Has Sanity Been Restored?
October 31, 2010 10:53 AM   Subscribe

With crowd estimates between 150,000 and 250,000, the Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear has inspired a variety of reactions. NYMag's Vulture blog has a summary and round up of reactions. Huffington and Armey disagree about the meaning of the rally. But Jon Stewart offered a heartfelt analysis of the event just before it ended. [scroll down for video] And the Flickr photo pool of signs is growing and growing.
posted by hippybear (372 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

 
How many folks turned up for the Rally to Inflate Glenn Beck's Ego?
posted by Artw at 11:00 AM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm still staggered that Viacom, a CBS Networks spinoff and the world's fourth largest media entity is directly responsible for this. It's a sign of the times that protest culture has been, on both the right and the left, completely co-opted and led by giant corporations. I can't even cast judgment on it just because it is such a grandiose shift from what I -- a 26 year old -- grew up learning about protests. I don't know what to make of it. I don't doubt the sentiments of the attendees, but I cannot for the life of me figure out who is taking advantage of whom in order for something like this to happen.
posted by griphus at 11:01 AM on October 31, 2010 [58 favorites]


Here is the crowd estimate of Beck's rally from the same source as linked above.
posted by hippybear at 11:02 AM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


From Mark Ames:
...Lberalism today has as its highest priority not looking stupid—and that its premiere rally is framed in such a way that everyone who came to this rally is somehow indemnified from looking foolish precisely because it’s not really a political rally, it’s more like a mockery of a political rally—in a self-consciously smart sort of way. And the Daily Show Democrats who gathered celebrated themselves for this amazing achievement: that they didn’t make fools of themselves standing for something that some other guys could then use to mock them.
Link
True political disagreement will never be civil. That's the point.
posted by wuwei at 11:07 AM on October 31, 2010 [16 favorites]


Yeah, I'm as baffled as griphus. This almost feels like a giant piece of situationist performance art.
posted by nasreddin at 11:09 AM on October 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


True political disagreement will never be civil. That's the point.

Don't you have friends and/or family that you disagree with politically? Aren't you civil to them?
posted by octothorpe at 11:11 AM on October 31, 2010 [27 favorites]


I like this sign a lot.
posted by rtha at 11:12 AM on October 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


If anyone wants to see what happens when the left is the subject of one of those "let's go to the rally and make fun of the ignorant protesters" videos, Reason.tv did one for this. On the whole, I didn't find it too bad...
posted by naju at 11:14 AM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


And the Daily Show Democrats who gathered celebrated themselves for this amazing achievement:

This is so beyond missing the point it makes me want to cry. "Daily Show Democrats"? One would hope sanity is a bipartisan issue.
posted by mek at 11:14 AM on October 31, 2010 [16 favorites]


True political disagreement will never be civil. That's the point.

If you think that legitimate political candidates have always been threatening to take to the streets in armed revolution if they lost, if you think most political figures have always accused their opponents of fundamentally undermining the republic...

Well, not to be cruel, but you have the political memory of the average American citizen.
posted by TypographicalError at 11:15 AM on October 31, 2010 [12 favorites]


Reddit post that inspired the event.
posted by starman at 11:15 AM on October 31, 2010 [12 favorites]


Scott McLemee.
posted by kenko at 11:16 AM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I liked the part where Yusuf Islam played Peace Train and kept getting interrupted.
posted by marxchivist at 11:16 AM on October 31, 2010


Here's another collection of sign pictures. I would love to find the hats the couple is wearing in picture 9.
posted by booksherpa at 11:18 AM on October 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


Wait - Tom Hanks's daughter thinks Bananarama wrote "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye?"
posted by mintcake! at 11:18 AM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


One would hope sanity is a bipartisan issue.

There are literally no bipartisan issues in America, anymore.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:19 AM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm still staggered that Viacom, a CBS Networks spinoff and the world's fourth largest media entity is directly responsible for this.

Actually, it's debatable that this is a Viacom production at all. Certainly they were involved, but the concept for the rally had independent origins on Reddit, as starman pointed out. It's my impression that organisation and participation was largely grassroots - if they had any role at all, Viacom simply brought the hosts and guests in, and set up the media.

And really, when the central message of the "protest" could be summarised as "Hey, the majority of us/US are reasonable, thoughtful people with a sense of fun, and we're not going to be told be be afraid, or to hate, by anyone, but most especially politicians and the media", it's hard to see how that could be co-opted by anyone.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 11:19 AM on October 31, 2010 [46 favorites]


Yesterday's rally was effing great! It was Colbert-esque thinking at it's most inspired -- sane and moderateAmerica's answer to Glen Beck's Fear-A-Thon Tea-bag gathering earlier this year.

Things like the Cat Stevens singing "Peace Train" and the O'Jay's performing "Love Train" made me sad about the momentum progressives have lost.

Stewart's closing comments about "Hard Times and not End Times" is an oration for the history books and an apt description of our MSM:"If we amplify everything, we hear nothing".
posted by vhsiv at 11:22 AM on October 31, 2010 [15 favorites]


The event was so unusual and imaginative, so brilliantly wonderful that people don't quite know what to make of it. We've never seen anything like it.
posted by uraniumwilly at 11:22 AM on October 31, 2010 [13 favorites]


They're actually trying to fool you into buying that Dinosaur Comics anthology... (also: Death Panels)
posted by Artw at 11:23 AM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


One would hope sanity is a bipartisan issue.

You know... I went to the satellite rally here in Spokane yesterday. Well, I went to part of it.

It wasn't a "Rally To Restore Sanity" at all. It was a flat-out Democratic party rally. The backdrop sign was "Spokane Democrats", both of the speakers I listened to were D-party candidates or office holders. Even the emcee and the comedian I heard a tiny bit of were pretty much talking with the assumption that it was a Democrat Political Rally.

I was very disappointed. I went to the rally hoping for a non-partisan rally bringing people together to express hope that discourse in the country would move toward conversation and cooperation, or at least stop being a shouting match. And it wasn't that.

I left after about 20 minutes, a bit deflated. I'm glad the Dems are rallying in Spokane, but this felt like it was promoted as being one thing and executed as another. Disappointing, indeed.
posted by hippybear at 11:23 AM on October 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


Did the guy with the flickr photostream of placards only take pictures of the pointless and / or snarky ones, or was that the whole rally?
posted by doobiedoo at 11:23 AM on October 31, 2010


doobiedoo: an acquaintance of mine went with an 'I fear crowds' sign. I think that was the rally.
posted by Nomyte at 11:28 AM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Hey, the majority of us/US are reasonable, thoughtful people with a sense of fun, and we're not going to be told be be afraid, or to hate, by anyone, but most especially politicians and the media", it's hard to see how that could be co-opted by anyone.

Oh, man, don't you see? The Liberal Democrats have already co-opted it. An ideology so root-evil that it lowers itself to such means as thoughtfulness, good humour, respect to achieve its nefarious ends (also: Death Panels). What's next? Are they going to start giving like Christ?
posted by philip-random at 11:28 AM on October 31, 2010 [12 favorites]


Reddit post that inspired the event.

It's important to remember that this was originated as a grassroots project. The redditors raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to one of Colbert's charities to get his attention for the idea.

Or what Bora said better. Stupid slow phone keyboard.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:29 AM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


vhsiv, the lead-up to that quote was a pretty good summary of what's wrong with news coverage in this country and how it deliberately feeds the crazy:
The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen. Or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the dangerous, unexpected flaming ants epidemic.
Endless hours of cable TV news are devoted to creating controversy out of thin air and reporting it, in preference to covering anything that really matters. "Terrorist fist bump" is a succinct example, but there are hundreds of them. This rally was a couple of media figures calling bullshit on the fake zeitgeist created by other media figures, and I think most of the people who showed up got that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:30 AM on October 31, 2010 [40 favorites]


Masterful move by Stewart. We elites are normal everyday folk, can't we just get along? But the reaction to Cat Stephens already shows how this will go down with the right. You don't deal with crazies by gently chiding them.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:30 AM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you think that legitimate political candidates have always been threatening to take to the streets in armed revolution if they lost, if you think most political figures have always accused their opponents of fundamentally undermining the republic...

Hahahahaha. Did you not see the reason.tv video that was posted the other day? It's pretty rich to see someone with zero awareness of history condescendingly chastising other people for being typical Ahmurrikans.
posted by nasreddin at 11:31 AM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


FWIW, Colbert and Stewart claim that they had plans for the rally long before the Reddit thread.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:32 AM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Favorites:

"I fought Nazi's and they look nothing like Obama"

"We should do this more often"

"My President is black, this sign is blue"

"My Arms are Tired"

Muslim in traditional head garb holding up sign "Am I acting Suspicious?"

"Eat Some Sushi"

"God Hates Times New Roman"

"25/F/VA Seeking: Power Jew"

"My mom gave me this sign to hold. I know what it says, but I was told there would be ice cream"

"WTF, I thought I voted for a Muslim"
posted by nomadicink at 11:32 AM on October 31, 2010 [16 favorites]


Sure, you guys are talking about it now. But where were you when I wanted to get drunk with y'all and watch the livestream together? You abandoned me metafilter . . . ABANDONED.
posted by Think_Long at 11:35 AM on October 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wait, Think_Long. I was drinking and watching the Rally. Where were YOU?
posted by hippybear at 11:36 AM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


This was not exactly grassroots. Reddit did not inspire them to do it. Stewart/Colbert were planning the rally "this summer", which was a couple months before anyone started agitating for it.
posted by TypographicalError at 11:36 AM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah everything I've heard from the Viacom staff says they started planning in March of this year.
posted by polyhedron at 11:36 AM on October 31, 2010


Was that ?uestlove on drums? I think it was!
posted by cman at 11:38 AM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


What finally matters is one simple thing: how many people vote for this one or that one when election times rolls around.
posted by Postroad at 11:40 AM on October 31, 2010


cman -- the Roots were the house band for the event.
posted by Think_Long at 11:41 AM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


So is it the fear side or sanity side that could care less?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:42 AM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


What finally matters is one simple thing: how many people vote for this one or that one when election times rolls around.

Hell yeah, I'm voting in 2012, what fool wouldn't?!
posted by nomadicink at 11:44 AM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


What finally matters is one simple thing: how many people vote for this one or that one when election times rolls around.

I believe what matters is a shift in what can and should happen in terms of political dialog.
posted by uraniumwilly at 11:45 AM on October 31, 2010


Stewart / Colbert hold post-rally briefing.
posted by hippybear at 11:48 AM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm glad I went (my photos are here), but man, what a logistical clusterfuck. I'm local, so my only real costs were the time I spent driving to work and walking to the rally from there, but I felt quite bad for people who had traveled many hours to attend (I was surrounded by people who'd driven overnight from Rhode Island and Ohio and I had friends who flew in from California(!)), only to find that they couldn't hear anything being said because Comedy Central didn't set up enough loudspeakers on the Mall.

Was worth going for the signs, costumes and general vibe and sense of solidarity, but yeah, CC could have done a better job for the portion of their audience that was actually there in the flesh.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:49 AM on October 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


This is the funniest protest sign/flag I've seen.

Re: the reddit post -- Colbert claims that they've been planning this since March.
posted by spiderskull at 11:50 AM on October 31, 2010 [21 favorites]


According to a post rally interview with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (in a rare moment out of character) they claim they've been planning a rally like this for months before the reddit post. Apparently Stewart put down the deposit for the rally this past summer. They did acknowledge that the independent reddit campaign helped convince them that it was a good idea, but both projects were independent of each other and just happened to have good timing and synergy.

Now in retrospect I find myself wondering if there was someone in The Daily Show camp that were planting (astroturf?) seeds on reddit, or if it was truly independent - or both. It's kind of hard to tell these days. The answer could be "both" and they could each be sincere about it. It's known that both Stewart and Colbert read reddit, and it's likely that there are staff members who are active redditors as well.

Regardless, I went to the Seattle satellite rally. It was packed. Westlake plaza was absolutely crammed shoulder to shoulder with people. They had to shut down a lane of 4th street to handle the spill over. So many people of all ages, races and economic strata - all being incredibly polite. Seriously, I don't think I have ever been in a crowd that was that densely packed that was so polite and had so little jostling and pushing going on. And I'm usually pretty wary of dense crowds like that, when it gets so dense someone could just trip and fall and start a human domino effect or a stampede.

It was also a lot of fun. If more rallies were as much serious fun as that, I think more people would go to them and get involved. People are tired of superheated rhetoric and yelling. Yelling isn't reasonable or constructive. Yelling is what toddlers do when coming down off a sugar rush. But a little laughter and some kind words go a long way and get more done with less.

"If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you." -Oscar Wilde.
posted by loquacious at 11:50 AM on October 31, 2010 [47 favorites]


There were a lot of good signs there. Some funny or silly or nerdy ... so very very nerdy ... and some of them were political in the vein one might expect. And some of them were the ridiculous RepubliCorp sign that I didn't think to get a picture of, but which was really massive and blocking everybody's view of the monitors.

I don't know what to call this one, though.
posted by kafziel at 11:51 AM on October 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


I believe what matters is a shift in what can and should happen in terms of political dialog.

Yeah, keep believing that, buddy. Viacom will be changing the dialogue all the way to the bank.
posted by nasreddin at 11:51 AM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait, Think_Long. I was drinking and watching the Rally. Where were YOU?
posted by hippybear at 1:36 PM on October 31 [+] [!]


It was then that he carried you, hippybear.
posted by jtron at 11:52 AM on October 31, 2010 [71 favorites]


CC could have done a better job for the portion of their audience that was actually there in the flesh.

I think I read someplace that their permit put an estimated crowd size at 25,000. The crowd was ten times that size. Hard to plan for that kind of thing, sometimes.
posted by hippybear at 11:55 AM on October 31, 2010


The nerdiest one of them all.
posted by schmod at 11:56 AM on October 31, 2010 [23 favorites]


kafziel: "I don't know what to call this one, though."

