Why the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear Matters on the Day Before the Election:
Sure, there was a lot to be irritated about with the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear this weekend in DC. Obviously, the entire event was calculated to be for a stadium-sized audience of about 50-60,000 people. If you weren't well east of 7th Street, you couldn't see a goddamn thing, not even the Jumbotrons. Obviously, The Daily Show and Colbert Report organizers didn't anticipate that at least a quarter million people would show up for what was, really, an exaggerated, glorified version of the TV shows, a kind of Comedy Central on Ice. It's hard to tell how many people would have been there because the Rude Pundit saw a line of about a thousand people waiting in a line outside the Vienna Metro stop. Obviously, it was meant to be a little something for the fans at the end of a brutal, awful campaign season where Hope got raped by Hate; you could bring funny signs, dress up, and have a ball. And maybe get something out of it: irony does not denote a lack of sincerity. What it became, though, was something much more significant, something that was missed by nearly everyone covering the event.
The Rude Pundit went to the rally just to get a laugh, maybe see a decent musical act or two. Once he realized he wouldn't get to watch it outdoors, he traversed the tightly-packed mid-section of the crowd, where, yeah, there were a bunch of signs of varying degrees of funny, a lot of douchebags and smug fucks, costumes ranging from a dude who brown-faced himself to be John Boehner to full Flying Spaghetti Monster regalia, and a good many people who were just trying to listen. He watched a bit from outside the Newseum and then ended up at the Iron Horse Tap Room, which was full to capacity with every television in the joint showing the rally. And that drunk crowd (the state of which the Rude Pundit joined quickly) laughed and listened; we even clapped when John Oliver skipped around in Peter Pan drag, wanting everyone to applaud to save Stewart (just watch it online), and we went silent to hear Stewart's closing words and Tony Bennett's a cappella "America the Beautiful," even the sloshed Teletubby (it was LaLa).
Look, these are cynical, awful times right now. The shrieking noise of this nasty campaign season has us all thinking that being trapped in a mine in Chile for a while might not be a bad deal. The rally didn't exist to solve any problems. That wasn't promised and that wasn't what was delivered. It wasn't there to direct people to do anything specific. You can't fault an event for delivering exactly what Stewart said it was going to be: a nice day on the National Mall. Instead, it achieved something else. The Rude Pundit had more actual face-to-face conservations with people from all over the United States about politics than he's had in a long, long time. He met people from Texas, Kansas, Illinois, and elsewhere, all of whom seemed genuinely interested, and even surprised, at how one could communicate, face-to-face, with each other, as if public, civic discourse, unmediated and un-interneted, was a rare commodity nowadays.
The Rude Pundit's not some naive rube. He doesn't think that a couple of hours of facetious Kumbaya changes anything for tomorrow, when we see just how fucked we're gonna be for the next couple of years. But what the rally demonstrated to him was that there is a very large demographic that is not being served by the media, that there is a void in the coverage of politics. It's not about moderation or even lack of action. It's about honesty and fairness (genuine fairness, not Fox "news"-mitigated fairness). What Stewart and The Daily Show do is demonstrate just how fucking easy it is to state facts, no matter which side those facts are good or bad for. A news network that can do that will be rewarded with as loyal a following. In some ways, it's a pipe dream, but is there anything wrong with wanting Walter Cronkite back? (A new Walter Cronkite, not the zombie of the old one, although it'd be great to see him eat Bill Hemmer's face.)
You can ask, and truly, you should, "Really? That's it? That's why everyone went to hipster Woodstock this weekend?" And the answer is, "No, but yeah." It's a sign of how degraded our mainstream discourse has become that to merely ask for the news to stop being polarizing is something that's kind of radical. And if the message seems leftist (even if the montages Stewart presents criticize Ed Schultz and others), well, fuck, maybe that's because it's the right that started this fire by attacking and undermining the press after Watergate. It's the right that attempts to manipulate or discredit things like, well, science. It also seems leftist because to be vaguely moderate in this reactionary age is seen as capitulating to Stalin's phantom while Hitler strangles Lady Liberty.
The election tomorrow is a clear example of the triumph of lies. Teabaggers get an amount of coverage that's disproportionate to their actual, factual numbers. Sarah Palin is presented as an expert on things that she simply doesn't know about. Corporations control what we see. Glenn Beck simply creates an alternate reality. We all have our prisms that create our viewpoints. But there are things that are simply true, Stewart says. And we have to be able to agree on those in order to move forward. The people at the rally were sick of being told that truth is fiction. So why not use fiction in order to get to truth?
(That sign above was on a park police horse trailer in DC on Saturday. It apparently fell over onto the ramp when the doors opened, and a horse shit on Glenn Beck's face. The Rude Pundit hopes it was a commentary by the cops on the previous rally on the Mall. Tip o' the rude hat to pal Dean T. for the photo [and the weekend lodging].)