Here is a joke that Colin Jost, co-host of Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update,” made last Saturday:
As you can see, the joke was rebuked by people on Twitter, and though people on Twitter routinely rebuke things to no end (i.e. Donald Trump), the pushback against Jost trickled up far enough that the comedian himself decided to respond:
The funny thing here is that Jost tried to explain himself, and absolve the curtness of his joke, by linking to a long op-ed—which calls for a “post-identity liberalism” so that “white, rural, religious Americans” no longer “think of themselves as a disadvantaged group whose identity is being threatened or ignored”—that had already been roundly rebuked by the same people he was hoping to convince to see the truth in his joke.
Jost continued to expound on his joke in a back-and-forth with Ben Hopkins of the queer rock band PWR BTTM:
Here, Jost reveals that he wasn’t just making a dumb joke, which is what comedians do. Instead, he was making an argument about a way forward for liberal America in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory. Jost was not ribbing his viewers with the idea that Hillary Clinton lost because Democrats focus too much on the intricacies of identity—which would have been fine, we can laugh at ourselves—he was, apparently, genuinely making a point about who and what the Democrats should prioritize over the next four years. Reasonable people can discuss ways in which the party can win back some of the white vote, but Jost is saying that liberals should deemphasize equal rights for all people because it alienates rednecks. (It’s also worth noting that Jost is wrong in the most narrow sense: “white, rural, religious Americans,” to pull a phrase from the Times, largely only have the vaguest notion of what Tinder is, and wouldn’t have known about its new policy.)
It’s a plainly inhumane argument, but Jost isn’t alone, as the op-ed he subsequently linked to on Twitter makes clear. But in maintaining that his joke about gender identity was really a statement about “not doing any self-examination and making the same mistake again,” Jost should be clear that he’s taking a stand on an issue that very well may divide liberal America. Either you think that the political and social left erred in pushing for equality for trans and other gender non-conforming people, or you don’t.
Jost appears to have made his position on this matter clear. I hope he has actually thought about the repercussions of the argument he is making, but based on the way his show handled this election, I’m going to bet that he hasn’t.