Weird as hell.
posted by gman at 11:59 AM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


I didn't like Jon Stewart's speech (and I am normally a pretty big Jon Stewart fan). I think you can talk about the importance of reasoned, civil discourse without claiming that liberals and conservatives have done equal amounts of damage. I don't think that calling racists out on being racist is the same thing as calling people fascists and communists when they clearly are no such thing. I think that liberals flat-out have better ideas than conservatives, and that it's ok to say so, as long as you do it in a facts-based and not totally rude way. This South Park-ian "everyone sucks equally, and I have identified the exact middle as the appropriate place to be" attitude is really disappointing coming from someone who is usually able to cut through both sides' bullshit while still acknowledging that, you know, our side is better.
posted by naoko at 12:00 PM on October 31, 2010 [44 favorites]


The two funniest/most interesting things I heard about the rally;

1. the two biggest gatherings on the mall this season have been orchestrated not by politicians, but by infotainers.

2. A commentator said, in all seriousness, "They are making a mockery of the political system"
posted by edgeways at 12:03 PM on October 31, 2010 [11 favorites]


I'm surprised by the number of people (who appear to not have attended the rally) that are so incredibly snarky about this--you really seem to be missing the point, and I find it rather sad. I think loquacious' comment really hits the nail on the head (and it's great to hear a satellite rally was similarly successful): this was truly an incredible experience, regardless of the difficulty hearing on the outside, the dismal bathroom situation or the sheer number of bodies everywhere. It felt like rallies should feel, where like-minded people get together and by presence alone achieve some kind of transcendent solidarity. It wasn't overtly partisan though it was certainly political--this is a meaningful distinction we would do better to acknowledge. Stewart's closing speech was brilliant and eloquent and thought-provoking without devolving into a ludicrous call-to-arms or a chastisement of one group over the other.

The comments about Viacom are similarly misguided and cynical to the point of misanthropic. What the corporation would hope to gain from this rally is beyond me, so perhaps those of you who seem so sure of the nature of the rally could enlighten us? All merchandise for sale benefited the National Mall trust, and I don't think people who went to the rally will say to themselves, "that Viacom sure is a great company, I'm going to start supporting all of their subsidiaries!" I understand this is par for the course on this forum, but it's truly disappointing. Many of you will eschew rationality in the aim of appearing subversively snarky. Pretty ironic considering.
posted by nonmerci at 12:05 PM on October 31, 2010 [46 favorites]


Schadenfreudiest moment of the day: Arianna Huffington's vaunted Manhattan charter buses get stuck in traffic for hours, miss half the rally.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:09 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Muslim in traditional head garb holding up sign "Am I acting Suspicious?"

That is a Datstar a turban used to wrap up a Sikh man's uncut hair. Not cutting ones hair is one of the five K's of Sikhism, Kesh.
posted by Virtblue at 12:09 PM on October 31, 2010 [17 favorites]


Octothorpe:
You wrote: Don't you have friends and/or family that you disagree with politically? Aren't you civil to them?

It depends. But for some things, no I would not be civil. If a friend or family member expressed the belief that gay teenagers should kill themselves, I would tell that person to shut the fuck up.

TypographicalError:

You should try doing a little more reading about American political history. For example, during the early era in American history, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts . In response, Thomas Jefferson helped draft a resolution for the Kentucky legislature, which read in part:
...that these and successive acts of the same character, unless arrested on the threshold, may send to drive these states into revolution and blood, and will furnish new calumnies against Republican Governments, and new pretexts for those who with it to be believed, that man cannot be governed but by a rod of iron: that it would be dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights.
link
In that quote, Jefferson expressly said that the Alien and Sedition acts might result in "revolution and blood" and called the supporters of same "delusional." It is pretty far from civil. Jefferson's response was correct because there was a legitimate threat to the fundamental Constitutional rights of Americans, and he therefore spoke out strongly against it. Not a lot of ironic detachment or temporizing in that statement.

Does this mean that I support the Tea Party crowd and that calls for violent insurrection in the face of "Mexican-loving Muslim communistic socialism?" Absolutely not. However, I don't think that there's a lot of room for negotiation with people who truly hate Latinos, want to kill gays and believe that any kind of non-military public institutions are "socialism." Those are fundamental disagreements about the nature of morality and the public good. The left has to be able to clearly articulate what it believes in, and that may mean telling other people they are full of shit.

There was a thread a few days ago where the posters were bemoaning the fact that blue collar folks won't listen to progressive ideas. They won't listen because they think you're cowards. That's why. If you want people to listen, you have to be able to forcefully state your points. Period.
posted by wuwei at 12:11 PM on October 31, 2010 [20 favorites]


All I will say is that, to me, there is a direct correlation between the fact that this was orchestrated by a TV network/media company and the fact that it's basically a "rally for political moderates" or "a rally for people who lack the most basic understanding of what political activism means".

Oh, wait, I will say one other thing. It is a sad fucking thing for our country that we now equate a strand of political moderateness this intense with "The Far Left". What's even sadder is that people who consider themselves to be on the Left in American politics were so excited about this event.
posted by Sara C. at 12:12 PM on October 31, 2010 [19 favorites]


GOD FORBID ANYBODY HAVE FUN.
posted by Artw at 12:16 PM on October 31, 2010 [22 favorites]


My favorite so far "MAKE LOVE, not STUFF UP".
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:17 PM on October 31, 2010 [43 favorites]


It felt like rallies should feel, where like-minded people get together and by presence alone achieve some kind of transcendent solidarity. It wasn't overtly partisan though it was certainly political--this is a meaningful distinction we would do better to acknowledge. Stewart's closing speech was brilliant and eloquent and thought-provoking without devolving into a ludicrous call-to-arms or a chastisement of one group over the other.

...so, it made you feel good, and that makes it political? You're going to have to do more work here if you're going to convince us that this rally is going to have substantive political effects even on Tuesday, not to mention going forward.

As for Stewart's speech, it was pretty standard-issue pseudo-centrist milquetoast pablum delivered with his typical verve and wit. "Brilliant"? Hardly.

The comments about Viacom are similarly misguided and cynical to the point of misanthropic. What the corporation would hope to gain from this rally is beyond me, so perhaps those of you who seem so sure of the nature of the rally could enlighten us? All merchandise for sale benefited the National Mall trust, and I don't think people who went to the rally will say to themselves, "that Viacom sure is a great company, I'm going to start supporting all of their subsidiaries!"


Are you serious? This is probably the single greatest advertising stunt of the year, if not of the decade. Jon Stewart is a subsidiary of Viacom--any press he gets goes directly to Viacom's pockets in the form of increasing ratings and ad revenues. It would be difficult to imagine a more potent source of publicity other than getting him elected president or something.

(To put it another way: do you think Glenn Beck held his rally because he cares so much about American patriotism and all that stuff?)
posted by nasreddin at 12:18 PM on October 31, 2010 [12 favorites]


The comments about Viacom are similarly misguided and cynical to the point of misanthropic.

I'm not sure you're specifically referring to my comment, but I am the one who opened the Viacom floodgate. Now, considering that I explicitly stated that I neither doubted the commitment of the attendees nor that I was passing judgment on Viacom's involvement, I don't particularly think it is fair of you to call me -- and those who agree with me -- cynical and snarky misanthropes. Pointing out the facts of the matter, as far as I am aware, is no reason for insult.

Now, unless you are utterly ignorant of the inner workings modern media, I'm pretty sure you are aware of how important ratings are. And how ratings determine how much money commercials during airtime can go for. And how, in media-land, television shows are carriers for commercials and not the other way around.

From that, you can probably deduce what Viacom was thinking when they allowed the rally to happen. Yes, allowed. TDS/TCR is a Viacom property and Stewart/Colbert's bosses had to sign off on plenty of documents to allow them to appear and overtly represent their respective shows, their station and the parent corporation.

Viacom made a shitload off this in ratings. That is a fact. That does not negate the importance of this event, nor does it cast a bad light on it. It is simply what has/what is happening. Ignoring it isn't going to make it go away, nor is it going to help anyone trying to make a stand. If you want to rally, successfully, you need to understand the culture. Remaining ignorant in the name of sincerity is no excuse.
posted by griphus at 12:25 PM on October 31, 2010 [12 favorites]


you really seem to be missing the point, and I find it rather sad. I think loquacious' comment really hits the nail on the head (and it's great to hear a satellite rally was similarly successful): this was truly an incredible experience, regardless of the difficulty hearing on the outside, the dismal bathroom situation or the sheer number of bodies everywhere. It felt like rallies should feel...

No, see, that's the thing. This is what rallies are like. I've been to the real thing. And, yeah, a well-organized rally is crowded. There are lots of like-minded people and amazing creativity and energy. It's always an Incredible Experience. Saying that this particular rally was ground breaking because a shitload of people who share a political goal came and did this is ridiculous because there is nothing ground-breaking about this. I have been to DC for quite a few rallies over the years. The existence of a huge march on Washington with lots of attendees is not really all that amazing.

So it seems really funny to see people who are generally apolitical come to a rally and be all OMG THIS IS THE HUGEST THING EVAR!!!! Especially considering that said rally was basically planned as a rally against giving much of a shit about politics, and it was organized by professional event organizers and promoted on TV and such. It shouldn't be that hard to get people to go - there wasn't even a cohesive cause that the event was created to raise awareness for. It was basically a Rally For Fans Of That One Really Popular TV Show.
posted by Sara C. at 12:25 PM on October 31, 2010 [10 favorites]


True political disagreement will never be civil. That's the point.

Canada respectfully submits its history as polite refutation of this point.

Another case in point, which came immediately to mind as I listened to Stewart's closing speech, was the famous winning entry in a 1970s CBC Radio contest calling for the best one-line definition of Canadian identity: "As Canadian as possible under the circumstances."
posted by gompa at 12:26 PM on October 31, 2010 [13 favorites]


Hi, I'm a Tea-Partier
posted by homunculus at 12:27 PM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think I read someplace that their permit put an estimated crowd size at 25,000. The crowd was ten times that size. Hard to plan for that kind of thing, sometimes.

I wasn't expecting jumbotrons, but loudspeakers down to at least 12th Street would have a prudent (and relatively inexpensive) gesture to make. As it was, the AV equipment stopped right at 7th Street and the most popular chant where I was standing was "Louder! Louder! Louder!"

Stewart and Colbert have an audience of millions; 200K+ people said they were planning on coming on Facebook. Even if you discount half of that, that means they should have extended their AV support at least another three blocks west. If they had overestimated attendance, it just would have meant that tourists down by the Washington Monument would have overheard the rally. And if not, well, people who had traveled for hours to actually attend the rally could have done more than just wave signs and dress up in costume.
posted by longdaysjourney at 12:28 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who will YOU vote for? Viacom or Fox?
posted by edgeways at 12:32 PM on October 31, 2010 [19 favorites]


there is nothing ground-breaking about this.

The content was ground-breaking. The quality of message was ground-breaking. The sophistication of material was ground-breaking. The execution of a rally of this nature on this scale is ground-breaking.
posted by uraniumwilly at 12:35 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


You should have expected jumbotrons. All the real rallies get them.

No, seriously.

There were jumbotrons at the March For Women's Lives back in '04, which is the most recent big march on Washington I remember well. (I suddenly feel very old.) I also dimly recall going to another big rally on the Mall against the war around that time (maybe in the fall of 2002?), and yep, there was a jumbotron at that one, too.

There were also jumbotrons at the New York installment of the February 15, 2003, protest against the Iraq War at the UN. I'm sure there were jumbotrons at other F15 protests, that was just the one I was at. At that protest, the issue was that there were so many people most attendees couldn't even see the jumbotrons, not "omg who was supposed to call the AV rental place...? oh. shit..."
posted by Sara C. at 12:35 PM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


uraniumwilly, my answer to you is:

No.
posted by Sara C. at 12:36 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Haven't seen a photo yet, but sign of the rally has to go to the six-year-oldish girl wearing a princess dress and a tiara whose sign said I WANT MY TEA PARTY BACK.
posted by kipmanley at 12:36 PM on October 31, 2010 [15 favorites]


This is actually the nerdiest of them all.
posted by JaredSeth at 12:37 PM on October 31, 2010 [12 favorites]


The execution of a rally of this nature on this scale is ground-breaking.

I will admit that a Senior Vice President of Marketing giving the go-ahead for something like this to happen is, in fact, groundbreaking.
posted by griphus at 12:38 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


naoko: This South Park-ian "everyone sucks equally, and I have identified the exact middle as the appropriate place to be" attitude is really disappointing coming from someone who is usually able to cut through both sides' bullshit while still acknowledging that, you know, our side is better.

The idea that he was taking a middle-of-the-road stance as if it were some new, sudden, turncoat thing is not really borne out by the evidence. His show books conservatives constantly, as does Colbert's, and in fact I think you could argue that more conservatives or "middle-of-the-roaders" appear on those shows than any bearded, wild-eyed Marxists.

If you don't think the kid gloves that Stewart handles those guests with aren't of the same stripe as his rally speech, I'm not sure what you would expect a bomb-throwing Jon Stewart to be like. Did you expect him to start reading What Is to Be Done? from the podium?

I appreciated his sentiments, but the reality is that we are not all getting along, even if we are still managing to drive in rush-hour traffic without pulling guns on each other (not the greatest metaphor, there, anyway).

gompa: Canada respectfully submits its history as polite refutation of this point.

Canada != United States, most of all in terms of political history and identity.
posted by blucevalo at 12:39 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think I read someplace that their permit put an estimated crowd size at 25,000. The crowd was ten times that size. Hard to plan for that kind of thing, sometimes.

As per the first link: "Comedy Central's permit for the event said it was expecting 60,000 people, though, as the Wall Street Journal notes, it ordered enough port-a-potties for 150,000."

