“Saturday Night Live” and Peggy Noonan are on the same wavelength. In a sharp sketch last weekend, SNL mocked the insatiability of progressive keyboard warriors. A fictional game show called “Can I Play That?” creatively exposed the idiocy of the online left’s Twitter campaigns that relentlessly compel actors to abandon certain roles coveted by their peers with more group identity points.
“This game is produced by Twitter,” host Keenan Thompson announced. “Twitter: one mistake, and we’ll kill you.”
When Idris Elba’s character flunked a question by claiming he could play the role of a blind person, Thompson shot back, “God took their sight, and you want to take their jobs?”
“Wait a second, isn’t that what acting is about, becoming someone you’re not?” asked Elba.
“Not anymore,” Thompson said. “Now it’s about becoming yourself, but with a different haircut.”
After Elba suggested he could play an “alien from outer space,” Thompson objected. “When the actual aliens arrive, do you really want to be the guy who put on green face?”
Two days earlier, Noonan wondered in her Thursday column whether there was a “whiff of China’s Cultural Revolution in the air,” particularly on Twitter. Although the critiques came from different sides of the ideological divide, their concerns were broadly directed at the same bloodlust.
— Peggy Noonan (@Peggynoonannyc) March 8, 2019
“I don’t want to be overdramatic, but the spirit of the struggle session has returned and is here, in part because of the internet, in part because of the extremity of our politics, in part because more people are lonely,” Noonan wrote.
She added: “The air is full of accusation and humiliation. We have seen this spirit most famously on the campuses, where students protest harshly, sometimes violently, views they wish to suppress. Social media is full of swarming political and ideological mobs. In an interesting departure from democratic tradition, they don’t try to win the other side over. They only condemn and attempt to silence.”
“Everyone’s scared,” said Noonan. “And the tormentors are not satisfied by an apology. They’re excited by it and prowl for more prey.”
Of course, her concern is less surprising than SNL’s, and broader than its mostly singular focus on the acting angle. But the overlap between the show’s critique and Noonan’s column is interesting. Taken together, they might reasonably suggest there’s an emergent aisle-crossing consensus on the endless campaigning of woke Twitter activists. I’m not so sure it’s enough.
Trapped in bubbles and fearful of repercussions, boardrooms and newsrooms have demonstrated plenty of responsiveness to the online left. But if growing exasperation leads to more commentary like SNL’s, it’ll help bolster everyone’s ability to stand firm in the face of silly smear campaigns, reassuring decision-makers their bottom line won’t be affected by a lame hashtag.
So keep it coming, Lorne. When they inevitably come for SNL, you’ll benefit too.