On Saturdaythe 30th of April, politicians, journalists and celebrities were at the Washington Hilton for the 90th White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner. This year’s dinner, which is also happens to be President Obama’s last, was headlined by comedian Larry Wilmore, host of the The Nightly Show on Comedy Central.
Larry Wilmore is mostly known for his politically charged and somewhat provocative humour, so it was no surprise he dealt his partisan audience a large dose of his edgy humour on Saturday night. So much so that it has stirred controversy with some people saying that he went too far. He skewered President Obama, Donald Trump, Bill and Hillary Clinton and the media, hardly anyone was spared.
A lot of Wilmore’s jokes addressed race and terrorism, while some got loud cheers, others didn’t get quite the applause or wave of laughter. One of them being the joke comparing America’s cable television network, MSNBC with Boko Haram. “MSNBC is here tonight. Yep, which actually now stands for ‘Missing a Significant Number of Black Correspondents’…MSNBC got rid of so many black people, I thought Boko Haram was running that network.”
The television network has recently been accused of ‘whitewashing’ its presenters and becoming increasingly racist as several contributors of colour have either been dismissed or relegated to smaller on-air roles. Hence, the newly coined meaning – ‘Missing a Significant Number of Black Correspondents’ – for the acronym, MSNBC.
It is understandable why Wilmore chose to cover the ongoing situation at the cable network; the subject of racial and ethnic minority has been an issue in America, in and out of the media. And Wilmore is not known to shy away from addressing such issues with his exceptional dry wit like he’s done in the past with the Black Lives Matter movement and the issue of gun control. But what is not clear is his choice of analogy. How does the Boko Haram group come in? Or rather, where do they fit in?
The ongoing ‘makeover’ at MSNBC and the havoc being wreaked by Boko Haram in Nigeria and neighbouring countries are two separate issues. One is a senseless attack of religious radicalism resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths, the other seems political, an attack on racial and social justice, done in the interest of the organisation. Perhaps, they are both attacks on basic universal human rights like freedom and equality, but they are certainly not the same struggle. Wherein lies the analogy?
Also, given the sensitivity of such an issue, where lives are lost and thousands maimed, there is absolutely nothing funny about the ongoing carnage in north eastern Nigeria. Although Wilmore is not the first to make jokes about the insurgency in Nigeria, I believe making light of such issues is an act of utter disregard for the thousands of lives lost.
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