In terms of size, I don't think it beat Beck's rally, as several estimates are claiming (this assessment jibes with my gut feeling, which is mostly based on the fact that the Stewart crowd just took up so much less space), but it was a good crowd and everybody was clearly having a fun time. The music was good, but the comedy was sorely lacking, and as an overall philosophical production I'm not terribly impressed. I would have given Stewart more credit on this if he had made a call for civility back when lefty protestors were constantly declaring Bush 43 to be Hitler, or lefty writers and filmmakers were fantasizing about his assassination, or lefty Congresscritters were bringing in protestors to deliberately disrupt Bush's speeches, including an inaugural address; to see it now makes it feel like the only reason Stewart's upset is that it's his side getting a shellacking. But the thing that seriously threw me for a loop was the presence of *Yusuf freakin' Islam.*
Yusuf (as he was billed; I guess he's doing the Cher thing now), performed his old hit "Peace Train," occasionally interrupting or being interrupted by Ozzy Osbourne performing "Crazy Train." Which, folks, is a hell of an irony, because although Talking Points Memo did a hell of a job whitewashing his comments for their readers, twenty years ago Yusuf Islam was calling for Salman Rushdie to be murdered (link to video):
Robertson: You don’t think that this man deserves to die?
Y. Islam: Who, Salman Rushdie?
Y. Islam: Yes, yes.
Robertson: And do you have a duty to be his executioner?
Y. Islam: Uh, no, not necessarily, unless we were in an Islamic state and I was ordered by a judge or by the authority to carry out such an act – perhaps, yes.
When asked if he would attend a protest at which Rushdie would be burned in effigy, Yusuf replied, "I would have hoped that it’d be the real thing." When asked what he would do if Rushdie showed up on Yusuf's doorstep looking for help, Yusuf replied, "I might ring somebody who might do more damage to him than he would like."
Look: it's been twenty years. People change. It's quite possible that Yusuf Islam no longer believes these things. We don't know, because Yusuf refuses to discuss the subject. When he has addressed it, he has blatantly lied and weaseled: "When asked about my opinion regarding blasphemy, I could not tell a lie and confirmed that - like both the Torah and the Gospel - the Qur’an considers it, without repentance, as a capital offense. The Bible is full of similar harsh laws if you’re looking for them." He has also claimed to have been taken out of context, but the video makes clear that he wasn't, and Yusuf damn well knows it, because when that video was posted on YouTube a few years back he immediately put in a copyright claim to have it taken down. Yusuf supported the death penalty for blasphemy. Maybe he still supports it. I don't know. I do know that until he's made his position clear, I wouldn't stand on a stage next to him, as Stewart and Colbert did.
There's also this to consider: as Hot Air's Ed Morrissey pointed out:
The producers of South Park got death threats from radical Muslims for attempting to depict an image of Muhammed in one of their recent episodes, and the executive management of Viacom forced them to censor the show in fear of Muslim reaction. Now, two of Viacom’s most recognizable television stars have linked themselves to a man who publicly endorsed that exact kind of threat — as a way to “restore sanity.”
So if you work for Comedy Central and you get a death threat, the network won't stand by you. Make and support such death threats, OTOH, and you'll get a gig where you're onstage next to their two biggest stars. I don't think that anyone should be immune to criticism for what they say, but I do think that *threatening to murder a person for what he says* should be at the very least render the threatener persona non grata, and I'm really displeased that Jon Stewart doesn't seem to think so.
(Salman Rushdie is aware of this, and he is not impressed.)
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