And for people who enjoy such things, the right is now full of pseudo-scientific analyses purporting to debunk CBS's methodology using photos and maps.
posted by chortly at 12:44 PM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


This was a huge poke in the eye to corporate media, Viacom's participation notwithstanding.

A telling point was when they showed a list of all the "news" organizations that forbade their employees from participating.

It's nice to see we have real leftists like Sara C. to chide us on what real political activism is and who has actually been to real rallies. I stand in awe at your real political activism. I only hope your fervent efforts will improve the lives of all us media dupes.

To put it another way: do you think Glenn Beck held his rally because he cares so much about American patriotism and all that stuff?)

Glenn Beck? no, Jon Stewart, yes. merely because he is in the media does not make him a money grubbing tool. Perhaps you have never watched his show.
posted by Max Power at 12:47 PM on October 31, 2010 [17 favorites]


It's almost as if Stewart and Colbert are trying to steal some of the energy from a new competitor who rolled his fame into large concerts, or something.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:47 PM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


"If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you." -Oscar Wilde.

I would submit that this didn't go too well for dear old Oscar in the end.
posted by mykescipark at 12:47 PM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Viacom made a shitload off this in ratings.

The cost of putting this on easily reached into the $Millions, if not more. I'm not sure that they'll pull a profit from it right away.

Also, it's absurd to call the rally's political message "a failure" simply because a large corporation was involved. As far as I can tell, Viacom realized a long time ago that it was to their advantage to let Stewart do whatever the hell it was that he wanted. Stewart says what he wants, and Viacom's ratings go up. It's a win-win situation.

Unless Viacom's executives were marking up Stewart's speeches with a red pen, I really don't see the problem here.
posted by schmod at 12:48 PM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


I almost can't wait to see Beck's response. Sideshow politics.
posted by codacorolla at 12:51 PM on October 31, 2010


True political disagreement will never be civil. That's the point.

As usual, Ames knocks it out of the park.
posted by clarknova at 12:56 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was there. So I guess I can comment with some random observations:

• Couldn't hear or see anything. Too many people, not enough PA. Jon and his crew are TV folks, so they knew how to set up for the cameras, but the people on the ground got short shrift. They should have hired the events folks who did the PA & video work for the Oct. 2nd One Nation March--at that rally you could clearly hear the speeches on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial all the way back to the Washington Monument.

• Crowd was polite, even when it got really, really tight. A really mixed crowd, I think everyone within the Comedy Central demographic within Metro distance said "Hey! Free Comedy Concert! Let's go." And the Reddit folks were there in force. A lot of Waldoes, too.

• Speaking of the Metro, this event really put a strain on service. Trains were so packed that people were riding in the opposite direction to the end of the line in hopes of getting seats. After the fourth train pulled through packed to the gills, we gave up. I drove in (from Bethesda) and we parked at Arlington. Street traffic wasn't bad at all, but after the event, leaving D.C., the Baltimore-Washington Parkway was a mess for about two hours.

• I had to watch the thing online today to see just what it was I attended. I thought Jon did great. I agree with what he said. I believe they probably got wind of Beck's thing and decided to do this Rally as an answer to that. Once they sold the idea to Viacom, sure, the marketing department steps in and you get... a live three hour comedy show broadcast with commercials. But that doesn't make it wrong... nor lessen what Stewart said. I thought his end speech was inspiring.

• I can even imagine a bet between Stewart and Colbert as to whether they could out-Beck Beck and get more peeps to show up. I'm glad they did. Jon told no lies and said some pretty strong stuff... against the media. It's pretty meta when you think about it. I read somewhere that the only reason The Daily Show and Colbert Report can get away with what they do is because Viacom doesn't have a news division.

• It's interesting to me that the National Mall wikipedia page has already been updated to mention this Rally, whereas Beck's is no where on the page.

• It was a little disappointing to drive 7 hours from Upstate NY and stand around on the site and miss the show entirely, but I'd probably do it again. I'm kinda goofy that way. I actually enjoyed hanging out at the Lincoln Memorial and watching all the different types of people pose in the same way at the same place for pictures. It was heartwarming. And listening to Jon's talking points which echoed this diversity/shared experience meme in exactly the same way was heart-warming as well.
posted by valkane at 12:56 PM on October 31, 2010 [15 favorites]


A telling point was when they showed a list of all the "news" organizations that forbade their employees from participating.

Not really. Since the rally was sponsored by Viacom and created basically as a promotional event for a television show, there are probably all kinds of FCC rules and company policies that could be violated in that situation. Especially considering the degree to which social networking could become involved.

Also, I'd imagine that members of the news media are generally discouraged from openly participating in political activism of any stripe. It's just that the two groups don't naturally cross paths anyway, since there is such a culture of "moderateness" in American journalism.
posted by Sara C. at 12:58 PM on October 31, 2010


Also, I'd imagine that members of the news media are generally discouraged from openly participating in political activism of any stripe. It's just that the two groups don't naturally cross paths anyway, since there is such a culture of "moderateness" in American journalism.

Never watched FoxNews, have you?
posted by hippybear at 12:59 PM on October 31, 2010 [10 favorites]


hi. i'm the one who has never seen either jon stewart's or stephen colbert's show. for whatever reason, i flipped on the rally yesterday. at the moment a gentleman was standing on stage singing 'peace train.' i was puzzled for a few seconds because i didn't think cat stevens still did public performances. and then i was excited because holy shit oh my god wtf THAT'S CAT STEVENS! and then either colbert or stewart had the nerve to interrupt him. aarrrggghh! but wait ... holy fuck! it's ozzy! doing crazy train! and then either colbert or stewart had the balls to interrupt him. but wait! now it's the o'jays and ... oh, crap. too bad they suck (because that song is wonderful).

whatever. i watched from the time i turned it on until it dispersed, and listened to some of the post-rally callers on c-span. i neither saw nor heard anything groundbreaking, and most likely won't be tuning in to see colbert or stewart on the air. but i actually enjoyed what i saw, and was glad that it happened.

but i still want to hear cat finish peace train & ozzy make it through crazy train.
posted by msconduct at 1:00 PM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


The cost of putting this on easily reached into the $Millions, if not more.

It's actually not all that expensive to organize something like this. It's the sort of thing nonprofit groups do all the time. For a mega-corp like Viacom, this is chump change.
posted by Sara C. at 1:01 PM on October 31, 2010


I didn't say anything about the rally having "substantive political effects" on Tuesday. Another example of you, nasreddin, changing the original discussion so that you can emerge triumphant. It's really petty--if you disagree with the content of my comment, that's fine, but don't put words in my mouth and then turn around and say that I'm clearly wrong because x, y & z.

I don't know what the effects of the rally will be (nor do most commentators if the links in the FPP are anything to go by), but I know it was heartening for me and I'm sure the hundreds of thousands of other participants to see that yes, you can avoid shrill political "rhetoric" and promote a different kind of American political discourse, one where we acknowledge that contexts differ, that America is pluralistic and confusing and competing but that, nonetheless, there are certain ideals we who are neither Marxists nor Neo-Cons can agree on. That the Fox News/Tea Party/Glenn Beck shit is more of a shtick than Stewart and Colbert could ever hope to achieve yet simultaneously deeply damaging. Of course there is some preaching to the choir here, but in a country where (speaking for myself and people in my generation) it is so easy to get depressed and worn out and *stop caring*, it was fantastic to see so many people amped up.

A lot of people call this no more than celebrity glorification, and you're entitled to that opinion. But it's an opinion, and more likely than not, you weren't present. I love Stewart and Colbert but I don't have a TV/am in graduate school (though I love TV shows--don't get mad!) so I don't watch them regularly. I'm also no more tempted to go out and buy "Earth" than I was before (which is to say, not very). So I guess the Viacom thrust for media superiority has failed on me, since I'm still as big a fan of these two as I was before attending the rally. I suspect that is largely the case for most of those present. Again, choir preaching--I won't disagree that this happened to an extent. But the power in numbers and the sense of solidarity (as silly as it sounds) was what I found to be so incredible. It remains to be seen whether this will indeed produce a meaningful discourse-shift, but it would be utterly short-sighted to claim that cultural movements aren't borne out of moments precisely like this one.
posted by nonmerci at 1:02 PM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Reddit did not inspire them to do it.

All that cash donated to classrooms for nothing! NOTHING!
posted by starman at 1:02 PM on October 31, 2010 [23 favorites]


Never watched FoxNews, have you?

I considered a blanket "except for FoxNews" statement, but then I figured the average Mefite would be intelligent enough to understand I wasn't talking about them.
posted by Sara C. at 1:02 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did you expect him to start reading What Is to Be Done? from the podium?

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them would have sufficed for me.

But your point is a valid one, and maybe I've been giving Stewart and Colbert a pass for too long, and it was silly of me to be disappointed. I don't know.
posted by naoko at 1:05 PM on October 31, 2010


Was it just me, or was most of the content of the rally itself...not actually all that funny? Completely aside from the political angle, I watch Jon Stewart and (to a lesser extent) Stephen Colbert because they are funny. At this rally, I was treated to...Guido Sarducci? Sam Waterston reading bad poetry? Tim Meadows hawking fake products? Seriously?

I understand the "mocking of a traditional rally" aspect of this event just fine - but mockery should be funny, and most of the content of this rally was, to me, not that funny. The stuff that hewed to the Daily Show/Colbert template (the remotes from the correspondents, the interplay between Stewart and Colbert) was great, but the rest of it just felt kinda thrown together and not well thought through.

John Oliver in a Peter Pan suit? Really?
posted by pdb at 1:06 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


John Oliver in a Peter Pan suit? Really?

You watch the Daily Show and you're surprised at the silly? Really?
posted by uraniumwilly at 1:09 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


uraniumwilly -

That wasn't silly, it was a waste of John Oliver's talents. It wasn't so much him in the suit, I guess, but that the part he played in the skit wasn't that great.
posted by pdb at 1:11 PM on October 31, 2010


The 100 Best Signs At The Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear
posted by nickyskye at 1:13 PM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


In that quote, Jefferson expressly said that the Alien and Sedition acts might result in "revolution and blood" and called the supporters of same "delusional." It is pretty far from civil.

Okay, the inflammatory rhetoric from Jefferson and Adams has come up several times in the past couple and you guys can just stop now. Two candidates once ran who loathed each other and their political views; they doesn't prove anything. They didn't have a Congress that threatened to filibuster even close to as much as this, they didn't have 24-hour cable news networks spinning everything in the dumbest directions possible, and they didn't have one network devoted entirely to banging the drum for one side. They were still able to get things done.

History repeats, but it never repeats exactly. Jefferson had difficulties with handling his opponent and with running the country just as we do now. That doesn't mean things aren't bad now. It don't even mean that things aren't worse now, although whether it is or isn't is not really relevant.

I'd also like to tell the people claiming "Viacom" as being behind this to give it a rest. They might have provided the funding and the corporate cloud and the people and the equipment, but despite all that it seems obvious that they had nothing at all to do with the message. If there were an overt political message, it would have been a much angrier rally.
posted by JHarris at 1:14 PM on October 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


The event wasn't flawless. My wife and I are both big fans and we laughed and cried. Sometimes it was a bit too goofy, like the Oliver thing, agreed. But for a rally of this nature, we thought, for the most part, it just killed.
posted by uraniumwilly at 1:15 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


JHarris - as someone who is familiar enough with The Daily Show and The Colbert Report but doesn't watch regularly, didn't attend the rally but has friends who did, works in media, and has been following this in a sort of disconnected way since it was announced:

My prevailing understanding of this event is that it is massively tied in with those two television shows, Comedy Central, and the media corporation that owns them. If the intention was to organize a non-political anti-rally that just so happened to hire Stewart and Colbert to speak or emcee or whatever, and not a branded corporate tie-in event, it failed. Bad.
posted by Sara C. at 1:19 PM on October 31, 2010


we are not all getting along

Oh yes we are, Mr. or Mrs. Memory Loss. You had have been there in the 60s and 70s. If this rally had taken place in 1970, there would have been construction workers and other "patriots" wading into the crowd with clubs and crowbars on one side of the demonstration, and "Yippies" and worse breaking off and tearing down sidestreets trashing storefronts on the other, while cops on horseback destroyed property, clubbed heads, and manhandled girls in mini-skirts. In the 60s, American citizens were planting bombs in public buildings, murdering Freedom Riders on lonely country roads, shooting presidents, candidates and political organizers. Family gatherings broke out in screaming matches, you could get beat up for looking too hip, or too square, for wearing an American flag, or waving an American flag. It was a total outbreak of assholedom on a scale it's probably difficult for younger people to appreciate (in China at about the same time, the assholedom was so extreme, millions were dying). You know that tea bag guy stomping on that woman's head? That wouldn't have even made the inside pages of a suburban shopper in 1970, much less have been a shocking scandal. It was a violent, crude, and idiotic time -- with a great Top 40, at least until about 1969.
Our political disagreements now are pretty darn civil by comparison.
posted by Faze at 1:20 PM on October 31, 2010 [72 favorites]


I'd also like to tell the people claiming "Viacom" as being behind this to give it a rest. They might have provided the funding and the corporate cloud and the people and the equipment, but despite all that it seems obvious that they had nothing at all to do with the message. If there were an overt political message, it would have been a much angrier rally.

The beauty of it is that Viacom didn't need to have anything to do with the message. It's a classic "build it and they will come" situation.
posted by nasreddin at 1:22 PM on October 31, 2010


I thought about going, I really did. But... I'm 5 mos. pregnant. Clearly, the port-a-potty access would not have been sufficient for my needs.

Very, very glad to find clips online wherein I can pause them to take a pee break.

Now if you'll excuse me, I just read this whole thread and I really gotta go.
posted by sonika at 1:28 PM on October 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Okay, the inflammatory rhetoric from Jefferson and Adams has come up several times in the past couple and you guys can just stop now. Two candidates once ran who loathed each other and their political views; they doesn't prove anything. They didn't have a Congress that threatened to filibuster even close to as much as this, they didn't have 24-hour cable news networks spinning everything in the dumbest directions possible, and they didn't have one network devoted entirely to banging the drum for one side. They were still able to get things done.

