Show correspondent Jordan Klepper (pictured above) further and further into red hat territory last year, and why last night we all got a direct peek into that world during the half-hour special, Trevor Noah Presents: Jordan Klepper Fingers the Pulse – Into the MAGAverse. Let's see what we learned.
It was obvious four years ago, when the guy who hosted The Apprentice became the "leader" of the free world, that a large portion of the country felt their voices didn't feel heard. Fast forward to the tail end of that four-year term and looking at these "Trumpers" one can see how that despair had eventually morphed into a passionate, almost blind kind of loyalty.
This loyalty, however, wasn't to the actual office of the President, but to the man himself -- to an almost delusional degree.
As seen in the special, during Klepper's travels he's heard just about everything from these MAGA cappers, including things about how Trump is a "rock-star superhero president" and "a man for all the people." Right. One supporter even went as far as saying Trump has a thick skin -- "about as thick as it gets" is how he put it -- a claim that Klepper was happy to correct right there.
"Thick skin?" Klepper exclaimed. "He gets mad if a celebrity makes fun of him on Twitter!"
Trump's influence is well-documented, but he was never more influential then when he chose to ignore the very clear health warnings and guidelines surrounding the deadly COVID-19 virus. What was the simplest advice he ignored? The wearing of masks.
"It's a personal choice, I think. If everybody was wearing them and everybody said, 'Put a mask on,' I'd respect everybody's wishes and put it on. We're not sheep, we're lions." That was the response from a Trump supporter when asked by Klepper why he didn't wear a mask to the Trump rally he was attending at the time, and Klepper -- ever on the ball as he normally is -- wasted no time pointing out the hole-filled logic that many a Trump stan seems to share. To wit:
Klepper: "You're not sheeple?"
Trumper: "We're not."
Klepper: "So, you're gonna look at what everybody's doing, and you're gonna follow along?"
Trumper: "That's it."
Klepper: "But [you're] not sheeple?"
Trumper: "Not sheeple."
Right. Hilarious as that one guy's oxymoronical mindset might be, it's a dangerous train of thought that was only ever further spread by the now ex-President's anti-mask/COVID hoax rhetoric. The damage here isn't just numbers on a chart. It is lives lost.
Look, we all have a pretty solid idea of who these people are, how they behave, and why they do so. The problem is that when people are following a guy instead of a movement, the whole thing can give off strong cult-type vibes more than anything else. It's kind of like the feeling I got when Trump initially took office and I realized he had the launch codes now. It felt like watching someone's bad ass kid play with a loaded weapon in a room full of other kids, after being left in charge by some poor-decision-making adult. I just knew this shit wasn't going to turn out well for us, and I think much of America felt that as well.
Trump supporters, white supremacists, the Proud Boys, confederate flags … it was all going to come to a head eventually, and it did, on that fateful Wednesday in January when droves of Trump pumpers stormed the United States Capitol in an attempt to overturn The Donald's defeat in the 2020 Presidential Election. The ensuing rioting and violence would end up taking five lives (four protesters, one police officer) and injuring 140 people.
Klepper's special does make a lot of the same moves it would have made as a smaller segment on its show of origin, namely keeping a light-hearted yet critical tone while using humor to paint the bigger picture, and that's fine, because the Daily Show has honed the delivery of stories like this for years. But not every story is like this, and as far as MAGA folk go, Klepper described their particular brand of blind loyalty as "a mix of the scary and the absurd." He's not wrong.
Obviously, still following Trump, or having followed Trump, doesn't make you a bad person. That red cap on your head might mean that you'll never find yourself in the circle of people I call my friends, but it doesn't make you a monster. I believe that Jordan Klepper's special wasn't meant specifically to make anyone look like an idiot. What it was meant to do, however, is put the dangers of groupthink and fact-denial on display, while also telling the story of how a large amount of the public's fealty to one man (no matter how orange he may be) can be dangerous, or worse, deadly.
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