Trevor Noah; Donald Trump (Comedy Central/AP)

Trevor Noah explains why Donald Trump wins culture wars: "He knows how to offer victimhood"

"He's saying the real victims of the #MeToo movement are men," the "Daily Show" host said of Trump


Rachel Leah
October 5, 2018 5:48PM (UTC)

"The Daily Show" host Trevor Noah offered a diatribe about President Donald Trump Thursday night that was free of humor. There were no jokes that could lighten the reality that the president of the United States used a sexual assault survivor as a punchline during a campaign rally. There were no sufficient gags that could complicate the indifference to sexual violence and the outright vitriol toward women that has cascaded down from the president, the GOP and its supporters since Trump's second Supreme Court nominee was accused of misconduct by three women. And there were no antics that Noah could muster that would change the fact that Trump, Kavanaugh, and rich, white men like them, are among the most privileged and powerful in this world — yet still have the audacity to claim victimhood.

"Trump’s most powerful tool is that he knows how to wield victimhood," Noah said, in a clip filmed between the scenes of Thursday's show. "He knows how to offer victimhood to the people who have the least claim to it."

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http://twitter.com/TheDailyShow/status/1048019681913786368

Addressing some of Trump's recent comments, like arguing that it is the men who are most vulnerable in the era of #MeToo and are subjected to rampant false accusations with no semblance of due process, Noah marveled at the power of such manipulation.

"He's saying the real victims of the #MeToo movement are men, they're the real victims," Noah noted. "Someone can accuse you at any time, and your life is over."

Trump's point has only been made more palatable by the women who work for him. The #MeToo movement has been co-opted by statements from White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying they fear for their sons in this time, not their daughters.

Noah argued that what Trump has voiced is so powerful because it is shared widely by men across the country: a belief that the sheer outpour of women coming forward means they too could be falsely accused, rather than the reality that for centuries women have been forced to suffer in silence.

"I always go to people, and I'm like what do you mean it's gotten out of control?" Noah said, estimating that it's been around 100 people who've been "#MeToo'd" or "held accountable" in the past year. "That's not a life-changing number of men, they make it sound like all men have been accused," he said, adding that but somehow the narrative has become that now all men should be afraid.

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"You could fit 100 men into a comedy club and then Louis C.K. could come and surprise them," Noah said, "that's how few that number is."

Since Dr. Christine Blasey Ford stepped forward with her sexual assault accusation against Kavanaugh, there has been a growing hysteria around the so-called prominence of false accusations against men. While conservatives have often cited only one example, the Duke Lacrosse case from 12 years ago, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network estimates that one out of every six American women has been a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.

"How many men, percentage-wise, have been falsely accused of a sexual assault? And how many women have actually been sexually assaulted?" Noah asked. "Women are the victims in this situation."

Noah said that Trump's ability to reshape victimhood is seen in his policies and rhetoric throughout his short, political career. When it comes to immigration, migrant children separated from their parents — incarcerated in detention centers for weeksherded to tent-cities in the middle of the night — are not the real victims, Trump says, but it's the American people, who should fear them.

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"He's done it with Kavanaugh now," Noah said. "The guy's heading to the Supreme Court, but he's making it like 'this poor man, look at him, this poor man.' What's the worst thing that could happen to Brett Kavanaugh is that he'd go back to being a federal judge on one of the most important courts in the land. That's what he goes down to if he fails."

READ MORE: From Clarence Thomas to Brett Kavanaugh: History and her story, on TV

"What's the worst thing that happens to Dr. Ford?" Noah continued. "She gets mocked by the president of the United States for coming forward with a story about sexual assault."

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"The Daily Show" host wondered if the next time someone dared to question why women don't come forward to report, if the fact that the president used a woman's sexual assault as the butt of a joke at a campaign rally, will serve as an adequate defense.

But Trump's screams of "fairness" and a lack of "due process" have always been selective, centered on his determination to maintain white male power, no matter the cost, and facing no real risks to losing it, as Adam Serwer wrote for The Atlantic:

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 The president who demanded the execution of five black and Latino teenagers for a crime they didn’t commit decrying 'false accusations,' when his Supreme Court nominee stands accused; his supporters who fancy themselves champions of free speech meet references to Hillary Clinton or a woman whose only crime was coming forward to offer her own story of abuse with screams of 'Lock her up!' The political movement that elected a president who wanted to ban immigration by adherents of an entire religion, who encourages police to brutalize suspects, and who has destroyed thousands of immigrant families for violations of the law less serious than those of which he and his coterie stand accused, now laments the state of due process.

Yet, Trump's manipulations of victimhood is working. Republican senators have told women disclosing horrific experiences of sexual violence to "grow up," that "I know this is enjoyable to y'all," when confronted by women and survivors, and in multiple instances, refused to even shake the hands of women constituents trying to voice their concerns. Meanwhile, their defense of Kavanaugh has been expressed exhaustively, accusing the Democrats of attempting to destroy Kavanaugh's life, and advancing his nomination to a final vote on Friday. Just one more vote stands between Kavanaugh and a lifetime appointment, yet, somehow, he is the real victim here.

More than likely, by the end of the weekend, Kavanaugh will be confirmed to the Supreme Court, and then one-third of the male justices will have been accused of sexual misconduct.


Rachel Leah

Rachel Leah is a culture writer for Salon. You can follow her on Twitter: @rachelkleah.

MORE FROM Rachel Leah

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Brett Kavanaugh Donald Trump #metoo Republicans Sexual Assault The Daily Show Trevor Noah Victimhood Women

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