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Jon Stewart and the Left


The left in America is desperate; desperate for someone who can inspire them, if not lead them to a better world; or at least make them laugh. TV star Jon Stewart is sometimes funny, especially when he doesn’t try too hard to be funny, which is not often enough. But as a political leader, or simply political educator for the left, forget it. He’s not even what I would call a genuine, committed leftist. What does he have to teach the left? He himself would certainly not want you to entertain the thought that Jon Stewart is in any way a man of the left.

He billed his October 30 rally on the National Mall in Washington, DC, as the Million Moderate March. Would a person with a real desire for important progressive social and political change, i.e, a “leftist”, so ostentatiously brand himself a “moderate”? Even if by “moderate” he refers mainly to tone of voice or choice of words, why is that so important? If a politician strongly supports things which you are passionate about, why should it bother you if the politician is vehement in his arguments, even angry? And if the politician is strongly against what you’re passionate about does it make you feel any better about the guy if he never raises his voice or sharply criticizes those on the other side? What kind of cause is that to commit yourself to?

Stewart in fact appears to dislike the left, perhaps strongly. In the lead-up to the rally he criticized the left for various things, including calling George W. Bush a “war criminal”. Wow! How immoderate of us. Do I have to list here the 500 war crimes committed by George W. Bush? If I did so, would that make me one of what Stewart calls the “crazies”? In his talk at the rally, Stewart spoke of our “real fears” — “of terrorists, racists, Stalinists, and theocrats”. Stalinists? Where did that come from, Glenn Beck? What decade is Stewart living in? What about capitalists or the corporations? Is there no reason to fear them? Is it Stalinists who are responsible for the collapse of our jobs and homes, our economy?

Stewart also grouped together “Marxists actively subverting our constitution, racists and homophobes”. Welcome to the Jon Stewart Tea Party. In his long interview last week of President Obama on his TV show, Stewart did not mention any of America’s wars. That would have been impolite and divisive; maybe even not nice.

He billed his rally as being “for people who are politically dissatisfied but who are not ideological”. (Democracy Now, November 1, 2010) Really, Jon? You have no ideology? To those who like to tell themselves and others that they don’t have any particular ideology I say this: If you have thoughts about why the world is the way it is, why society is the way it is, why people are the way they are, what a better way would look like, and if your thoughts are fairly well organized, then that’s your ideology, even if it’s not wholly conscious as such. Better to organize those thoughts as best you can, become very conscious of them, and then consciously avoid getting involved with individuals or political movements who have an incompatible ideology. It’s like a very bad marriage.

America’s press corps(e)

“Goyim [non-Jews] were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world; only to serve the People of Israel,” said Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in a sermon in Israel on October 16. Rabbi Yosef is the former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel and the founder and spiritual leader of the Shas Party, one of the three major components of the current Israeli government. “Why are gentiles needed?” he continued. “They will work, they will plow, they will reap. We will sit like an effendi [master] and eat,” he said to some laughter.

Pretty shocking, right? Apparently not shocking enough for the free and independent American mainstream media. Not one daily newspaper has picked it up. Not one radio or TV station. Neither have the two leading US news agencies, Associated Press and United Press International, which usually pick up anything at all newsworthy. And the words of course did not cross the lips of any American politician or State Department official. Rabbi Yosef’s words were reported in English only by the Jewish Telegraph Agency, a US-based news service (October 18), and then picked up by a few relatively obscure news agencies or progressive websites. We can all imagine the news coverage if someone like Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said something like “Jews have no place in the world but to serve Islam”.

On October 8, 2001, the second day of the US bombing of Afghanistan, the transmitters for the Taliban government’s Radio Shari were bombed and shortly after this the US bombed some 20 regional radio sites. US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld defended the targeting of these facilities, saying: “Naturally, they cannot be considered to be free media outlets. They are mouthpieces of the Taliban and those harboring terrorists.”

In 1999, during the US/NATO 78-day bombing of the former Yugoslavia, state-owned Radio Television Serbia (RTS) was targeted because it was broadcasting things which the United States and NATO did not like (like how much horror the bombing was causing). The bombs took the lives of many of the station’s staff, and both legs of one of the survivors, which had to be amputated to free him from the wreckage. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair told reporters that the bombing was “entirely justified” for the station was “part of the apparatus of dictatorship and power of Milosevic”. Threatening more such attacks on Serbian media, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon declared a few hours after the bombing: “Stay tuned. It is not difficult to track down where TV signals emanate from.”

Accordingly, and with all due forethought, I call for the bombing of the leading members of the United States mainstream media — from the New York Times to CNN, from NPR to Fox News — for, naturally, they cannot be considered to be free media outlets, and are part of the apparatus of imperialism and power of the United States.

WILLIAM BLUM is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir. He can be reached at:


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