When You’ve Lost Jon Stewart, You’ve Lost Middle America

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 23 2014 10:07 AM

When You’ve Lost Jon Stewart, You’ve Lost Middle America

488490699-comedian-and-host-jon-stewart-speaks-onstage-at-spike
Telling millennials how it is.

Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Spike TV

While covering the Christians United for Israel conference this week, I heard a couple of gripes about Jon Stewart's reports on Israel's operation in Gaza. His first, on July 16, was impossible to miss for the normal reason that Daily Show segments are impossible to miss. Every morning, news sites from HuffPost to TPM to Vox (not a vast "from/to" there, I know) cop the previous evening's Stewart monologue, declaring that he "nailed" or "destroyed" a topic like no other carbon-based lifeform could.* His July 16 segment mocked the disparity of power between the Israelis and the residents of the Gaza Strip.

"Most Hamas rockets are neutralized by Israel's Iron Dome technology," said Stewart. "The Israeli forces warn Gaza residents of an imminent bombing with a smaller warning bombing."

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Supporters of Israel were watching a Jewish comedian who happens to have a direct line to millennials, and he was fully embracing the worst possible narrative. "His piece on Gaza, I thought, was morally outrageous," David Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel, told me Monday.

Yesterday, Stewart responded to the general criticism with this parody:

Having just gotten out of the CUFI conference, I was struck by how many talking points Stewart's news team got in. The "double standard" line, "human shields," etc. But the parody represented a sort of walk-back, too. When Stewart explained that his argument was not "pro-Hamas," the news team started yelling anti-"Zionist" slogans at him. Both sides do it!

This was a small messaging victory for Israel hawks, one they really needed. Dylan Byers (via a source) explains it well: Supporters of Israel, especially the CUFI variety of supporters, fret that they're losing millennials, who've never known Israel as anything but a mighty state with two occupied territories.

*Kevin Williamson has had great fun with this trope of the lefty news sites. He needs to update it, though, because John Oliver has started inspiring the same "NAILED IT" next-day embedded video clickbait.*

*Correction, July 23, 2014: This post originally misspelled John Oliver's first name.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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