Once again, we visit the ethically murky realm of jokes, near-jokes, misfired jokes, fake jokes, the ‘it was just a joke’ excuse and things the purveyor of non-jokes wish were jokes after the fact. Interestingly, by my estimation, the real and non-offending joke among our twin set today was the one delivered by a non-comedian, and the dishonest joke excuse was employed by a professional comic.
Case A: Jon Stewart
Appearing on CNN election day with Christiane Amanpour to talk about the midterm elections, the host asked Stewart if he voted. The comic/pundit/news anchor/progressive hit man responded “no” saying, “I just moved. I don’t know even where my thing is now.” Said Ann Althouse:
“The epitome of apathy. And this is the man who shows the young folks how to think!”
She was not alone. Later, as he hosted a special live election night edition of “The Daily Show,” Stewart apologized, saying:
“…to set the record straight, I did vote today… I was being flip, and it kind of took off, and you know what, I want to apologize. It sent a message that that I didn’t think voting was important. I shouldn’t have done that. That was stupid.”
This was flagged to me as a solid and ethical apology, and I agree, if that’s what it was. I don’t think that is what it was, though. I think it was damage control, and a lie. Maybe Stewart voted and maybe he didn’t, but he’s a professional comic. His “flip” dismissal of voting to Amanpour didn’t read a s a joke, and she didn’t seem to take it as one. He’s one of the highest paid and popular comedians in the country, and doesn’t know how to make it clear when he’s joking? Or can’t tell when a joke misfires, and he has to backtrack so people don’t think he’s serious? I am dubious.
I admit to enjoying it when Stewart gets caught in his “I’m a real news commentator/ How can you take me seriously?” pose, which allows him to influence the political views of his young audience ( as Althouse noted) while denying any obligation to be responsible via the jester’s privilege when he is caught being unfair, biased, or mistaken, almost always in the service of progressive goals and the Democratic Party. Was Stewart, as I have been told by his defenders, really giving the admittedly humor-impaired Amanpour a rye and ironic response that highlighted his relentless criticism of voter ID measures as a racist GOP voter suppression strategy? Or was he simply displaying the same attitude as his target audience, which largely sat out the election because they would rather laugh at the people trying to run the country than do their part in guiding them?
Sorry, Stewart lovers, and maybe I feel this way because I don’t trust a supposed truth-teller who only seems to see misconduct, incompetence and hypocrisy on one side of the political spectrum, with rare exceptions. I think he told Amanpour the truth; I think he didn’t vote; I think it was a joke about not voting; I think he realized how much of a hypocrite the response made him look like, and even that he might be blamed for validating the decision of a key Democrat demographic yo sit out the mid-terms.
I think he apologized sincerely, but lied about what he was apologizing for. But who knows when Jon Stewart is sincere and when he isn’t? And how can anyone who that sentence can be written about responsibly operate a news source that young American regard as their primary source of news?
Case B. Brad Paisley
Hosting the televised Country Music Awards live on ABC last night, co-host Brad Paisley referred to one of the shows the CMA’s were pre-empting, the new African-American family comedy “Black-ish,” in a joke referencing the famously un-black music genre the night honored. As black performer Darius Rucker prepared to take the stage, Paisley said,
If you were looking for “Black-ish” tonight, yeah, this ain’t it. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy White-ish.
Whereupon he was immediately subjected to a barrage of criticism on social media, accusing him of making a racist joke….indeed, according to one critic, one of the most racist jokes ever.
There was absolutely nothing racist about the joke, which was well-constructed, factual, self-deprecating, innocent, and funny.
It is now clear that the six years of journalists, bloggers, activists, and unscrupulous political hacks hurling constant accusation of racism against anyone who steps within 500 yards of a racial topic, a black office-holder, or the words “black,” “race,” “thug,” “crime,” “urban,” and about 100 others (you’ll have to ask Chris Matthews for the full list), combined with the exhaustive use of political correctness to label anything and everything “offensive,” from signs advertizing bacon to the names of NFL teams, has left a substantial portion of the population with a race-baiting hair-trigger, and no coherent idea what “racist” means anymore.
They are morons.
And you can tell them I said so, because they need to know.
Pointer: Tim LeVier