Didn’t you know you were offended?

May 9, 2012

I stopped watching The Daily Show regularly during the health care debate a few years ago. As funny as they are, Jon Stewart and Co. were just too good at illuminating the ignorant Americans that were driving the public conversation. Watching The Daily Show was depressing for me. But I’ve seen clips on the internet from time to time, so I know that they continue to produce funny, insightful segments which speak intelligently about the issues without buying into the hype generated by the political parties and special interests.

Recently, it seems, they did a bit about the anti-abortion law that was pending in Virginia which would have required women seeking an abortion (which has been legal under Roe v. Wade for over 30 years) to first submit to an unnecessary, internal sonogram. Or, in other words, politicians who likely complain about big government “taking over” private medicine, were going to require their constituents to undergo an intrusive, gynelogical procedure. The Daily Show’s bit (which I still haven’t seen) apparently included a faux device called the Vagina Manger that would to “protect [women’s] reproductive organs from unwanted medical intrusions.” Frankly, the Vagina Manger doesn’t sound funny to me, but I trust that Stewart delivered the premise in such a way that it was hilarious. Maybe he talked about the virgin birth and the subsequent hangups conservatives have with the female body.

In any case, the reliably offended Catholic League, and their fearless leader Bill Donohue, took up the cause and started demanding an apology. In the storm of near-constant fake outrage that surrounds us, the movement gained no perceivable coverage until this morning when Delta Airlines said they were pulling their advertising from the Daily Show.

Among the Catholic League’s rhetoric was this gem:

“You should be as offended as we are,” the letter said. “But if you are not, consider a picture of your own mother inserted there instead. Perhaps you now understand how the 80% of the nation that is Christian feel.”

So 80% of America was offended and nobody noticed.

I should note here that I grew up in a Christian household and, though I no longer attend church, nor hold many of the same beliefs I did as a child, I still identify myself as being from the Christian culture. Because, really, we’re not talking about the specifics of a belief system, we’re talking about a cultural group. Otherwise, I don’t think the Catholic League would be including all those Protestants in it’s 80% of offended Christians.

In any case, I believe that Christians of all persuasions should be able to discern religious-themed parody from an attack on their faith. We, and people of all other religions, should be able to take a joke. It might sting a bit when the president wants to include Jews and Muslims in your winter holiday season, but that doesn’t mean there’s a “War on Christmas”. Get over yourself.

Donohue also included this statement in his tantrum:

“What Stewart did wasn’t a joke,” Donohue’s letter continued. “It was hate speech. We could have pressed for him to be fired, but we did not. All we want is an apology.”

We should first point out that if this was truly hate speech, why wouldn’t you demand that he be fired? Was it only hateful enough to deserve a stern talking-to? Are you letting him off with a warning? Does the next infraction warrant a call to the Southern Poverty Law Center?

But consider this: if Jon Stewart wasn’t Jewish, you wouldn’t be accusing him of hate speech. You elevated your attack against somebody because of his religion.

Jon Stewart is surrounded by Christians. He is married to a Catholic. Despite whatever your perceptions of a Jewish-dominated media are, do you really believe that he would be as successful as he is if he hated Christians? But then again, Glenn Beck says that the president hates the millions of white people who voted for him, so maybe its possible that Stewart’s Christian friends and co-workers are blind to his treachery.

Nevertheless, Bill Donohue would have never accused a comedian from a Christian background of committing hate speech. If the joke was made by Letterman, Leno, O’Brien, Colbert, Ferguson, or Kimmel, there’s a good chance the Catholic League wouldn’t have even responded.

So really, whose statements are predicated upon the religious beliefs of his opponent? Jon Stewart, the guy who makes millions of Christians laugh each night, or Bill Donohue, the guy who accused the Jewish comedian of hating Christians?