As Karen pointed out earlier this week, JK Rowling just keeps getting canceled over her view on transgender rights. The latest effort to punish her for her unorthodox beliefs came in response to an article in Newsweek titled, “Jon Stewart Accuses J.K. Rowling of Antisemitism in ‘Harry Potter.'” That story was based on a riff Stewart did about the Goblins from Gringott’s bank during a recent podcast. Remember these guys?
In the podcast, which you can see below, Stewart went on a rant about how these were obviously just Jews as characterized in the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion. That was first picked up by a Twitter user with 50,000 followers who did a short thread about it and from there it became a Newsweek story.
Yesterday, after the story circulated, Stewart released another video bashing Newsweek and saying that he definitely does not think JK Rowling is anti-semitic and does not want the Harry Potter movies censored.
“I do not think J.K. Rowling is antisemitic. I did not accuse her of being antisemitic,” Stewart said. “I do not think the ‘Harry Potter’ movies are antisemitic. I really love the ‘Harry Potter’ movies, probably too much for a gentleman of my considerable age.”
“I cannot stress this enough. I am not accusing J.K. Rowling of being antisemitic,” Stewart added. “She need not answer to any of it. I don’t want the ‘Harry Potter’ movies censored in any way. It was a lighthearted conversation. Get a fucking grip.”
Here’s the full statement in which he says about Newsweek, “Your business model is f**king arson.”
Newsweek et al, may eat my ass. pic.twitter.com/eRoYYeNRi1
— Jon Stewart (@jonstewart) January 5, 2022
I’m more than happy to have Jon Stewart crap all over Newsweek but honestly I’m not sure they’re the real problem in this case. Stewart did go on an extended rant comparing the movie’s goblin bankers to caricatures from Nazi propaganda. And you’ll notice in the clip above he doesn’t retract anything he said about that. He’s just saying the tone was “lighthearted” which is true. But lighthearted or not, he did actually say “JK Rowling was like, can we get these guys to run our bank?” Yes, he’s making a joke, but JK Rowling is the butt of that particular joke.
So maybe Newsweek’s headline could have been more nuanced, something like ‘Jon Stewart accuses Harry Potter films of using anti-Semitic tropes in lighthearted rant.’ That would be more accurate but in today’s climate that would still potentially be a viral story. And given the pre-existing hate for JK Rowling over her trans comments, adding anti-Semitism to the list of accusations that she’s a very bad person seems almost inevitable.
At some point you want to say ‘C’mon, Stewart, did you really think you could make a joke about JK Rowling taking cues from the Nazis and not have people seize on it? Really? You didn’t foresee any potential for people running with this as a fresh excuse to be cruel to someone they already hate with a white hot passion?’
Anyway, Stewart deserves credit for standing up to the incipient cancel culture mob at least implicitly, though I doubt it will help. I suspect ‘JK Rowling is an anti-Semitic TERF’ will now become a commonly repeated phrase on social media whether Stewart thinks it’s fair or not. That’s how culture warriors operate. They collect a litany of grievances and use those to demand social censure and punishment. Whether those claims are reasonable isn’t really their chief concern.
If Stewart really wanted to stop the mob he’d need to go farther than a) saying he was making a joke and b) saying Newsweek twisted his words. Rather than just blaming the whole thing on Newsweek, how about condemning cancel culture and the people who embrace it as a blood sport. Yes, he does say that “all the sh*theads” piled on and he does say ‘”get a life” to either Newsweek or the mob, but he’s still framing this as something Newsweek generated. I think it’s much closer to the truth to say Newsweek knows there’s a hungry cancel culture beast out there waiting to be fed and decided to grab those clicks. That may be repulsive in its own way but Newsweek didn’t create cancel culture. The real problem is the mob of leftist ideologues who are looking for any excuse to punish people for fun and Stewart should really have known he was offering them just such an excuse.
Here’s the commentary about Harry Potter’s goblins that spawned all of this.