If there’s one thing rich people don’t know how to do, it’s disappear gracefully. Who is a greater example of this than Jon Stewart, who ended his run at The Daily Show in 2015 with all the goodwill in the world (Fun Fact: Louis CK was his final guest) and is now hosting a podcast where he has spent the last two weeks trying to get his audience to engage with Joe Rogan.
Last week on The Problem with Jon Stewart, Stewart said that the fact that Neil Young pulled his music off of Spotify in protest of star podcaster Joe Rogan’s advancement of COVID misinformation was “a mistake.”
“You have to engage. Like, how do you not engage with people? The whole point of engagement is, hopefully, clarification… It might be a fool’s errand, but I will never give up on engagement,” the comedian said on the podcast, which is an accompaniment to his Apple TV+ show. Right on, brother.
This week, Stewart continued talking about Rogan, this time making a confusing comparison between his own denouncement of the Iraq War and Rogan telling young people not to get vaccinated.
“Couldn’t I have gone down and fallen down this — if Viacom or Comedy Central had wanted to censor me — or had wanted to take me off the — look, I’m not owed a platform. Nobody is,” he said, “But my point is, these are shifting sands, and I think I get concerned with, well, who gets to decide?”
“I mean, in the Iraq War, I was on the side of what you would think, on the mainstream, is misinformation. I was promoting what they would call misinformation but it turned out to be right years later,” Stewart said. “And the establishment media was wrong, and not only were they wrong in some respects, you could make the case that they enabled a war that killed hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people and never paid a price for it and never had accountability.”
In this botched analogy, I guess Joe Rogan is Jon Stewart in that he is also currently airing views that are different from those published in the New York Times — only in Rogan’s case, the views at hand are scientifically disproven falsehoods rather than skepticism about the existence of weapons of mass destruction. Stewart’s guest, misinformation researcher Joan Donovan, did not have time to respond directly to the comparison, as the conversation moved on to the general importance of “engagement” with opinions different from one’s own. Perhaps Stewart’s next guest can be a philosopher specializing in false equivalence.
After pretty much sitting out the Trump presidency before mounting his comeback, Stewart seems to still be getting used to the ways the media ecosystem has changed in the last four years. Perhaps he’ll channel his learnings into an allegorical movie about a man who is cursed with being the only person capable of asking a question. Of course, if it’s like his previous one, no one will see it during its two-week run at your local arthouse.