The filibuster in the contemporary sense did not exist back then, but as far as media politics are concerned? You better believe it was just as bad. Read Jeffrey Paisley's The Tyranny of Printers for a taste of what it was like to be a Democratic-Republican in 1798.

Glenn Beck? no, Jon Stewart, yes. merely because he is in the media does not make him a money grubbing tool. Perhaps you have never watched his show.

The sincerity or personal ethics of the media figures involved are irrelevant. Viacom makes money either way.
posted by nasreddin at 1:31 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


...If this rally had taken place in 1970, there would have been construction workers and other "patriots" wading into the crowd with clubs and crowbars on one side of the demonstration ... .

speaking of the 70s & opposing factions, where were the rush/glenn beck/hannity crowd? were there counter-"protesters" there?
posted by msconduct at 1:33 PM on October 31, 2010


PS: I totally would have gone with a "BARTLET FOR IS THE PRESIDENT!" sign and three people would have laughed.
posted by sonika at 1:34 PM on October 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


All that cash donated to classrooms for nothing! NOTHING!

Well, besides it being awesome enough on it's own - redditors managed to secure an interview with Colbert by reaching $500,000. There's a guy that pushed it over the top at the last minute by matching funds 4 to 1 when they only had $5,000 left to go. So redditors donated a $1000, he donated $4000 (on top of the money he'd previously donated.)

Whether or not someone sees this as a political watershed moment - it is certainly Generation X and younger feeling their oats and realizing that they can make a positive difference, that their voices can be heard and it's not all just pointless noise and bullshit. For a lot of people - for better or worse - this was their first rally or direct participation in... well, pretty much anything outside of a Team Fortress 2 server or Comicon - or at best donating to the EFF or running Linux because they like bittorrenting things and internet privacy.

There's a lot of people that are new to this kind of idea in general, and with any luck they were inspired and cross pollinated by a the many older folks in attendance who remember things like the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam peace protests and more.

Is it going to change the world? Arguably it already has - but even the smallest breeze changes the world, for it is always changing. Is it going to change the world for the better? Whether or not it's pabulum to stand up and say "Hey, can't we all just get along?" it's been a while since anyone said anything so reasoned and rational on such a large scale - and it's a message we need to hear more often. I personally feel a bit more hopeful. If anything it's nice to know you're not alone.
posted by loquacious at 1:38 PM on October 31, 2010 [19 favorites]



Glenn Beck? no, Jon Stewart, yes. merely because he is in the media does not make him a money grubbing tool. Perhaps you have never watched his show.

This is a comforting thought. He can't really believe that! Gotta be the cash! Wonder if that's what redstate thinks about Olberman.

The 9/12 rally had over one million attendees. Did it convince any of you they were right?
posted by Ad hominem at 1:42 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm with pdb on the rally's aggressive unfunniness. We were at the Mall so we couldn't see or hear anything; when I got home I was shocked that the content was so poor. I'm a Daily Show fan so I expected some silly humor but the rally seemed like something they whipped up the night before, with bad parody songs and worse skits. I found it embarrassing to watch. I'm amazed people are saying it was funny; Anderson Cooper's black T-shirt was funny, but that's really about it.

Putting the terrible antipolitical message aside, it was just a bad show.
posted by gerryblog at 1:42 PM on October 31, 2010


whether or not it's pabulum to stand up and say "Hey, can't we all just get along?" it's been a while since anyone said anything so reasoned and rational on such a large scale - and it's a message we need to hear more often

I don't understand. Obama says that kind of shit all the time. In fact, it's a total cliché at this point.
posted by nasreddin at 1:42 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


PS: I totally would have gone with a "BARTLET FOR IS THE PRESIDENT!" sign and three people would have laughed.

Sonika, I considered going with a sign designed to look like a piece of legal pad paper with "LET OBAMA BE OBAMA" on it. I would have been one of the 3, for sure.
posted by booksherpa at 1:43 PM on October 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


speaking of the 70s & opposing factions, where were the rush/glenn beck/hannity crowd? were there counter-"protesters" there?

I didn't see any. I think you have to round those folks up and give 'em a free bus ride and a box lunch to get them to come out.

Speaking of buses, I guess Huffington's Free Rides From Manhattan didn't work out as planned.

But seriously, with all the ironic costumes and signs, it would have been difficult to tell whether someone was actually supporting Beck or making fun of people who support Beck. The crowd skewed younger than most political events I've been to, and the vibe was more that these were comedy fans, not passionate political protesters for either side. I mean, I'm a Colbert fan, but what does it mean when you adopt a stance that you're supporting the fake-conservative Colbert agenda? I get lost in the irony.
posted by valkane at 1:45 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, wait, I will say one other thing. It is a sad fucking thing for our country that we now equate a strand of political moderateness this intense with "The Far Left". What's even sadder is that people who consider themselves to be on the Left in American politics were so excited about this event.

Hi, Sara. I've been to real actual OMGnoncorporate rallies also. I was at a big one in Washington DC in spring 2009 protesting the war that had a shitload of people at it and apparently did nothing whatsoever to change things. A lot of very serious people saying things that nobody really cared about, not even the people at the rally. I mean, there were speeches and shit, and we all stood there and pretended to listen, but I can assure you that I didn't know as much about politics then as I do now (and everything I know I'd read in an Al Franken book), and STILL those speeches were fuller of shit than anything that I've heard come out of Keith Olbermann's mouth. Not because the people were full of shit — and I frequently felt bad for not respecting the speakers more than I did — but because I think politics is a harder thing than writing a few paragraphs on a sheet of paper, as evidenced by all the shitty speeches delivered by politicians with paid professionals behind them, and because I honestly think that just because you have two hundred thousand people willing to stand somewhere all day doesn't mean the other however million people in the country are going to start taking you seriously.

I was excited about this event because my roommate works for the Colbert Report, and he was on stage operating the right arm of Fearzilla. That's my disclaimer; I am not a completely objective bystander. But I hope you can believe me when I say that I was excited for this rally more because I think it was aiming for the right kind of tone, and Stewart's speech said exactly what it was supposed to say.

Our enemy is not the right wing. Partly our enemy is certain voices on the Right who have in the last two decades been afforded more of a right to say frankly bullshit things without being immediately checked and balanced, but they don't define the right anywhere but in the media. Neither is our enemy necessarily the media, either. I know people in the media who've worked on every level, from coffeegrabber intern to richfounderofnewspaper, and I think that in most cases the people who work in the media are generally good people who kind of want the country to be awesome rather than shitty. Just because an institution works for money doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad institution; Roger Ebert just wrote a wonderful blog post about Hugh Hefner, in which he made it apparent he's convinced Hefner was an earnest, generous man who supported a lot of things that went against the grain of conservative America back in the day. I didn't know a damn thing about Hefner but I'd always assumed he was a sleazebag, and it surprised me pleasantly that Ebert believes otherwise.

What we have to fight is not a single institution, not the Republicans or the Democrats or the Mainstream Media. What we have to fight is the same goddamn force we've been fighting for millenia. It's the voice that says we're allowed to treat somebody as inhuman because they're black, or gay, or female, or Jewis, or Communist, or Tea Party, or rich, or poor; that not only can we disagree with people just because they belong to a certain demographic, but we can discount them as people entirely.

At the time of that rally I attended, I started calling myself an Extremist Moderate. My stance was that I was vehemently opposed to people who refused to listen to the other side in earnest, and to talk to them, positions be damned. My actual positions are pretty left, but I've found in practice that people I politically agree with are intolerant assholes as often as people on the right are. Some of them were even more politically right about things, in my opinion now, than I was then. And I dismissed their ideas because I was so frustrated with the arrogant tone in which they voiced them.

My relatives on my father's side are pretty right-wing. I think some of them are big Glenn Beck fans. I've heard them voice some opinions that I find really icky. But that doesn't change the fact that they're very bright people, and very kind people, and pretty sane people too. Some people talk about their family in a resigned tone, as if they're some kind of embarrassment to be tolerated. Fuck that: My uncles and aunts are incredible. I love the shit out of them. And when I disagree with them, I try hard to listen to what they think about things, and research the things they say. Frequently I realize they've thought more about their beliefs than I have mine, and I'm forced to really research to back up my beliefs.

I'm certain that some people on MetaFilter would be able to sit down with those relatives of mine and convince them that their beliefs are based on some faulty logic, some cleverly fabricated research or story or meme that came into existence decades ago. But how many people with that kind of extensive knowledge are willing to sit down and calmly talk things out with people? So many of us have given in to contempt for the people who disagree with us. And many more of us are enough on their side that even if we don't disrespect, say, somebody's religious beliefs as much as they do, we still sympathize with the rationale behind their disrespect. We don't get many firsthand reports from the people who're bright and wonderful and earnest but get so offended by that attitude that they're not willing to hear any more those people have to say.

I honestly can't think of a single person here, and that includes myself, that I can immediately say has never made a remark that's instantly put me on the defensive. We've got a community of the most consistently brilliant writers I've ever seen in one place, but even we can't consistently deal with alien beliefs without resorting to sarcasm, anger, and outright hatred.

Most of the time I don't mind that, because I'm not that politically passionate, and so enjoy the witty hatred very much. But that doesn't mean I think we're helping things.

This rally was about helping things. I mean, two and a half hours of it was pure silly entertainment. But the message was constantly: We want people to be reasonable. We want people to treat others like human beings. We like everybody, even when they succumb to those occasional moments of insanity.

We should STOP, and here I'm looking DIRECTLY at you, Sarah, we should STOP contemptuously pitying people who were excited about the message of this rally. We should STOP pitying our country for being in the shitty place it's unquestionably in. We should STOP encouraging the voices on either side who trade in petty squabbles and daily outrages. Even when they're right.

Instead, we should start behaving with empathy. Like Stewart said: We should look at a highway and see not a bunch of generic mass-market cars. We should recognize that in each of those little indistinct vehicles is a human being, with an entire lifetime behind him or her; that perhaps that person doesn't come from our background, and so believes different things, and maybe doesn't convey those different things in a way that we'll like.

Yeah. This was a corporate event. It was sponsored by one of the largest media companies on the planet. But that's a good thing. It's a reminder that you can have a message about moderation, about empathy for your fellow man, and still be commercially viable.

I actually think there's a profounder point to be made about the nature of Jon Stewart: If you're dealing with media caricatures, it's easy to get people interested. If you want to be more ambivalent, more sympathetic, more moderate, then you have got to be entertaining, and usually that means being funny. Stewart has raised a generation of college kids who actually go out and vote, and who think about politics in slightly less broad brushstrokes, and he's accomplished it by being very funny about it. He has the gift of being amusing without being a caricature. He picks his targets carefully, he criticizes the left and the right whenever somebody somewhere says something stupid, and he tries to do it in a way that doesn't completely vilify them.

It's made The Daily Show one of the most important parts of contemporary American culture. Jon Stewart makes money. He has viewers. He just got 250,000 people to rally yesterday, and he got them without compromising his message. Capitalism isn't our enemy either. It's kind of a shitty system in a bunch of ways, but that doesn't make the people who operate within it evil. It can be turned to good.

When the rally ended yesterday, I felt really unexpectedly optimistic. Not because I thought it was a brilliant rally — it dragged, it was decidedly goofy, not all of the music was my kind of music — but because I felt, very powerfully, that there are a lot of Americans who really would be okay with looking at things with a little more perspective. I felt more hopeful than ever not that the Democrats would do better or that the Republicans would stop being so not-at-all-what-I-want-America-to-be, but that perhaps the media landscape might start shift away from anger and towards intelligent humor. If we're going to both be intelligent and be popular, we need to somehow be appealing enough that people who don't agree with us will still want to listen. That means being kind to them, and, yes, being somewhat slick and entertaining. Because really, "slick and entertaining" means "doesn't waste our time, and doesn't piss us off". There are a lot of places to be brilliantly unslick and unpleasant, but the mainstream media will never be that place, and if we act like it'll somehow just dissolve and give way to nonentertaining intelligence we're deluding ourselves.

I'm in art school. I'm there to get a degree with a concentration in advertising. I get some people there (and some people further on MetaFilter) who like to bash me for being interested in such a corporate art. And not only do I see an interest in practicing art forms that might not appeal to anybody, I believe I'm going to spend most of my life making things that deliberately aren't looking for every person on the planet to appreciate them. I got my start in fiction writing and free verse poetry. Talk about noncommercial. But I don't think that being commercial necessarily means sacrificing your beliefs. You have to somehow fit them into the form, whether it's a 30-minute news show or a 30-second TV ad, and that means that you're constrained in certain ways. But within that form you're free to do whatever you want. It's like writing a sonnet. You can write 14 lines of meaningless shit, or you can write 14 lines that stick in somebody's heart forever. The constraint of advertising is that no matter what you do, it has to be really popular. But you can figure out ways to do popular things that are still intelligent and moving and sympathetic and get people to do things they've never do before. I think it's a mistake to dismiss the people who're trying to do that just because they're also out to make money.

So I was excited about the rally. I had a fun time there. I think it was a good thing for the nation, even if it wasn't necessarily going to push in every single political direction I want to push in. I loved the people who were there. I loved that a lot of the media reaction to it dealt with its message of media excess. I didn't mind that most of it was trying to have fun first, push message second.

Sara, I hope you don't think this is my damning you as a person or suggesting your beliefs are anything other but intelligent, but I think you're part of the problem. I think you're stuck thinking things in a way that are simultaneously correct and completely not about to convince anybody not already on your side to join you. I don't think that "being right" should be where your political ambitions end. I think you need to start targeting "right and also the political mandate." I learned as a surly teen that being right about things doesn't make me happy on its own. And I learned that, luckily, being right isn't completely at odds with having friends.

