An unedited, stream-of-consciousness, but rational piece on the Jon Stewart rally

(originally I was going to craft a carefully-written, well-edited piece on the media’s absurd reactions to the rally which included the media predicting how the media would react, the media reacting in that form, and then the media turning on the media for reacting such. I figured the more emotional approach below would better express how I feel right now and would also help prevent all the layers of media from folding over itself and mutating into a neutron star. That would be a bummer.)

I am an unabashed Jon Stewart fan. It bothers me when the rally is compared to Glenn Beck’s rally, as if it was a left-wing response to it. It was not a left-wing response to Beck’s rally. I will admit that Stewart and Colbert are left-wing, although not as much as others think. But the purpose of the rally was to get rid of that. To avoid the yelling and the screaming. People did not come from New York, California, and “all the stuff in between” (as Stewart poorly sang) with ironic political signs just to have a good time. They were saying something. Many were self-described conservatives.

I was actually quite impressed by the signs people brought because they did more than just parrot back what Stewart was saying. There were thousands of unique ways of demonstrating that we can have opinions, even in sound-bite or sharpie form, that do not entail hatred or decrying the other side as Hitler.

Lots of news outlets, from all over the spectrum, consider it utterly foolhardy how many of us (myself not included) get “most of our news” from the Daily Show. It is a mere comedy show! Jokes! Fake news! But Stewart and his cast do one thing nobody else in the news media does: they make sure they get their facts right. They call people on their bull. They call bluffs, point out doubletalk, and skewer anyone who is not being upfront and honest. When they go after the news media, it is not to take it down. It is to pick it back up off the ground, as if to say: your job is journalism. Go journalize. Or whatever the verb form is. Just… do your jobs and bring us news, without the spin, with opinions and analysis, but make it well thought-out. Just because there are two opinions does not mean they need equal airtime if one is utterly foolish. If you have an opinion as an anchor, that is okay too – just tell us your opinion and why that is. But make sure you give the facts too.

Speaking as a twenty-something who has long enjoyed the comedic and, especially, satirical stylings of Jon Stewart and the Daily Show, let me explain something to those who do not understand:

We don’t like Jon Stewart because he is a satirist and our generation prostrates itself before irony and cynicism. We like him because we can see the sincere Jon Stewart – the one pleading for a rational, intelligent, engaged civil society in our great country – as seen in his keynote address. We see that every day the program is on. This is something we do not see in any major political figure today, and that includes most analysts.

Well over 200,000 people were there. This is not a joke. This is not a movement, necessarily: there is no political program. It is a plea to have a civil society in all the term’s various meanings. These are the generations that grew up under absurd partisanship.

Our political baptism was the second impeachment in our country’s history over a semen stain. Our adolescence was an election stolen by courts and watching most of the country cheer as civil liberties were taken away in a culture of politicized fear. Now we are coming of age, and we see people screaming at each other, calling everyone who disagrees with them a socialist, a fascist, or (my favorite) a socialist and a fascist.

Pundits say there is too much political apathy among the younger voters. We just do not care, what with our video games and facebook. We do care. We care a lot. Growing up in the current poisonous American political culture means that apathy is often the only sure way to prevent insanity or depression. We cover our ears and go LALALALALA because it is the only way to get through the day. We could stop and listen, but all we learn is that the other side hates America and wants to kick our grandmothers and rape our goldfish. Sure, we could pick one of the screaming sides, but that is not what most people want. We want to be heard without shouting and we want to hear the news without being bombarded with idiocy. Satire seems to be the only way to cut through the crap. If you want us to be more engaged, try treating America’s citizens like intelligent, rational human beings who know how to handle large amounts of critical information. The biggest joke may be that it takes a Comedy Central program to not only recognize that, but deliver the goods.

Stewart demonstrates that it does not have to be like that. Two people can disagree, compromise, argue, never come to a final understanding, and yet not despise each other. They can use their inside voices.

I have already seen pieces sneering at the Comedy Central duo. For example: what are they trying to get out of this? It seems like many of those journalists who feel most threatened are openly daring Stewart to run for political office. Does he think he can do better? (Of course not – the other nitwits would still be there). Perhaps the best part is that Stewart, at his own rally, did not shove his message down anyone’s throat. I believe he was more concerned with people having a good time and getting along with each other than having an awakening, and not just because he is a comedian.

Some of you were lucky enough to attend Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. I was not, since I am still ensconced in Europe. But I watched it on the internet. And like many who did not go to Woodstock, I will lie to my children and say I was there.


I saw his interview with President Obama. I also saw some media reactions to it, which were noted in opinion pieces about the rally (before the rally, of course). They all noted that Obama seemed weak. That was everyone’s reaction. Except mine. Did he have an incredibly strong message for the midterm elections? No. He was very clear in what he said: in a broken Congress, a lot of progress was made on what he promised in his campaign. You do not get everything you want when you are President. Even when you will, things take time, the process is slow. He was not pleading for forgiveness, though. He was simply explaining things how they are. And he was right. Why does nobody care about that?

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4 Responses to An unedited, stream-of-consciousness, but rational piece on the Jon Stewart rally

  1. Matt Warren says:

    Excellent reflection. I didn’t watch it live, but I’ve viewed a whole ton of videos. If members of the media don’t get it, then they have lost their ability to think critically. I have to recycle that now hackneyed phrase, “it’s the [tone], stupid.”

    Each of us shares often myopic political perspectives. In recognition of those human failings, we pledge not to pass ourselves off as gods. At least, that’s what I got out of it.

  2. jnutley says:

    Agree completely with your sentiment!

    Concerning your aside, the main stream media are dissatisfied with any and everyone who doesn’t do their job for them by making outrageous claims they can turn into headlines. The President is weak, to them, because his talk didn’t make attention grabbing copy. With an attitude like that it’s no wonder they’re loosing even more of the public’s respect.

  3. curmudgeonlyanarchist says:

    To remain in curmudgeonly form, I will take issue with your assertion that people can just get along and be civil. You wrote that “Two people can disagree, compromise, argue, never come to a final understanding, and yet not despise each other.” This might be possible for two people with nothing on the line, but in the public forum, everything is on the line when comes to political discourse. A lack of heated discussion indicates that a faction monopolizes the debate, such as the consensus journalism of the mid-20th century.

    You seem to want everyone to relax and have a good time like Jon Stewart would have us do. Stewart is excellent entertainment, but most of his material is devoted to mocking people, rather than presenting a convincing argument. Satire is a useful check to the solemnity of political dialogue, but it produces no policies.

    • I agree about heated discussion. But heated discussion /= calling each other Nazis or portraying your opponent as evil or un-American. Jon Stewart’s not trying to produce policies. The point of the rally was to restore sanity so we can achieve compromise and produce legislation without it being just about scoring political points. Satire is, of course, essential to any democratic project. There’s a reason he always urges voters to “make [his] job harder.”

      For example, you and I have very different political outlooks. We can both be curmudgeonly at times. Yet neither of us consider the other to be “evil” or “Hitler” or “un-American.” We both know that each other are trying to do what’s best and so our discussions, while often heated, do not turn into angry shouting matches. That’s what Stewart’s going for.

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