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The Carletonian

Conservative crisis in popular culture

<r over 16 years, Jon Stewart dazzled millions of The Daily Show viewers with humor fueled by a powerfully synergistic combination of old-school charm and acerbic wittiness. To suppress laughter while Stewart executed his comedic takedowns of subjects ranging from Chicago-style pizza to Fox News was too taxing to attempt, and it was always best to just let oneself be carried away with the show.

Stewart’s program gave rise to the careers of other now-prominent comics, such as Stephen Colbert, John Oliver and Trevor Noah, who has succeeded Jon

Stewart as America’s darling fake-news funny man. Their approaches to humor vary slightly, as do the quality of their jokes, but these comedians are united by their shared political affiliation with the modern American left, and they represent a golden age political satire in television that permeates through audiences of different generations, a movement whose strength has only increased with the rise of social media platforms. Fans no longer risk losing access to their favorite comedians’ newest material if they cannot follow their rigid television airing schedules, as clips and even entire episodes are ubiquitously present across sites such as Facebook and YouTube.

Such easy access is wonderful for those who already fall within the accepted ideological band that individuals like Colbert and Noah cater to, but it poses a challenge to those outside of this established group, and that is the issue of how to stay relevant in the world of popular culture that so frequently aims to mock and disregard us.

Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I do not consider myself nor other conservatives and libertarians victims simply because we face certain hurdles in American public opinion, particularly with the youth. To do so would be an act of exaggeration that does nothing more than discredit conservative ideology and further alienate it from the realm of substantive discourse. However, what I am postulating is that such lopsided representation present in popular culture, almost always in support of liberal views, is a problem that in the long-run will trivialize political discussion to the point that opinions differing from leftist assumptions will be viewed as nothing more than fodder for further jokes and punch-lines. Such outcomes threaten the strength of our democratic society, as only rigorous exposure to strands of thought that are different from our own can help us truly understand what it is that we believe.

There isn’t a clear remedy for this issue, nor do I claim to be able to formulate one. Such change can only occur organically, as it would be futile and counterproductive to somehow mandate a forced restructuring of media and popular culture in order to guarantee wider diversity. Conservatives and libertarians cannot depend on others to make these changes. We cannot nor should we expect figures like Stephen Colbert and John Oliver to surrender the personas that they have spent so long cultivating simply because it would make our time slightly easier.

The onus is on us to develop our own prominent voices that can provide the public with high-quality entertainment and humor from the opposite end of the spectrum that they have grown accustomed to. At the moment, I cannot think of any conservative-leaning comedians that have a modicum of talent, and that is troubling. There is enough material available in the public realm that can be fielded in order to create spaces where those on the right can express valid critiques without the toxic elements found in places such as Breitbart, which has unfortunately become what many Americans believe to be the current face of modern conservative media and culture. Such a task is far from easy, but it is necessary if we wish to have a country that serves as a true home of diversity of opinion.

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