Let's go and make friends and have fun and save the world.
posted by Rory Marinich at 1:45 PM on October 31, 2010 [162 favorites]


I saw one counterprotester (I think). He was dressed as a sheik and holding a sign that read RESTORE SMUGGITY.
posted by gerryblog at 1:50 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I went. I thought it was entertaining, which is all I was expecting. I didn't go for a groundbreaking event or to show up Glenn Beck and the teabaggers. I went to have fun, and I had fun.

Also, only Jon Stewart could turn that goddamn Tunnel line from New Jersey to NYC into a metaphor for civility.
posted by lullaby at 1:53 PM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Nasreddin, Sara C, or others who agree with them, could you please say why it's a bad thing in itself that Viacom makes money via advertising for the Daily Show and Colbert Report? Stewart and Colbert have for years been espousing strongly that the country needs a news media and population that responds to nuanced, fact based views instead of kneejerk, fear-driven polemicals. Though this is common sense to most of us here on MeFi, it is not something that drives modern news and this event allows that viewpoint a bit of a spotlight. Good for them for doing that. This guilt by association because their ability to organize comes through having programs on a national television channel (and thus necessarily owned by a very large company) is totally orthogonal with the message.

Also, I'll be honest, I want big companies to have their interests align with mine just as much as I want anyone else's. Capitalism works when, to use a pithy phrase, a rising tide lifts all boats. If doing Good Things (and my personal opinion is that this event was, even with some missteps, ultimately a Good Thing) makes someone money, why should I care? Pure altruism is great, but it's not robust to greed.
posted by Schismatic at 2:01 PM on October 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


There's a lot of people that are new to this kind of idea in general, and with any luck they were inspired and cross pollinated by a the many older folks in attendance who remember things like the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam peace protests and more.

Inspired to do what? The stated point of this "rally" was that it's for being moderate and apolitical. So neat that people who are moderate at the polls but generally not political got to take a nice field trip to DailyShowCon or whatever, but I don't really see how this could possibly translate to any sort of real political participation beyond what these sorts of people are already interested in (voting every 2 to 4 years and watching The Daily Show). I mean, the whole POINT of this rally is that people who are more motivated than that, or who hold actual political views, are a bunch of losers.

Also, cool that they donated half a million to charity in the name of Steven Colbert. But, OK. Lots of people donate money to charity. It's not the first time that has happened. Also charity != political activity.
posted by Sara C. at 2:06 PM on October 31, 2010


Nasreddin, Sara C, or others who agree with them, could you please say why it's a bad thing in itself that Viacom makes money via advertising for the Daily Show and Colbert Report

I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't think it's a bad thing in itself. I don't get angry over advertising in general, and this seems to be a good and non-intrusive form of advertising as far as these things go. My criticism of this rally is coming from a place of genuine confusion over the meaning of an event that seems to take the form of a political protest but whose content is so trite and empty as to be totally nonsensical to me. Viacom's commercial interests are just the most coherent proximate cause I can assign to this otherwise inexplicable phenomenon.
posted by nasreddin at 2:07 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nasreddin, Sara C, or others who agree with them, could you please say why it's a bad thing in itself that Viacom makes money via advertising for the Daily Show and Colbert Report?

Personally? I'm not passing value judgment on the fact. It's just a huge and substantial shift in the way rallies take place -- overt corporate authorization, for one thing -- that it shouldn't be discounted as a peripheral fact. This was monetized from the get-go and that is significantly different.

Maybe I'm playing the victim, or paranoid, but I'm seeing a lot of "if you're not with us, you're against us" bullshit here from people who don't want to own up to the fact that things are different. That this wasn't a Vietnam-style peace rally that they went to, and close to ComicCon with a political message.
posted by griphus at 2:12 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


could you please say why it's a bad thing in itself that Viacom makes money via advertising for the Daily Show and Colbert Report?

It's not, really.

It's just not what political rallies are about.

My disdain has less to do with the idea that Viacom might make some money and more to do with a general disagreement with the whole overarching theme of this event. Probably because I am political, and proud of it, and not terribly inclined to be "civil" or whatever. Especially considering that A) this is not a particularly uncivil time in American politics, and B) there most certainly are malevolent political forces afoot which need to be argued against. Even if that means we have to *gasp* raise our voices at the dinner table.

If you want to connect that with corporate sponsorship at all, I'll say that the stated goal of "being political is lame, we should all just STFU and watch more TV" combined with the fact that this is being sponsored by a huge mega-corporation leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Where was Viacom when millions of people around the world protested en masse against war in Iraq? Why is it that they chose to sponsor a rally about Sitting Down And Politely Shutting Up and not, I dunno, gay marriage or healthcare or immigration or any of the other pressing issues of the day?
posted by Sara C. at 2:15 PM on October 31, 2010 [11 favorites]


The stated point of this "rally" was that it's for being moderate and apolitical.

Did you even listen to Stewart? He's not advocating being apolitical, he's just saying that we don't always have to be assholes about it. He's saying that you can disagree with other people without devaluing them.
posted by octothorpe at 2:15 PM on October 31, 2010 [20 favorites]


I was excited about this event because my roommate works for the Colbert Report, and he was on stage operating the right arm of Fearzilla.

OK, so basically you are not at all political and just dug the chance to be in the same zip code as a celebrity. Woo. OMG I have seen the light. You're right, this rally was AMAZING.
posted by Sara C. at 2:19 PM on October 31, 2010


Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) and Ozzy Osbourne in a musical duel.

Who would have thought?

WIN all the way around!
posted by ericb at 2:21 PM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


OK, so basically you are not at all political and just dug the chance to be in the same zip code as a celebrity. Woo. OMG I have seen the light. You're right, this rally was AMAZING.

Go fuck yourself. I just wrote you a 2,000-word essay explaining exactly why I thought this was important politically, and you zero in on my disclaimer. How is that different from what, say, Sean Hannity made himself politically famous for doing?
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:22 PM on October 31, 2010 [61 favorites]


Everyone is correct here: This was not a vietnam era political rally.
posted by Artw at 2:23 PM on October 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


Octothorpe - except he also apparently thinks that "The Left" has gone "too far" in opposing the Tea Partiers and their ilk. So, yeah, no use for that bullshit, sorry. Even out of the mouth of someone I've had a crush on since approximately the 7th grade.
posted by Sara C. at 2:23 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK, maybe some people are less correct than others here: Not everything HAS to be a Vietnam political rally.
posted by Artw at 2:26 PM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Rory - I disagree with you. It's OK. I'm simply not at all swayed by "now, let's be reasonable and civil and not get angry or anything" as a political rallying point. Especially when it's coming out of the mouth of a pop culture figure at a rally sponsored by a comedy network. I'm also not required to read your 2000 word essay on why politics is stupid and doesn't work.
posted by Sara C. at 2:26 PM on October 31, 2010 [12 favorites]


I mean, the whole POINT of this rally is that people who are more motivated than that, or who hold actual political views, are a bunch of losers.

No it wasn't. Not even close.

The point of the rally was that people aren't actually working to put into action their actual political views, but instead the nation has been drawn into a false fighting stance, with different sides shouting talking points and slogans at each other and making broad-brush assertions about the moral character of those on the "other side" which has created a deadlock in our lawmakers' ability to actually achieve anything which most Americans would see as "progress toward a common goal".

There was nothing at the Rally which amounted to anything close to a takedown of those who are working diligently in their communities (be they local or national) toward the common good, whatever they perceive that to be. There was a great amount of mocking of those who would rather win at the popularity contest and "be right" before all their supporters, but who end up being the concrete traffic barriers blocking any move toward getting anything actually accomplished.

Case in point -- the "Train song" segment began with Peace Train, which was interrupted by "the other side" demanding that Crazy Train was a better song, which was in turn stopped as Peace Train attempted to be played again, back and forth. Neither of those songs ended up being performed in their entirety. Yet Love Train, which was agreed on by "both sides", was allowed to be heard from beginning to end, with much celebration throughout.

That, right there, encapsulates the message of the Rally. Shouting each other down means nobody's music gets played. Agree on something, and everyone can sing along.
posted by hippybear at 2:26 PM on October 31, 2010 [28 favorites]


nasreddin and Sara C, the fact that the rally wasn't about what you wanted it to be about doesn't mean it wasn't about anything. It was about puncturing the false image of our national discourse created by a media system that has a vested interest in keeping us at each other's throats. The Daily Show and the Colbert Report are both all about exploding a stupid, sensationalist narrative that the rest of the media perpetuates. The rally was a way for members of the public, who don't have their own TV shows or any other way to say it, to join into that counter-narrative: to say:

"All this stuff being pushed at us about who we are and how we're supposed to feel about each other is laughable garbage. We reject your efforts to inflame us and make us hate each other. You are not about us, you do not depict us, we're not playing your game, instead we're going to come out here, make fun of you and call you on your bullshit."

At least that's my reading.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:27 PM on October 31, 2010 [26 favorites]


In fact i think now I'll just bang my head against a desk repeatedly.
posted by Artw at 2:27 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if this has been mentioned yet, but here's a visual comparison of crowd sizes between Glen Beck's rally and this one that I found interesting. And before you tell me it's not the size that counts, yes yes I know, but that's not the point, the point is those who stand behind sanity in politics have a stronger voice than those who seem to support the opposite. It's about hope not peener sizes.
posted by tybeet at 2:28 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Rory - I disagree with you. It's OK. I'm simply not at all swayed by "now, let's be reasonable and civil and not get angry or anything" as a political rallying point. Especially when it's coming out of the mouth of a pop culture figure at a rally sponsored by a comedy network. I'm also not required to read your 2000 word essay on why politics is stupid and doesn't work.

But that's not what I said. I said that blindly dismissing earnest people who care a lot about politics is going to alienate them and make them tell you to go fuck yourself. I also said that a part of the problem with the media is that they'll ignore the ACTUAL message to focus on the part that lets them blindly dismiss people.

Ironically, you ignored my actual message to blindly dismiss my earnest message, which alienated me and made me tell you to go fuck yourself.
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:28 PM on October 31, 2010 [30 favorites]


Um... and perhaps it's worth pointing out, this wasn't actually a political rally. Not in the way most people picture one. Just like The Daily Show isn't actually a news show in the way people picture one. Just because you think a show or an event should be one thing doesn't mean that's what it actually is. It was pseudo-political, or meta-political, or possibly just a good time being held by the hosts of two not-hugely-watched television shows (2 million viewers, on average)... But it wasn't a March For A Political Cause. It never was designed as such, and lamenting that it wasn't that may signal a basic lack of understanding or possibly hopeful projection of personal desire onto a screen that wasn't actually blank to begin with.
posted by hippybear at 2:30 PM on October 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


Sara C. "Why is it that they chose to sponsor a rally about Sitting Down And Politely Shutting Up and not, I dunno, gay marriage or healthcare or immigration or any of the other pressing issues of the day?"

Yeah, okay, I see that we totally disagree about the message. Though not the deepest point to be made, my take on what they said is that just because someone is totally and completely wrong about opposing gay marriage doesn't mean that they are an unknowable other. That passionate disagreement should still be civil, not necessarily in that it doesn't involve shouting, but in that people are still people, complex histories and all, not two dimensional caricatures of good and bad. This is so in line with what Stewart talks about all the time that I feel like I'd have a hard time extrapolating this particular event into a sign of the nature of corporatized political rallies.
posted by Schismatic at 2:32 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


you can disagree with other people without devaluing them.
posted by octothorpe at 4:15 PM on October 31


Recognizing the fact that many of your political opponents would just as soon kill your sorry ass as debate you on salient points of policy isn't devaluing them, is it? After all they're the ones with the liberal hunting licenses and the well-documented eliminationist jargon going on, right? The liberal hunting licenses and whatnot?

Sure, bring on the rational conservative viewpoint, just don't forget the morons posing with their guns cocked on their hips all over the internet.

They operate from a different perspective, to put it charitably.
posted by metagnathous at 2:36 PM on October 31, 2010


I'll quote myself, because apparently 2000 words is too much to post online without getting tl'dr'd:

I think you're stuck thinking things in a way that are simultaneously correct and completely not about to convince anybody not already on your side to join you.

I don't think that "being right" should be where your political ambitions end. I think you need to start targeting "right and also the political mandate."
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:36 PM on October 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Sara C, you're being really unpleasant.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:36 PM on October 31, 2010 [32 favorites]


The point of the rally was that people aren't actually working to put into action their actual political views, but instead the nation has been drawn into a false fighting stance, with different sides shouting talking points and slogans at each other and making broad-brush assertions about the moral character of those on the "other side" which has created a deadlock in our lawmakers' ability to actually achieve anything which most Americans would see as "progress toward a common goal".

If that's so, then I'm exactly right when I characterize the rally as being an outdoor Con for people who know little or nothing about politics and don't care to start now.

Because, yes, of course people are actually working to put into action their actual political views. People do it all the time, every day. It doesn't get a lot of press, because it doesn't make a neat little story infotainers can latch onto.

And, of course, the nation has NOT been drawn into any sort of "fighting stance", at all. We are in a period remarkable for its political moderation and homogeneity. Our two major political parties are virtually indistinguishable from each other. One party actually had a supermajority in the legislature while ALSO controlling two out of three branches of government and STILL managed not to even come up with any sort of strong partisan agenda.

We collectively freak out as a nation about how Ohnoes Scary Partisan the country has gotten because a few people dare to argue against a vocal minority composed of know nothing fascists. Shit, it's unpopular to even point out that said vocal minority IS fascist!

