Recently the Daily Show (see the full interview here, part 1 and part 2) had two seemingly really controversial guests. Not John Bolton, the notorious UN-hating US ambassador to the UN, nor the deposed Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, or any one of a host of far right blowhards or neo-cons such as, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Kristol, Cliff May, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith (so responsible for the debacle in Iraq), all former guests.
No, these two guests had always advocated for peaceful solutions to really dreadful problems, and they had done so in the face of an implacable and violent enemy. The Jewish American Anna Baltzer and the Palestinian Mustafa Barghouti have been formidable in confronting, with dignity and courage, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Either, on their own, would have made worthy guests for Jon Stewart.
Anna Baltzer has written a book about her experiences working for peace in the West Bank, “A Witness in Palestine”, and spent a great deal of time doing non-violent resistance. Dr. Barghouti, in so many ways, medically through his heading of the Union of Palestinian medical relief societies (UPMRC) and politically through his unsuccessful run for the Palestinian presidency on the “third way” platform, has been involved in trying to counter the occupation and promote civil society in Palestine. They are both well-spoken and it was, given the current media environment, unambiguously, a very courageous act for Jon Stewart to have them on.
Indeed, we at JVP and Muzzlewatch, heartily applaud their appearance. But the question arises, why should this be considered such a brave/perilous step? The Daily Show has had war criminals, scurrilous demagogues, people whose stock and trade are the offering of vicious lies and calls for violence. The appearance of Baltzer and Barghouti was unprecedented for several reasons. The Daily Show never has two guests on at once and there was an actual heckler!?! (the first in 11 years). Similar to the right-wing representative who called Obama a liar in his speech to congress, the Daily Show heckler called out ‘liar” during the taping of the show, a comment that, interestingly, was not edited out.