When comedy is a cover

The discovery that Jon Stewart‘s replacement on the Daily Show had made, over the years, some offensive tweets about Jews and women, has been met with a variety of responses.

There are those, like me, who condemn the racism and sexism. And there are those, like Lucie Pohl at the Guardian, who give him a free pass: “If you don’t like it, then just don’t follow.”  That’s quite a gulf.

The key issues, to me, are as follows:

First, it’s not relevant if he tweeted one offensive tweet out of a million tweets; that tweet remains offensive.

Second, it’s not relevant when he tweeted an offensive tweet; unless he’s claiming that he was under the age of legal responsibility at the time.

Third, to describe these tweets as jokes that did not land, is a cover. If he were not a comedian, would these tweets remain acceptable? Are only comedians allowed to be sexist and racist?  If I call myself a comedian, can I tweet offensively about…

Fourth, if something is sexist or racist, it remains that way, regardless of context. It’s a fact that he tweeted in that fashion.

Fifth, I cannot help wondering if he had tweeted in a similarly offensive manner about Islam, or Muslims, would he still be getting such a free ride. What do you think?

For the avoidance of doubt, he is free to tweet (in my opinion) whatever he wants, offensive or otherwise, so long as there is no incitement to violence. He must be free to express his views. But if he steps into the public light of being a performer, or even more significantly, a performer on the Daily Show, he becomes a representative.

So, it will be interesting to see how he tailors his comedy and his message. Will there still be offensive tweets? Will women or Jews be the butt of what he calls humor? I’d like to think he takes on board the concerns expressed, even if his response to the row was unimpressive. However, I do suspect there will be one of those two insulted groups, that from now on will be untroubled. Guess which one.