So, no, sorry, I refuse to believe that we are in some kind of watershed moment where the most important "political" "opinion" to hold is that it is wrong to hold political opinions. Especially when said stance is proffered by corporate media.
posted by Sara C. at 2:37 PM on October 31, 2010 [14 favorites]


I'm not sure if this has been mentioned yet, but here's a visual comparison of crowd sizes between Glen Beck's rally and this one that I found interesting

The "Capitol to the Monument" quote that's being thrown around was completely incorrect. The crowd was pretty sparse toward the west end of the mall. Doesn't mean the count was off, but that shaded map is a bit misleading. I actually haven't seen any aerial shots from Saturday that show that part of the mall.
posted by schmod at 2:40 PM on October 31, 2010


Note: Everyone needs a hug.

Flag it and move on.
posted by schmod at 2:40 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


"All this stuff being pushed at us about who we are and how we're supposed to feel about each other is laughable garbage. We reject your efforts to inflame us and make us hate each other. You are not about us, you do not depict us, we're not playing your game, instead we're going to come out here, make fun of you and call you on your bullshit."

Well, yeah, I get that that's the message. I'm just astounded at the naivety and superficiality of it.

The purpose of politics is to accomplish goals, right? The reason that Republicans aggressively block Democratic legislation isn't that they're bad people, or that they've bought into some kind of bad message. It's that there's a very concrete set of objectives at stake for them. For many of them, this may be continued corporate campaign funding (which is also a goal for Democrats, of course), but most of all it's a desire to discredit Democratic policies in an attempt to win elections. In fact, in a situation where Republicans are in a minority in both houses of Congress and the president is a Democrat, that is effectively their only option--and it's working quite well. What the Republicans have achieved this session, unlike previous ones, is a tremendous degree of party unity that ensures everyone pursues the same tactics. If the discourse suddenly turns all sweetness and light, this isn't going to change the fundamental structural calculus at the heart of the political system. Probably nothing will.
posted by nasreddin at 2:40 PM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Recognizing the fact that many of your political opponents would just as soon kill your sorry ass as debate you on salient points of policy isn't devaluing them, is it?

I actually bet that nearly none of my political opponents would kill me on sight. Considering the tea party's been around for a year and we haven't had pretty much any deaths attributed to them. You know?

Sure, bring on the rational conservative viewpoint, just don't forget the morons posing with their guns cocked on their hips all over the internet.

To be fair, it's really easy to sound like a moron to somebody. It's impossible to say something without somebody else being able to take the comment out of proportion and mock it. It is our responsibility not to take somebody's comments as anything more than what they are.

They operate from a different perspective, to put it charitably.

That's a really good way to put it! Is it wrong that what you said makes me want to listen to their perspective, and share my perspective without being judgmental, and see what sort of an understanding we reach when we have a nice chat, punctuated with jokes?
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:41 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


If that's so, then I'm exactly right when I characterize the rally as being an outdoor Con

Something like that.

for people who know little or nothing about politics

I would say that's a highly unwarranted assumption

and don't care to start now.

Hmm. Yeah. Well, it's probably true that they're unlikely to come round to your way of thinking anytime soon, I'll grant you that.
posted by Artw at 2:43 PM on October 31, 2010 [22 favorites]


Because, yes, of course people are actually working to put into action their actual political views. People do it all the time, every day. It doesn't get a lot of press, because it doesn't make a neat little story infotainers can latch onto.

So what you're saying is, there are political actions which don't attract much media, just like there are media actions which don't attract much actual politics. What WE'RE saying is, you can have a media event that still says something interesting about politics.

Or, in other words: Vietnam rallies are not the only possible rallies. There are passionate rallies which attract no media attention. There are media rallies which aren't the most serious politically. Neither one is worthless. Generally speaking, when you have 250,000 people in one place, at least a few of them might be worth getting a drink with. You know?

We collectively freak out as a nation about how Ohnoes Scary Partisan the country has gotten because a few people dare to argue against a vocal minority composed of know nothing fascists. Shit, it's unpopular to even point out that said vocal minority IS fascist!

My grandfather is pretty close to being a tea partier. He thinks that political solutions can be solved with votes, that it's fair to give the majority what they want if they vote for it. He thinks it's okay when the majority votes against him that they get what they want, but he thinks the majority's wrong to want those things. And when the political system gets him something that he wants, like things that do something about illegal immigrants, he thinks it's a sign that the system's working.

I disagree with him on just about everything politically, but he respects the system as much as I do. He probably respects it even more. And over the last 5 years, I've spent a lot of time talking to him about why I disagree with him about things, and we've had a lot of great conversations about America that I hope he learned from as much as I did.

I'm not saying you should agree with him, but I'd like you to stop calling him a know-nothing, because he's spent a lifetime reading and thinking and arguing intelligently, and I'd like you to at least think a little about calling him a fascist before you go ahead and do so.

So, no, sorry, I refuse to believe that we are in some kind of watershed moment where the most important "political" "opinion" to hold is that it is wrong to hold political opinions. Especially when said stance is proffered by corporate media.

We're saying it again and again and you're ignoring it. The rally was about respecting people for HAVING opinions, even when you have your own.
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:49 PM on October 31, 2010 [10 favorites]


If that's so, then I'm exactly right when I characterize the rally as being an outdoor Con for people who know little or nothing about politics and don't care to start now.

Can I get an exemption for the 20 or so people I know who were there? Because your statement is absolutely not true for any of them.
posted by rtha at 2:58 PM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


I just finished a book, Difficult Conversations, and maybe this should be, I don't know, if there was a country-wide Read One Book project everyone in the country should read it, because it's about what I think a lot of people think this rally/concert was about: the ability to listen to people we don't agree with and to acknowledge contribution without slinging blame.

Of course that's not happening here in this thread at all, and from an outside observer it looks like the Left eating its own again.
posted by Electric Elf at 2:59 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought it was pretty apparent early on that what was happening onstage wasn't the event. The crowd was the event.

People are creative and funny and unpredictable, and sometimes a little catharsis is a great thing. That's what I took away from it.
posted by kittyprecious at 2:59 PM on October 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


My favorite sign: What do we want? Evidence-based Policy? When do we want it? After Peer Review!

Captures the nerdiness and the moderation all in one, I think.
posted by Maias at 3:02 PM on October 31, 2010 [39 favorites]


I do not understand how something that revolves around people "being civil in political debate" is being vilified. I really don't. I, personally, think rallies revolving around "being kind" and "being charitable" and "being sensible" could also work. Even better if there were celebrities and musicians that people look up to and respect spouting these slogans. I frankly don't care if it's not like a "Vietnam era political rally." This means nothing to me. I wasn't alive then, and even if I was, I would not have gone to a rally. I would have voted and donated and talked to my friends and family about my viewpoints (and possibly gone to Canada, if I were male), but I am not considered "political" because I am not loud and prone to public gestures. Many people aren't. Many people would rather rally around virtues such as "civility" than around specific political platforms. If that virtue happens to be sponsored by Viacom for their own selfish reasons, I don't really care. I would rather our corporate evil overlords sponsor good things or neutral things rather than bad things.

To me, what was "amazing" was that a lot of people like me, who are not classically political, believed strongly enough in political people being a little bit more polite that they went to a rally about it. There is the left, there is the right, and there are the people who really wish everyone would simmer down and stop being so damned proud of themselves for holding such strong positions so we could get something done. How often does that last group get a rally? Being quieter does not, in any way, equal being thoroughly uneducated. To say that all those hundreds of thousands of people wanted was to be in the same area as Stewart and Colbert is dismissive, unprovable, and just as rude and inaccurate as saying that all the left wants is Death Panels and socialism or all the right wants is, I dunno, Sarah Palin for president.

The point of the rally was not to NOT hold political opinions. It was to hold whatever political opinion, and be polite while doing so. And if someone wants to call it an "outdoor con for civility that happens to follow the same format as a rally," I'm okay with that.

I have never seen an argument that a lack of civility would improve. Not a single one. Resorting to emotion to prove your argument is usually a sign that you have lost, or will lose, or, at least, will not convince anyone of anything. It is not some sort of badge of honor, that if you really, really care about something, and you're really, really right that you are rude and abrasive and proud of it. Does anyone think raising your voice at the dinner table (something that, in fact, is not really hugely rude in the first place) really convinces anyone else at that dinner table of anything, other than that they shouldn't talk politics with you? The fact that this is not the "rudest" period in history is irrelevant. Something does not have to be a superlative to be too much.
posted by wending my way at 3:05 PM on October 31, 2010 [17 favorites]


The purpose of politics is to accomplish goals, right? The reason that Republicans aggressively block Democratic legislation isn't that they're bad people, or that they've bought into some kind of bad message. It's that there's a very concrete set of objectives at stake for them. For many of them, this may be continued corporate campaign funding (which is also a goal for Democrats, of course), but most of all it's a desire to discredit Democratic policies in an attempt to win elections. In fact, in a situation where Republicans are in a minority in both houses of Congress and the president is a Democrat, that is effectively their only option--and it's working quite well. What the Republicans have achieved this session, unlike previous ones, is a tremendous degree of party unity that ensures everyone pursues the same tactics. If the discourse suddenly turns all sweetness and light, this isn't going to change the fundamental structural calculus at the heart of the political system. Probably nothing will.

nasreddin, you are one of my all-time favorite people on this site, and you've introduced me to a whole lot of writers/essays that changed the way I look at political systems, education, and the workplace. But I think you've missed the tone of the rally.

Stewart's speech was not about being a lightweight politically, or about letting people get away with saying bullshit. Light, but no sweetness.

I don't think he's saying "let's get totally serious", because he's a comedian, but he IS saying that the political conversation the media holds SHOULD BE ABOUT the fundamental structural calculus. Stewart's addressed that very issue on his own show. We shouldn't talk about stupid, pointless trivia, which happens every day and is forgotten every week and so gives the American people a knowledge of events which aren't significant and don't matter. We should talk about the important structural problems in America, and which people they hurt, and WHY they hurt, and paint a picture of how the system fails and what could possibly fix it.

That's why the rally was about "restoring sanity" rather than something more overtly political. This wasn't a political rally so much as it was a media rally. It was less about politics at all (hence why they weren't mentioned; hence why you think it was politically lightweight) and entirely about how the media presents the world.

Don't agree with me? Then why was Colbert's antagonist all pro-fear? And specifically pro-fears-that-don't-exist? He was the voice of people talking about meaningless things instead of the important problems. Look at the way the writers wrote the event to get the best analysis of what The Daily Show's intent was.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:12 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Probably because I am political, and proud of it, and not terribly inclined to be "civil" or whatever.

And look how well that's been going. Look how many people in this thread alone you've convinced with your willfully distortive, aggressive dickishness.
posted by dirigibleman at 3:13 PM on October 31, 2010 [18 favorites]


Rory, I read stuff from a conservative/libertarian perspective every day. I disagree with them at about the same rate that I disagree with people on the left. I think Radly Balko is doing excellent and essential work on behalf of all Americans. I'm not at all a partisan in that respect.
But there's always those aggressive ill-informed people out there who think of us all as dirty fucking hippies., worthy of slaughter.

What do you do about them?

The problem comes down to one that is driven by wealthy media conglomerates. How do you deal with that? I don't know, just want to live my life as best I can. I'm very liberal in many ways, but feel that nothing out there really represents me and mine in any meaningful way; but there are a lot of hostile people out there who think that me and mine are the enemy and would hurt us.

Balloon Juice kind of falls short; so does FDL, though I read both; - my overall sense of things is that there really isn't any kind of solution to be had.

I think we're running up against fundamental realties these days, with little in the way of answers.

How to defuse this bomb?
posted by metagnathous at 3:14 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, but the mere fact that he invited Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam to perform on a nationally televised stage was fucking brave. Worth the price of admission. Stevens was an early victim of the anti-Muslim bigotry we're now seeing everywhere. He was Dixie-Chicked times ten. And he's a great musician.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:23 PM on October 31, 2010 [16 favorites]


fourcheesemac: Yes, I nearly burst into tears when he started playing Peace Train. I know, I'm a stupid unwashed hippie, but that song has deep resonance with me. Hearing him performing that song live in 2010 on national or worldwide television filled me with joy and emotion that was difficult for me to contain.

I nearly teared up again when he wasn't allowed to finish.
posted by hippybear at 3:28 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think civility is a wonderful thing, and there should most definitely be more of it in our political discourse, overseen and facilitated by media that factcheck and call for accountability.

My question, however, is this: What should you do when one side is being either disingenuous or entirely intractable? Is it uncivil to accuse one's interlocutor of arguing in bad faith? In an ideal world, providing a well-reasoned, fact-based argument would sway many people and win them over to your point of view. In so many of the actual issues of the day (e.g. climate change, the health care legislation, or the perennial accusations of "voter fraud" that just happen to center on poor/minority districts) that simply doesn't happen. So, what then?

In short: Civilly inviting your opponent to give his views and listening to them with an open mind is wonderful, but what should you do when those views have no connection to reality, when, to paraphrase Barney Frank, you find yourself arguing with a dining room table?
posted by Bromius at 3:28 PM on October 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Look how many people in this thread alone you've convinced with your willfully distortive, aggressive dickishness.

Wait, I thought your big political cause is all about how we should be civil to each other? I thought you wanted to be kind to people whose politics differ from your own?

Or is that just for Tea Partiers?
posted by Sara C. at 3:30 PM on October 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Rory, I read your whole 2,000 word essay. You're right. Hippybear, so are you. So are the next ten people who posted while I tried to write this.

The rest of you - I respectfully disagree with you. For us, the rally was not about politics. It wasn't about comedy central. I don't even like Stewart/Colbert, although I respect the role they play in the national discourse.

I went, as did family members. Go ahead and paint us as reddit potheads, or idiot college students, or ignorant. You'd be wrong. My stepfather is a loud voice in an international community that, if you're part of it and you speak English, you've heard of him. My brother works in the House for someone you've heard of. Me, I don't do much except do my damndest to teach the difference between science and pseudoscience in an open-enrollment institution of higher education where 75% of our incoming students can't read or do math at a high school level. We fight for rationality in our own, quiet, polite little ways. We all went to the rally and took my kid sister.

