Jon Stewart can’t touch Roger Waters’s Palestinian work with a bargepole


On Monday night, Jon Stewart’s show was nervy, as usual. It ran a wonderful piece savaging CNN for gutting investigative journalism. It made fun of griping about Obama’s almost all-white-male braintrust. It quoted Paul Krugman calling Stewart “lazy” for mocking his trillion-dollar coin idea– and Stewart copping to his ignorance of economics. 

And it featured Roger Waters, the segment above. Stewart introduced Waters by speaking about his politics:

“Every time I see you, you, the archetypal rebellious rock-and-roller are just out there doing good for the world– and I wanted to thank you for that.”

What is Waters doing? Well, the 12/12 benefit for Sandy victims. And he’s helped form a band of 12 wounded veterans at Walter Reed hospital. Not a word about Palestine.

This is Roger Waters who electrified the United Nations General Assembly 6 weeks ago. For Waters, the Palestinian issue is central: Waters was a juror on the Russell Tribunal for Palestine a month before his U.N. speech, he held a concert for Palestinian kids, he called for tearing down the security/apartheid wall. You would think it deserves a syllable from old Stewart– especially in the context of sending up others’ failures in truth, justice, and the comedic way.

That said, this is on Roger Waters, too, for self-censorship. And it may be that Jon Stewart and he decided to salute Waters’s work for Palestine in code. Stewart couldn’t address this directly — too upsetting to the corporate leaders — but wanted to offer tacit moral reinforcement. And so when Stewart asked Waters, “What keeps it [the song ‘The Wall’] fresh for you?” Waters responded with this inspiring, humble statement:

“The version of ‘The Wall’ I’m doing now differs from the one that I did in 1979-1980.. [It] is far more universal in its message. It’s no longer about that miserable self-serving sniveling little Roger that we all hated all those years ago…. It’s more about [what you referred to at the start] the rebellion that is trying to understand the world and if possible help people occasionally. One does have empathy for people who are in trouble.”

A beautiful statement about an artist’s maturity, and all about Waters’s work for Palestine. Just don’t say the word. 

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