Wednesday evening on "The Daily Show" Trevor Noah and Tomi Lahren achieved something that many Americans appear reluctant to do in the wake of the contentious 2016 presidential election – they talked to each other from opposing political viewpoints, civilly.
Mr. Noah, a black South African and host of the liberal, news comedy show, interviewed Ms. Lahren, the young conservative host of "Tomi" on The Blaze network, who is perhaps better known for her viral right-wing rant videos "Final Thoughts." The conversation covered a wide range of hot-button topics including Black Lives Matter, the KKK, San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick's national anthem protests, Donald Trump’s disparaging comments about women, Obamacare, and what constitutes the mainstream media.
The civil way in which Trevor and Lahren were able to discuss vastly different viewpoints could offer a blueprint for Americans wondering how to survive another social gathering with family or neighbors who strongly disagree politically.
"You have two people who disagree and yet aren’t too disagreeable in terms of their conversation," says Scott Talan, an assistant professor of communication at American University in Washington, D.C., in a phone interview with The Christian Science Monitor, about "The Daily Show" episode. "You don’t usually persuade people by shouting, but by having more rational and less argumentative discourse – or at least less over the top emotions and accusations and name calling – you can actually consider the arguments and the points that someone is making."
"The Daily Show" summit was an attempt to take viewers beyond their "news bubbles," a term used to describe consumers self-selecting news sources based upon whether they align with their personal viewpoints. Agreeing to disagree in productive terms has emerged as a new political tenor in recent days, even as political rivals Donald Trump and Mitt Romney shared a meal in New York to discuss possible cabinet appointments and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts enthusiastically backed her former rival Republican Scott Brown, whom President-elect Trump is considering nominating to be secretary of Veteran Affairs.
While "The Daily Show" debate remained respectful, not all has been forgiven in the aftermath of a vicious election cycle. Indeed, Kellyanne Conway and Robby Mook, respective campaign managers for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, ended up shouting at each other at an event at Harvard University this week. While it is easy to point fingers at social media for fanning flames of discontent, some of the blame, analysts say, rests on individuals who enjoy having their points of view backed up by news reports that are in some cases biased or intentionally false.
"These bubbles have not been imposed upon the public – it was what the people want," says Paul Levinson, a professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University in New York, in an interview with the Monitor. "As long as social media continues to provide a very easy forum for these news bubbles ... it is not going to stop, and some late-night talk shows are not going to be enough to do that."
To be sure, Noah was criticized by some for giving Lahren a bigger platform and helping legitimize her views.
In an earlier "The Daily Show" episode, Noah acknowledged, that despite the millions of views Lahren's show and her "Final Thoughts" videos typically earn, many of his liberal fans may have never even heard of her because Facebook algorithm’s would have filtered her out of their feed.
The interview forced both parties to step out of their respective comfort zones.
"I wish we could disagree with each other without [people] thinking that we are bad people or ill-intentioned folks," Lahren said, when Noah asked her what misconceptions about her she wished to clear up.
Lahren admitted right away that she was walking into the lions den, but remained generally calm and collected throughout. Noah, still struggling to match the influence of his predecessor, Jon Stewart, showed he could hold his own.
"Thank you for being my guest Tomi," Noah posted on Twitter following the show. "Our goal should be to destroy these 'bubbles' not each other. You're always welcome on my show."
Lahren likewise called on her fans not to attack Noah and on Noah's fans not to attack her: "We are people with opposing views," she wrote. "That is it."