Occasionally, The Daily Show will surprise its (mostly left-wing) viewers by echoing the overheated rhetoric emanating from the right-wing echo chamber.
This week, for example, the late-night comedy program defended Melania Trump’s decision to wear designer stiletto heels to tour the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. (Of course, the tony first couple ended up comforting a grand total of zero survivors, and the best evidence the White House could muster to back President Trump’s assertion that he’d witnessed “firsthand” the “devastation” was a photo of him in a conference room looking at a map.)
On Thursday night, host Trevor Noah took another surprising stance: railing against Antifa, a movement of anti-fascist groups who oppose white supremacy via direct action. Recently, members of the group clashed with bands of neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a few were seen beating down a white nationalist at a protest in Berkeley, California, in a clip that went viral. These incidents are of course outliers, and the vast majority of their membership—who are often confused with the far more combative black bloc—engage in forms of nonviolent protest.
Noah opened his spiel with a clip of a supposed Antifa member defending breaking a store window as a “symbolic act.”
“Seriously, though, breaking a window was a ‘symbolic act’? You might think it’s some deep statement, but most people see that and think, ‘Great, now I’ve got to walk a whole block up to the next Starbucks,’” said the comedian. “Like, who is that supposed to convince? What are you trying to do? It definitely doesn’t convince the Starbucks guy, the person who’s gonna be in the store cleaning up the glass, like, ‘Yeah, they made a good point about fascism. I understand what they mean. I understand it.’”
He continued: “You’ve got these Antifa members who believe that smashing shit is all they should do. Others want to expose neo-Nazis, and part of Antifa has only been about video games. But the part that’s been causing the most headaches is the one that’s hitting people in the head.”
The Daily Show MC then threw to a montage of Fox News pundits losing their marbles over the aforementioned clip of a few Antifa members beating up a white nationalist in Berkeley during a white-nationalist rally on Aug. 27—a scuffle that lasted a few seconds before it was broken up by another Antifa member.
“You see, now, here’s the real problem: It doesn’t matter what your noble goal may be, it doesn’t matter what you say you’re fighting for. When people see that, all they think is, ‘Oh shit, it’s Vegan ISIS,’” said Noah. “Because you don’t realize when you think you’re punching Nazis, you don’t realize that you’re also punching your cause. Because your opponents, they’ll just use every violent incident to discredit your entire movement, and they make it seem like—they make it seem like—in a world where white supremacists have a friend in the White House, the real problem is you guys.”
Comparing Antifa to ISIS is remarkably ignorant, even for a late-night comedian. The irony being that the person who actually committed an ISIS-style attack belonged to the group opposed to Antifa—that is, the neo-Nazis.