We have political opinions. We vote, we write our reps, and we try to be well-read and thoughtful. None of us believe political rallies are anything worth spending time on but some of my family drove twelve hours one way to be in DC yesterday.

There are other members of my extended family who have made us feel so unsafe with their political screeds that we've had to cut off ties. We were close until they started listening to certain demagogues.

My family and I went because we wanted to show up as bright dots on an aerial photo making a bar graph across the mall showing the strength of the people in this country who believe in the kind of civility that Rory has with his Grandfather. This is one of the handful of times I've felt part of my country in the last ten years, and it was worth it. I don't know what Viacom gets out of it, but I know what I got out of it, and I thank them for the gift.
posted by arabelladragon at 3:30 PM on October 31, 2010 [48 favorites]


I think you can talk about the importance of reasoned, civil discourse without claiming that liberals and conservatives have done equal amounts of damage.

I forget what pundit said it, but by making a plea for "Civility" and "Reasonableness" it seems pretty clear, when put in combination with Wednesday's interview, that this was an endorsement for more Barack Obama. He is civility personified, as much as it might pain some of us.

I mean, Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz aside (and lord, are they bombastic), there isn't this kind of hysterics on the accepted left. Note how people like Bill Maher or Rachel Maddow were not included in the crazed montages about fear and loathing. Obama had the most to gain from this rally, and love him or hate him, that's all we could wish for.
posted by fungible at 3:31 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


We should talk about the important structural problems in America, and which people they hurt, and WHY they hurt, and paint a picture of how the system fails and what could possibly fix it.

Well, thank you for the compliment, but I still think this is ridiculously naive. Structural problems are structural precisely because fixing them is difficult or impossible within the limits of the political system. The idea that the citizenry can have a nice talk and then set to fixing them is irrational and shows a lack of understanding of how public policy actually works.

So, for instance, stagnating middle class wages are a structural problem. Why is it a structural problem? Because the realities of the job market are such that there are few countervailing forces (like strong unions) that motivate employers to raise wages, and there are no incentives for them to prioritize wages over executive salaries. And there are good reasons for the decline of strong unions, too: their ability to secure advantageous contracts for their employees was predicated on employers' limited ability to outsource labor, which is no longer the case, and they can no longer promise employers that the rise in compensation will be offset by perpetually strong economic growth (which was the reality until the mid-'70s). Moreover, the aging of the workforce compared to the postwar era has meant that pension obligations are affecting employers now as opposed to being deferred decades into the future.

What will a nice conversation solve here? Do you propose to tell employers to raise wages out of concern for the public good or something? That's not how the economy works, and in fact the political system, such as it is, is designed specifically to minimize reliance on the good will of individual participants.
posted by nasreddin at 3:32 PM on October 31, 2010 [14 favorites]


That said, I'm with the "you want civility, ask the right to go first" crowd on some of Stewart's riff. Over and over again the right keeps showing us not only that they have no regard for civility, no intention to compromise, no sense of common purpose with the full diversity of 350 million Americans, but that they're willing to take it to the next level and use violence -- or at least encourage its use by their loose-screw minions -- to enforce their minority viewpoint on the rest of us.

I would politely, civilly, like to ask the Tea Party Nation to go to fucking hell, or start their own country, which would be the same thing. We have some first principles here that come before civility, and freedom of speech is one of them, but freedom from violent intimidation -- what part of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is unclear to you, Rep. "I want Minnesotans armed and dangerous" Bachmann? -- is another one.

Being polite is one thing. Turning the other cheek is something else again.

My gut tells me they're going to eat themselves alive in the coming couple of years, and the more so if they're in power. I lived through the Gingrich revolution and Clinton impeachment, and I think they're in a much worse position than the '94 right wing was. Watching Joe Miller collapse in Alaska has been instructive and heartening. If McAdams can steal that away from Murkowski (whose victory I predicted in an earlier thread when Miller was way up in the polls), the damage done by the combination of O'Donnell and Miller will be self-evident, and if Reid manages to hang on in Nevada (and I will predict that too, based on reading smart Nevada commentary today and a lot of early voting analysis), that will really be a "refudiation" of Ms. Palin and her mafia gang. It will mean the Rs lost *3* senate seats they could have walked away with. Count in Sestak in Pennsylvania, and you have a hell of a story. Colorado, I can't read. Fucked up. Florida is over, alas. Ohio does not have a teaparty dynamic, nor really Illinois or Wisconsin.

The dynamic has definitely shifted in the last week or 10 days. Early voting numbers are pretty interesting, especially in Nevada and Washington.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:36 PM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


The problem comes down to one that is driven by wealthy media conglomerates. How do you deal with that? I don't know, just want to live my life as best I can. I'm very liberal in many ways, but feel that nothing out there really represents me and mine in any meaningful way; but there are a lot of hostile people out there who think that me and mine are the enemy and would hurt us.

I think wealthy media conglomerates like ones run by the Koch brothers are actively dangerous. Wealthy media conglomerates like Viacom? Not so much. News Corporation? Way dangerous, but it took them a very long time to get that way and I sort of regret that more critical voices weren't aimed at them earlier on. Rupert Murdoch has given in to more immediate threats, but his papers and channels in America have been growing steadily louder and angrier since either the 80s or 90s, I forget which.

With the Koches, you expose them as quickly as possible. Make it headline news. Call it a conspiracy, because it is. Expose them in ways that hurt them financially. They're not doing things to get richer, they're doing things with their wealth, and so you try and target them in ways that'll give them less wealth to spend.

News Corporation is different: Murdoch will push his views if he can, but he'd rather make money. I've heard that he owns some papers in some places that are outright liberal. So in that case, the media makes sure to call them out as early as they seem to be important enough to justify the attention. If they back down and act more reasonable, then you're done with them. If they feign a back down, then go back to their ways, you call them out harsher than you did the first time. You make them suffer financially.

How do you fix Viacom? You join it.

Seriously. That's how it's done. You figure out a way to become a part of it in a way that matters. Media companies are run just as politically as America is, they're just as dirty, but just as in with politics, you have to deal with the filth getting to where you want to be. You climb the ranks the same way, up and up and up until you can really change the thing you want to change.

Those huge conglomerates are as powerful as independent nations. Why are we, the people affected by them, any less interested in their political functions? By who's on the boards, and who might be competing against those boards with a message more to our liking.

With the exception of the conglomerates like News Corp, who're run with an iron fist of a message, most conglomerates aren't politically affiliated with a party. They're open to change. And they're more capable of exacting change than anybody but a Congress member or the President. Possibly they're more so.

Somebody like even Jon Stewart, who's fairly moderate politically, has way more power at a media outlet than you or I do. Wolf Blitzer? Katie Couric? They're titans. And the people who write for them are changing the entire political landscape without our even knowing most of their names.

If your only concern is your personal world, you find a small place and fight for freedom and security there and try to avoid the outside world. If your concern is America as a whole, you try and find the places who are censuring your political voice, and, instead of opposing them, you become a part of them as best you can and subvert their message. If they're too corrupt to possibly change, then you form a group that directly opposes them and get your message out to as many people as possible.

That's kind of vague. I'm sorry. I really don't have enough experience to know how the media works any further. But I know that it tends to be media veterans that start all the campaigns I feel have the most positive impact on the way things work.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:36 PM on October 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


In an ideal world, providing a well-reasoned, fact-based argument would sway many people and win them over to your point of view. In so many of the actual issues of the day (e.g. climate change, the health care legislation, or the perennial accusations of "voter fraud" that just happen to center on poor/minority districts) that simply doesn't happen. So, what then?

I don't have an easy answer to that, but I'm pretty certain that the tendency to be dismissive and belittling and start shouting that they're WRONG is sort of the opposite of a solution. Willful ignorance and active deceit is difficult to combat without patience, knowledge, and a large investment of time. In our day and age of instant gratification, it is perhaps even more difficult. But I do know that as long as politics and elections are seen as a game to be won and not as a group project toward the greater good, we'll likely not get beyond the status quo anytime soon.
posted by hippybear at 3:38 PM on October 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


Eliminationist rhetoric
posted by Joe Beese at 3:39 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's an AIDS activism analogy (note that AIDS activism was one of the most effective movements of the last 40 years or so: they changed the FDA approval process to get drugs approved faster, changed clinical trials to allow for compassionate access, got money for a very unpopular cause, not to mention changing the political dialogue over the disease [actually making it exist at all], moved treatment in Africa from a dream to a reality even if not perfect, and kickstarted gay rights activism).

There is room for both "ACT UP" (radical screaming, no compromise) and GMHC (works with government, compromises). In fact, you need both to get change. So there's really no reason to critique moderate demonstrations if you are more radical— just do your own radical thing to push the agenda forward. That's how change really happens.
posted by Maias at 3:39 PM on October 31, 2010 [17 favorites]


Pshaw on that bullshit, Joe Beese. He expressed an opinion and that was twisted into something far worse than what he said. For fuck's sake, right wing politicians in this country say much more hateful and violence-sympathizing things all the damn time. So do many artists you enjoy and whose politics you probably don't care about. He was Dixie-Chicked, and you (and whoever put some of the bullshit on the wikipedia page) are at it again.

Sad example of a turd toss.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:43 PM on October 31, 2010


whoever put some of the bullshit on the wikipedia page

Ah, yes. I did forget about Wikipedia's well-known conservative bias.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:47 PM on October 31, 2010


In fact, you need both to get change. So there's really no reason to critique moderate demonstrations if you are more radical

Well sure, if the moderates are willing to grant the radicals the right to exist. But as far as I can tell, a group of moderates who think they are as radical as anybody has a right to be, who disagree with the far right but think it's more important to be civil rather than openly fight, and who primarily act to silence anyone to the left of themselves are NOT going to effect any change at all.

There's something to be said for liberal, reformist, within-the-system change. It's not my activist cup of tea, but sure, somebody needs to be in there fighting the good fight. To the extent that this is what's going on, we can all be part of one diverse tactical big tent. Lots of hugs! W00t!

My critique begins when the main objective of said within-the-system reformists is to eradicate their outside-the-system radical counterpart.
posted by Sara C. at 3:49 PM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Sara C., I believe that you have a point to be made, legitimately, about the importance of action vs. mere conversation. Yes, there are times to shut up and DO.

However, when you post an extremely snarky and sarcastic one-liner based on one out-of-context sentence from a long post, and then, when called on it, make a flippant comment about not having to read the whole thing, you derail your own argument. I can't blame people for not listening to your more cogent points when you're busy sniping at them, even though you're probably all mostly on the same side.

If you want to ding people for feeling good about attending the rally when there are More. Important. Things To Do! that's your right. But consider that for some of those folks who had NEVER been to any sort of a rally, this may be the first step for them leading to exactly the kind of political action you endorse.

Which is the exact same point I made last week in the LGBTQ Spirit Day thread...
posted by booksherpa at 3:59 PM on October 31, 2010 [11 favorites]


The benediction by “Father Guido Sarduci” brought me back to the old “Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour”. He was a regular on that show, and this thing adhered to the Smothers Brothers template with the smart comedian / snarky idiot comedian routine and interesting guests. But The Smothers Brothers were bolder and edgier and funnier and had better guests. Sadly, they were taken off the air, despite good Neilson ratings, after their second season.
posted by Huplescat at 4:01 PM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


I recommend Dangerously Funny to anybody interested in the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. It's a wonderful story that makes me wish that show was on DVD.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:03 PM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


naoko: "This South Park-ian "everyone sucks equally, and I have identified the exact middle as the appropriate place to be" attitude is really disappointing coming from someone who is usually able to cut through both sides' bullshit while still acknowledging that, you know, our side is better."

This bothered me as well.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:06 PM on October 31, 2010


Feeding frenzy in aisle troll. . .
posted by stonepharisee at 4:08 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I heard about the Glenn Beck rally, I was powerfully offended by it, because I had attended the 20th anniversary of the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom" in 1983 and that march had had a huge influence on me. It seemed insulting for Beck to try to co-opt that day and what it represented. So I went to the anti-Glenn Beck rally, which was organized by Rev. Al Sharpton. Now, Rev. Al and I have had our ups and downs, but here's what I've learned over decades of going to marches: it doesn't matter who sponsors the event. If the timing is right and the cause is good, the right people will feel moved to march. So I don't care if Viacom sponsored this current march or not. That's not the point. As it turned out, the anti-Beck rally consisted of thousands of civil, happy, proud people of all ages and races. It was a beautiful day and we had a wonderful time and we celebrated the memory of Martin Luther King without being unpleasant to anyone.

I just heard a political analyst say that to change people's political opinions, you won't have any effect by correcting an error with the actual facts- that won't change someone's minds. Instead, you need to move sideways. If someone says "Obama will work for black people, not white people", pointing to statistics won't change that person's mind. You'd do better to say "My mother told me she was afraid that John F. Kennedy would be biased toward Catholics, but he wasn't; so I think I'll trust that President Obama will try to be impartial".

So I'm not sure what to make of Saturday's rally. I'm a *real* leftist myself, so I didn't attend, but I wonder if it's one of these "sideways" things that might have more effect than my righteous anger at the tea party.
posted by acrasis at 4:09 PM on October 31, 2010 [11 favorites]


In short: Civilly inviting your opponent to give his views and listening to them with an open mind is wonderful, but what should you do when those views have no connection to reality, when, to paraphrase Barney Frank, you find yourself arguing with a dining room table?

I think Barney Frank himself addressed this perfectly: refuse to engage and inform your adversary that arguing with them is like arguing with a dining room table. Done and done. In that infamous exchange, Congressman Frank never got nasty (well, other than referring to a citizen as having the mental sense of furniture), he just pointed out that it wasn't an argument worth having and went on with his day. He knew, wisely, that screaming and getting rude (or at least, rudER) wasn't going to help.
posted by sonika at 4:11 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eliminationist rhetoric

In 1989, Cat Stevens said (or didn't say) something he now, either way, clearly seems to regret. Can we please move along.
posted by philip-random at 4:14 PM on October 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Anybody who cares about politics is out canvassing on the Saturday before midterm day. They should have called it "The Rally to Depress Democratic Turnout on Election Day"
posted by Kwine at 4:15 PM on October 31, 2010


stonepharisee: "Feeding frenzy in aisle troll. . ."

