Jon Stewart, 'The Daily Show' Go to Sudan for a Pick-Me-Up

The Satellite Sentinel Project is on a media roll, helping to focus world attention on Sudan in influential outlets ranging from TIME Magazine, CNN's "Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," ABC's "This Week with Christiane Amanpour," Al Jazeera, and BBC Arabic to pop culture platforms, such as a new collaboration with MTV and mtvU to help deter war in Sudan, and recently, the homepage of YouTube, where this video featuring George Clooney has racked up over 300,000 views.

In its top story on January 12, Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” went to Sudan to report some good news and speculate on the reason why George Clooney initiated the Satellite Sentinel Project.

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“How can they be dancing in the streets of Sudan?” asked host Jon Stewart. “It’s home to Muslims in the North fighting Christians in the South. Plagued by famine and food shortages, it sits atop a large oil supply that everyone would like to exploit. Sudan is like a random cause-of-war generator. It’s religious strife wrapped in famine and buried in oil.”

Yet many people in Sudan are euphoric because voting is underway in a referendum that could create the continent’s newest country.

“Why should I care?” asked Stewart, who then segued to Enough Project’s Co-founder John Prendergast for an explanation.

The Enough Project’s logo flashed as Stewart cut to Fareed Zakaria’s CNN interview in Sudan with Prendergast and George Clooney on the Satellite Sentinel Project.

In the clip, Prendergast said:

“The idea is to try to prevent human rights abuses before they occur, by shining a spotlight on the places, on the locations along the border between the North and the South…”

Stewart cut in, with a finger pressed to his ear, and said with growing excitement:

“Okay, I’m sorry, I’m being told right now by my producer that I didn’t hear any of that because, oh my God, that guy’s standing next to George Clooney. Oh, my God. That’s George Clooney. Oh, my God! Actually, Clooney’s down in the Sudan helping monitor the elections. And I’ve got to give Clooney credit. Hold on, wait a second.”

Zooming in on the CNN crawler, Stewart highlighted a note that co-founders of Not on Our Watch – which seeded the Satellite Sentinel Project with $750,000 for a six-month start-up phase – include Clooney, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt (together with attorney David Pressman and Hollywood film producer Jerry Weintraub).

Cutting to a cropped publicity still from Ocean’s 11, Stewart cried:

“Oh, my God. He’s there with Cheadle, Damon, and Brad Pitt? …He’s not there to monitor the vote. This is a heist! He’s there to rob the Sudan’s biggest casino.”

Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show” can relax, confident that they’ve deterred the potential threat to comedians from Foreign Policy’s “Passport” blog, which until now had fetched up the funniest line about the Satellite Sentinel Project:

“Troubling as this morning's border violence is, there seems to be good reason for skepticism about the satellite project. The imagery the satellites provide isn't all that clear, showing about 8 square miles inches [Corrected.] per computer-screen pixel, making it difficult to figure out just what's going on the ground. That level of imprecision can be dangerous when trying to assign guilt or innocence in crimes against humanity.”

Indeed. After taking a stand against the dangers of imprecision, Foreign Policy changed “miles” to “inches,” at a reader’s request. To be precise, U.S. federal law mandates that the imagery from commercial satellite firms not exceed a resolution of 50 centimeters. That’s 19.7 inches – not eight miles (a figure which would be laughably, if not dangerously, imprecise by about 506,860.3 inches). And at that resolution, quite a lot can be figured out about what's happening on the ground. See for yourself. What's more, the project will contextualize imagery with field reports and policy analysis offered by the Enough Project.

Whether one agrees with the project's critics or admirers, such as Elizabeth Blackney, there's no doubt that more people are paying more attention to Sudan at this critical time. And that's worthwhile. Blackney concludes:

Clooney is the face of the Satellite Sentinel project. The cute name “anti-genocide paparazzi” says more about our nation’s obsession with celebrities than it does about Clooney turning the lens to something else. Is it really so unfathomable that Clooney is following his conscience? Leading? Or is it more likely that so many who have been toiling in the bureaucracy that usually comes with statecraft, foreign policy, legislation and politics in general are just unsettled by the All-American entrepreneurial spirit manifesting itself in a new way.

This is what Americans are all about–creating solutions. As Lewis Carroll wrote in Through the Looking Glass, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” And so it is with the Satellite Sentinel.  A private citizen, global celebrity and a man who has worked tirelessly to bring attention to the genocide in Darfur and the horrific circumstances that pervade all of Sudan will, with the assistance of Prendergast, Google, YouTube and MTV, among others that will be announced in due course, make it all about the optics.

View the Daily Show clip.