At last, controversy — though overdue — has thrust itself upon 2004’s best book.
Tucked inside The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’s America: A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction, there are nine old, wrinkled, flabby, unattractive and mostly fat naked human bodies.
In turn, two southern Mississippi counties cried, “Pornography!” and banned the book in local libraries, only to un-ban it after intense criticism and scrutiny, not to mention that their knee-jerk, irrational reaction garnered national attention in the form of news headlines.
As Stewart also pointed out — and it’s amazing — Mississippi actually has a public library system.
The image in question presents the faces of the nine Supreme Court justices superimposed on naked — and befitting — bodies. On the opposite page, cutouts of the justices’ robes are placed below a caption that reads “restore their dignity by matching each justice with his or her respective robe.”
In all honesty, it is quite disgusting. The people in question are not 25 anymore, after all. It’s shocking. It’s nasty. It’s gruesome. But it isn’t porn. And to most people, it’s funny.
But rather than a have a sense of humor about it, officials in Mississippi took offense and promptly had the book removed from Jackson and George county public libraries, with Robert Willits, director of the Jackson-George Regional Library System, saying, “We’re not an adult bookstore. Our entire collection is open to the entire public. If they had published the book without that one picture, that one page, we’d have the book.”
Now, all Willits and company have done is multiply an already feverish interest in the book (it’s been on the New York Times’ best-seller list for 15 weeks) and motivated people who probably hadn’t heard, seen or cared about the book to pick it up just to see what all the fuss (and the buff) is about.
Almost four months after its release, America is finally receiving the controversy it deserves, if for the wrong reason. As Stewart himself said, there are far more offensive things than saggy, naked bodies in his book.
For example, Stewart and his pals from the Daily Show rip apart every facet of the American governmental system, the media and Americans in general. It questions things like the Electoral College, the vice president’s authority and the media’s unrelenting lust for frightening the American public. It hits home.
And that’s why it’s controversial, because it speaks the truth. It’s just sad that it took pasty nude flab for the book to gain notoriety.
Even though Stewart anchors what he calls the “fake news,” he is more trustworthy and relevant than the average screaming psycho behind a news desk. It’s no wonder Stewart is considered by most to be the voice of the young generation. A recent poll revealed that most college-aged students get the majority of their news from Stewart, and another study showed that the average Daily Show viewer is more educated the average The O’Reilly Factor with Bill O’Reilly watcher.
The study, conducted by Dannagal Goldthwaite Young at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, concluded that Daily Show viewers are 78 percent more likely than the average adult to have four or more years of college education, while O’Reilly’s audience is only 24 percent more likely to have that much schooling.”
I’m guessing the people who decided to ban America hadn’t read it. They just saw the private parts, gasped, and put the locks on it. They treated it like it was a book on the theory of evolution. They don’t understand that just because their minds are closed doesn’t mean every book has to be.
Indeed, old naked people are not pleasant. But neither are the things that Stewart’s book criticizes.
They say one knows porn when one sees it. Stewart’s book is not porn. If anything, it should be required reading for every American.
John Calkins is a junior majoring in journalism. firstname.lastname@example.org