Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert drew an estimated 215,000 attendees to the rally. (AirPhotosLive.com)
Here’s a rule of satire: if the people who are being satirized don’t get the joke, you’re doing it right.
I’m going to get some hate for this, but that’s never stopped me before. I feel obliged as a progressive to call out my brethren when they’re wrong, just as I call out (all of the time) conservatives when they’re being crazy. Here’s a sampling of the criticism for the Rally to Restore Sanity that I’ve read from all over the Internets:
From Slate’s Troy Patterson:
The climax was Stewart’s sermon, a critique of impure reasoning. Typical sentiment: “If we amplify everything, then we hear nothing” It was a call to action, sort of—a call against overreaction. It had the rousing ring of a stump speech, but he didn’t pull his punch lines either. Is he running for something?
Suzy Khim, of Mother Jones, in a piece entitled Jon Stewart’s Liberal Purgatory:
But it won’t be easy for Obama—or anyone else, for that matter—to pull his center-left supporters out of their current purgatory of disillusionment and smirking apathy. As one sign at the rally put it: “My arms are tired.”
You know what? I’m starting to get frustrated with Mother Jones. From David Corn, the “journalist” about whom my opinion changes nearly every day:
Think of all the people who will be coming—and the time and money it will take them to plan the trip and to travel to and from the nation’s capital. These folks are likely to be more sympathetic to Democrats than Republicans, despite Stewart’s skewer-’em-all approach. So if the pro-sanity crowd is packing bags and heading to Washington on the last weekend prior to the elections, these people won’t be knocking on doors or making phone calls to get out the vote for Democratic candidates.
And finally, surprisingly, Keith Olbermann, who spent a while tweeting about how much Jon made him cry.
It wasn’t a big shark but Jon Stewart jumped one just now with the “everybody on Thr cable is the same” naiveté
The America before today’s cable wasn’t reasonable discussion.It was the 1-sided lockstep of Fox and people afraid of Fox.That got us Iraq.
Last comment then I’ll drop this:Whatever the losses are Tuesday,will they be because Liberals were too LOUD or because they were too timid?
Okay. So first I’ll say this: there are legitimate criticisms of the rally (not loud enough, unnecessary pre-taped skits, moments of false equivalency etc), but the comments I quoted aren’t those.
I’m never really impressed with Slate, but they do some good work. However, that article was… stale and idiotic. And totally emblematic of EVERY STUPID THING the mainstream media says about Jon Stewart. If the establishment media actually understood Stewart, they would understand that, um, NO, he’s not going to run for office. No. As awesome as that would be, Jon is and has always been very much a commentator, a tiny check on the government, but mostly the media.
He explained at the beginning of his closing remarks something important that I guess the media missed.
And now I thought we might have a moment, however brief, for some sincerity. Uh, if that’s okay, I know there are boundaries for a comedian-pundit-talker-guy, and I’m sure I’ll find out tomorrow… how I have violated them.
The jab is subtle. He’s saying, “What the fuck is the difference between what I do, and what you do, mainstream media shills?” The man wants to go into a speech that demolishes the Beltway narrative surrounding this political season, so he’s gonna do it. But of course, that means… he’s running for President or King or Emperor. He’s suddenly arrogant and bombastic and “overstepping his boundaries.”
No. He’s a comedian, but darlings, he is a fucking man. He’s a person. He has a genuine side, you know. In fact, I would argue that most of his comedy is genuine, that there is always a true concern for his country behind the snark. I certainly can relate.
Continue, Mr. Stewart:
I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith. Or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.
This was NOT a comment on being centrist. No, it certainly wasn’t. That defeats the purpose of being able to respectfully disagree. I am a progressive, but I can accept and appreciate sincere opinions on the right. I might not agree with them, in fact, I might fight against them, but I am not going to label all of the people on the right racists or homophobes or xenophobes. That’s counterproductive and a waste of my time.
Sing it, Stewart:
Unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24 hour politico pundit panic conflict-onator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems and illuminate problems heretofore unseen, or it can use its magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.
There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats, but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and tea partiers, or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rich Sanchez is an insult — not only to those people, but to the racists themselves, who have put forth the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish between terrorists and Muslims makes us less safe, not more.
The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything we eventually get sicker. And perhaps eczema. Yet, with that being said, I feel good. Strangely, calmly good, because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a funhouse mirror, and not the good kind that makes you slim and taller — but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass like a pumpkin and one eyeball.
So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no ones humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is, on the brink of catastrophe, torn by polarizing hate, and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV. Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.
Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats or Republicans or conservatives or liberals. Most Americans live their lives that our just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often its something they do not want to do, but they do it. Impossible things get done every day that are only made possible by the little, reasonable compromises.
Now, there’s a lot of excellent points made in these paragraphs, but I’m not going to reiterate them. The most important idea that Jon explains is the meme of the Media as a Distorter rather than a Reflector of any actual realities. Of course this is the case! Our media serves to sell, sell, sell, and it is in their best interest to create grandiose, scary images and stories that will hook audiences. Money corrupts even the most public of media outlets (see: NPR, PBS).
The truth is, we don’t need to be centrist to be moderate. Moderation is not a political ideology. It is the way in which one can exhibit such political ideology. Moderation doesn’t mean timidity, Keith Olbermann; nor does loudness mean strength. That’s logically inept. After all, I am a fairly rational, peaceful person. I like to stir up shit on Twitter and in political events that are presented as SUPER SERIOUS (ie: DoucheBeckistan) but does that mean I’m not a moderate? No. I’m irreverent and snarky. I get a kick out of challenging people on their views, and having my views challenged as well. But at the end of the day, I am no less progressive than the loud people. I am no less a feminist. I am no less a vegetarian. I am no less a bisexual. I am no less a human rights activist.
Activism isn’t necessarily jumping around screaming. It can be letter writing. Or petitioning. Or boycotting. Or volunteering. I love Codepink, and what they do is spectacular, but that’s not the end all, be all of activism. And, unfortunately, they aren’t taken seriously because the media has this fetish with SERIOUSNESS that makes it dislike Jon Stewart as well.
Not all Tea Party people are racists. True, they are more conservative, but a lot of them are more libertarian than authoritarian. Now, the movement is mostly a sham created by the Koch brothers, et al. But that doesn’t negate the feelings and frustrations that the people feel. Sure, there are racists and homophobes and xenophobes, but there are also fair-minded people WHO I HAVE MET.
Okay, another criticism. David Corn, if I may:
Shut the fuck up about how terrible this rally is for the Democrats. Or at least consider this before you criticize. The DNC and OFA and DCCC (the group I’m working with) are doing their thing, but they really didn’t bother keeping the base energized. That’s not Jon Stewart’s fault. The GOTV effort will be okay. Republicans will win on Tuesday because that is what happens EVERY DAMN ELECTION AFTER A NEW PRESIDENT IS ELECTED.
In fact, the “moment of sincerity” was basically overlooked in favor of getting angry that he didn’t tell people to vote or whatever. I agree, people need to vote, but that’s not Jon Stewart’s job. That’s the DNC’s job, and I don’t care if even my favorite political junkies Allison Kilkenny and Jamie Kilstein (Citizen Radio, you should totally go download the podcast at WeAreCitizenRadio.com. I’m a member, and it’s really great) were offended by that; guess what-you missed the point while you were bitching. Speaking of the bitching:
@jamiekilstein: Fucking Disgusting. RT @mikemadden: Me: “Do you guys think people should vote?” Stewart: “I think people should do what moves them.”
@allisonkilkenny: Voting implies you care about issues. Uncool. #Rally4Sanity RT @AdamSerwer: has anyone heard the word “vote” at this rally yet?
OH. MY. GOD. HOW horrible, that he would want people to make up their minds on their own instead of demagoguery to them. JESUS CHRIST. WHAT A TERRIBLE THING. And seriously, I think people should vote. People need to vote. But if they don’t, that’s their own fucking problem. They don’t get to complain if they don’t vote.
I don’t think my progressive media loves actually wanted to enjoy this. See, I went into the rally having a basic understanding of the point Jon was trying to make. Because I’m not an ideologue. I’m fair-minded enough to see that not all equivalency is FALSE. Sure, I agree, it wasn’t right to compare Codepink to some of the right-wing sillies, but hey. You know what? Superficially, they are the same. Doesn’t mean their principals are equal. On the surface, they can be hard to take. And pundits on both sides generalize. That is not FALSE EQUIVALENCY, that is reality.
And just because you agree with a group, doesn’t mean you can’t say, “Well, maybe there are more efficient ways of getting a message across.” That’s just looking at something with an open-mind. And, you know what? Jon Stewart made you all look like narrow minded assholes. You look judgmental. You look shortsighted. And, quite frankly, that makes me respect you a little bit less. Not much, but a little.
Why do I always end up ranting about the media after these events?
Tomorrow, I will write about my experiences. Because… I learned about the dark side of the Metro today. And I learned about how much music adds to a rally.