Jon Stewart scrapped whatever plans he had for the Daily Show last night and devoted a pretty stunning two full segments to railing about the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
Stewart apologized to the audience: “I have nothing for you.” They chuckled uneasily, and he made it clear that he was serious:
I honestly have nothing other than just sadness, once again, that we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other, and the nexus of a gaping racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn’t exist... What blows my mind is the disparity of response between when we think people that are foreign are going to kill us, and when we’re killing ourselves.
If this had been what we thought was Islamic terrorism — we invaded two countries and spent trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives, and fly unmanned death machines over five or six different countires. All to keep Americans safe. We gotta do whatever we can. We’ll torture people. We gotta do whatever we can to keep Americans safe. Nine people shot in a church? What about that? ‘Hey, what are you gonna do? Crazy is as crazy is.’
Stewart didn’t mince words and he didn’t make some half-assed argument about why we shouldn’t call this terrorism:
This is a terrorist attack. This is a violent attack on the Emanuel Church in South Carolina, which is a symbol for the black community. It has stood in that part of Charleston for 100 and some years, and has been attacked viciously many times, as many black churches have. To pretend that — I heard someone on the news say ‘Tragedy has visited Charleston.’ This wasn’t a tornado. This was a guy with a Rhodesia badge on his sweater.
At the end of the extended monologue, Stewart transitioned gracefully into a lovely interview with education activist Malala Yousafzai: “I don’t think there’s anyone in the world I’d rather talk to tonight.”
Stewart is always at his best — his most historic, really — when he drops the ironic , comedic distance and shows true anger, true outrage. It’s then that he really speaks for us. It’s just too bad he has an opportunity to do it so often.
Here’s the full clip:
Screengrab via Daily Show/Comedy Central