Interesting choice of phrasing in a thread about civility.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:20 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wait, I thought your big political cause is all about how we should be civil to each other?

Calling you out on your dickish behavior is not being uncivil.

I thought you wanted to be kind to people whose politics differ from your own?

I don't know if your politics differ from mine.

How many people have you convinced to your side by distorting what they say and flippantly insulting them?
posted by dirigibleman at 4:21 PM on October 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm a bit disappointed that the MeFi post on this get together (belated I might add) is so filled with vitriol.

[ Metafilter: My soap box is soapier than yours! ]
posted by vectr at 4:35 PM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


The first "OMG, FALSE EQUIVALENCY!!!" reaction to Stewart's speech I saw came on Twitter from Keith Obermann, who is the one TV host who most consciously positions himself as the "Anti-Fox" (or at least the only one with decent ratings; Ed Schultz on MSNBC is bombing). Then he re-tweeted dozens of people who agreed with him to give the illusion of a popular groundswell. That's when the last of my respect for him officially evaporated.

Stewart's closing comments were, in essence, a continuation of the theme he started when he told the "Crossfire" hosts (both, the Liberal and the Conservative) "You're hurting America." This is not the "view from nowhere" that much of the News Media is guilty of (some of his closing comments were critical of that too), but imploring the NEWS Media to return to being responsible for informing America, because he, as an entertainer, really doesn't want to do it.

"The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" are entertainment shows, NOT NEWS, and you know what? So is "Glenn Beck". And even though the Comedy Central shows usually have about half the audience of Beck's FoxNews show, they drew at least twice as many people to a Washington D.C. free show. But then, the advertising community already knows their audience is more engaged, the only thing Beck's is more of is gullible (which is great for many advertisers). But the Anti-Beck movement has made advertising on his show PR poison, which is why Fox will never let him have a prime-time hour. (However, Fox's "run of schedule" ad rates are based on his ratings viagra even for advertisers who specifically keep their ads away from him, which is why he still has a show there) The political "influence" of Beck is GROSSLY overstated; his show is a mix of talking points from other sources and 'original ideas' almost NONE of which have been picked up by Conservative politicos. Beck is a career-long self-promoter who's riding the Right Wing wave, not leading it. Hopefully the comparisons of the Stewart/Colbert 'rally' to the Beck 'rally' will help more people to realize it.

Yes, this "corporate media sponsored" event was NOT a genuine rally of a genuine movement; a lot of it was formulated for mass-audience appeal (including the more 'weasel word-ish' parts of Stewart's statement). But "genuine" political rallies were mostly dead long before this summer. And memories of rallies in long-past days are very rose-colored. As I have reminded everyone who wasn't old enough to understand at the time, the Vietnam War protests did NOT end the War. They just helped Nixon get elected, then he didn't end anything until he could get a nice face-saving 'peace treaty' negotiated.

So yesterday America saw a very entertaining show that snuck in a few good messages (and maybe a couple not-so-good ones). It actually was more positive than I expected, considering that it was supposed to be 50% based on Colbert's satirical characterization.

To me, the Yusef-to-Ozzie-to-O'Jays "Train" medley made one of the most surprising points - the '70s were much more sane a period than what we have now. (And the performance of Father Guido Sarducci just reminded me that his act was always much more "considered funny" than laughed at).

Jeff Jarvis (who I disagree with more often than not) had an excellent analysis. (I tweeted that I agreed with him 40% of the time and he replied "@oneswellfoop does that raise my average?")

And I totally disagree that the rally will suppress Democratic turnout. The most important GetOutTheVote work will happen on Tuesday, and it mostly provided a few hours when those of us who were already on the same side (and in my case, already voted) would not get more unnecessary campaign calls. Rush Limbaugh totally agrees with Kwine on that and that's a good sign that the Right is being lulled into a false sense of security.

Final thought: we will not see any more true grass-roots-generated mass rallies in our lifetime; the next big Washington D.C. gathering will probably be something like "The SyFy/Eureka Rally for Science Funding" or "The March of a Million Dads Who Say $#*!", or, sadly,"The Jersey Shore Rally for Snooki".
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:36 PM on October 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


dirigibleman, it seems to me that you are the one being dickish and insulting, here.
posted by Sara C. at 4:36 PM on October 31, 2010


I'm a bit disappointed that the MeFi post on this get together (belated I might add) is so filled with vitriol.

It happens every time intellectual tyrants enter the stage.
posted by uraniumwilly at 4:40 PM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Final thought: we will not see any more true grass-roots-generated mass rallies in our lifetime; the next big Washington D.C. gathering will probably be something like "The SyFy/Eureka Rally for Science Funding" or "The March of a Million Dads Who Say $#*!", or, sadly,"The Jersey Shore Rally for Snooki".

A "true grass-roots-generated mass rally" happens once every few months on the Mall. The only ones I'm aware of that have had top-down corporate sponsorship are the Glenn Beck one and this one.

Now, it may be that this one particular rally was SO MINDBLOWING that it will kill all grassroots activism forever. But I hope not, and it also makes me sad that there are people who consider themselves to be politically motivated liberal types who are cheering for such a thing to occur.
posted by Sara C. at 4:40 PM on October 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


oneswellfoop: your Jeff Jarvis link appears to be dead.
posted by hippybear at 4:43 PM on October 31, 2010


The rally was sui generis in some kind of way, which is enough for me. Its attempt to avoid the usual evangelical nature of some politicians and their followers, media producers or consumers, especially, was certainly laudable. And people getting together - in the flesh - is usually better than the online version of a protest rally.

That said, the two comedians did not come off as very talented. The average mid-sized city improv group could have come together with a less awkward interplay around the Yusuf/Ozzy thing. Amazing what a good team of writers and a nice set can do for an actor.
posted by kozad at 4:47 PM on October 31, 2010


A "true grass-roots-generated mass rally" happens once every few months on the Mall.

And when was the last one that had a real effect, that changed the dialogue, that turned the country around just a little bit on just a single issue?

Sara C., Your perspective is so grossly unrealistic that it sounds almost like a character written by somebody like Mike Judge (who has written some great characters and some not-so-great ones).
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:47 PM on October 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


A couple of stray characters snuck into the Jeff Jarvis link. FIXED THAT FOR ME.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:49 PM on October 31, 2010


"My critique begins when the main objective of said within-the-system reformists is to eradicate their outside-the-system radical counterpart."

Did you watch the event?

It seems as if you are arguing against a real tendency, but I fail to see how this has anything to do what happened at the rally.

I also don't get how people are saying the event is trying to argue that "politics isn't cool" and we should just be passive. These are two guys who do comedy shows about politics every day. One's whole shtick is a parody of Bill O'Reilly, a (former) major political/media guy. And passive? Have you seen their shows? They are both very passionate critiques of our political and media systems. No fight in them? Can you tell me of a more ballsy act by an entertainer than when Colbert ripped into Bush with him sitting 10 feet away at the National Press Club?

If you feel the rally was attacking you, you might be right. But you were being attacked not for your political views, but for the way you express them.
posted by superchris at 4:49 PM on October 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


And when was the last one that had a real effect, that changed the dialogue, that turned the country around just a little bit on just a single issue?

Shouldn't you wait for the afterglow to disperse a little bit before you start using this as an argument?
posted by nasreddin at 4:50 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not assuming any "afterglow" for this event. I'm questioning the "afterglow" some people are still getting from rallies held long ago.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:52 PM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


And when was the last one that had a real effect, that changed the dialogue, that turned the country around just a little bit on just a single issue?

If all other rallies ever have had zero effect on anything, why do you think that this rally will be different?

The turnout isn't unusual. There was no united goal or cause or cohesive message. As far as I can tell no politicians or activists spoke at the rally, and the organizers didn't attempt to endorse any particular political candidate or even any particular agenda. There have even been complaints in this thread that some affiliated sister rallies held in other places allowed a political party to participate.

What single issue would you say that this rally stood for, beyond "calmness and civility"? And if you would agree that "calmness and civility" is the overarching political theme of the rally, what kind of impact do you think that will have on the wider political stage? How will your rally effect change where all other rallies fail to do so?
posted by Sara C. at 4:54 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not assuming any "afterglow" for this event. I'm questioning the "afterglow" some people are still getting from rallies held long ago.

I'm not a big fan of rallies in general, so I don't disagree, but it sounds to me like you're saying that this one will be better at "changing the dialogue" than the others have been. I don't see any reason so far to make that assumption.
posted by nasreddin at 4:55 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


If all other rallies ever have had zero effect on anything, why do you think that this rally will be different?

Because it was organized by maybe the single most popular youth news show. TWO of the most popular youth news shows.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:56 PM on October 31, 2010


Because it was organized by maybe the single most popular youth news show. TWO of the most popular youth news shows.

...and youth news shows have historically been major vectors of political change?
posted by nasreddin at 5:00 PM on October 31, 2010


There have even been complaints in this thread that some affiliated sister rallies held in other places allowed a political party to participate.

No, my complaint wasn't that a political party was allowed to participate. It was that it was a strictly partisan political rally without any real affiliation in attitude or execution with the event it was claiming to be a satellite rally of. It was strict political speechmaking without any call to sanity, or what have you.

I think this may be what others mean when they've suggested earlier in the thread that you're distorting the words of others in order to back up your point.
posted by hippybear at 5:00 PM on October 31, 2010


Because it was organized by maybe the single most popular youth news show. TWO of the most popular youth news shows.

So then why did they need to organize a rally? Why didn't they just tell "the youth" what to think, from the set of their TV show, on television? If the reason this rally is better than all others that preceded it is that there are celebrities associated with it, then why the need to have a rally at all?

By the way, it's actually not at all unusual to have celebrities and pop cultural figures participating in rallies like this. Lady Gaga showed up to the recent rallies supporting the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, for all the good that did anyone.
posted by Sara C. at 5:02 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I went, it was very enjoyable and affirming. I met some great people. Apparently this means I'm a clueless lout who doesn't do any meaningful action -- who knew? At least, the activist organizations I work for and volunteer with will be surprised.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:06 PM on October 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


So then why did they need to organize a rally? Why didn't they just tell "the youth" what to think, from the set of their TV show, on television? If the reason this rally is better than all others that preceded it is that there are celebrities associated with it, then why the need to have a rally at all?

Why do you continue with your assertion that "this rally is better than all other that preceded it". Has anyone in this thread made that statement other than you? And you seem only to be making it because the simple fact that the rally happened and didn't suit your political agenda sticks in your craw, so you have to use hyperbole in order to belittle it.

Take a walk or something.

Oh, and they organized a rally because 1) they're satirists and were lambasting Beck's schtick, and 2) because why the hell not? It's not like Stewart or Colbert go on tour or anything. It wasn't about telling the youth what to think. Those guys don't play that game. They never have, and I doubt they will start anytime in the future.
posted by hippybear at 5:07 PM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


...and youth news shows have historically been major vectors of political change?

The Smothers Brothers were. They were at the forefront of the 1960s.

So... yes.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:07 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Smothers Brothers were. They were at the forefront of the 1960s.

Yeah, and my great-great-great-great grandma wore pants in the eighteenth century, that doesn't make her a vector of change.
posted by nasreddin at 5:10 PM on October 31, 2010


It was that it was a strictly partisan political rally without any real affiliation in attitude or execution with the event it was claiming to be a satellite rally of. It was strict political speechmaking without any call to sanity, or what have you.

Exactly.

So you have decades of overtly political rallies that unite people around easily articulated common causes which are actionable in a political policy sense (repeal this law, keep that one in place, write new laws in support of X widely supported position, etc). Hundreds of thousands of people turn out. Popular entertainers make speeches. Bands play. Noted activists, politicians, and parties get involved. These rallies obviously can never have any real impact on anything.

But a huge media corporation sponsors a rally that unites people around a shared love of a couple of television shows and some vague reformist sensibilities, none of which has much to do with policy at all. The same number of people turn out. Popular entertainers make speeches. Bands play. To the extent that anyone who is actually involved with politics participates, people complain that this is crass political speechmaking, totally against the point of the rally.

So how exactly is the latter supposed to be vastly more successful in influencing politics than the former?
posted by Sara C. at 5:10 PM on October 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


I was at the rally, in part for my job and in part because I wanted to see what it was like. I've been to a lot of political rallies. I've organized them. I've been arrested at them. I was at the 93 March on Washington, among other big marches. My job is trying to make political change in this country on a specific issue. I tend to be very cynical about politics and yet believe strongly in citizen participation as an essential strategy for change.

My train down from NY was full of people going to the rally, signs in the luggage rack and everything. I was venting my frustration to a few friends that these people on the train were coming all of this way for a joke by a TV comedian, and not for a *real* political rally. I was irritated that they would spend money to come all this way for something that wasn't real, or a part of actual political change.

I ended up sharing a cab from the station to my hotel with a family from Connecticut. They had taken seriously Colbert's admonition to come as something you fear, and they were "mice with fully functional human brains" from some Christine O'Donnell speech. They had signs about O'Donnell hating the mouse people, which were very popular as we all made our way to the cab. It seemed like they were generally liberal/moderate folks who watch a lot of political news and are generally appalled by it. They are big Colbert/Stewart fans, they said, and made plans to attend as soon as it was announced. I would not at all call them apolitical. They were combining halloween and the rally in to a chance to be creative, express their concerns with the current political/media absurdities, and have fun as a family. The teenage son was quoting crazy things O'Donnell has said as we rode in the cab. They seemed to me to be avid consumers of political media, and well educated in how to critique it.

That theme held for many of the people I met while I was there. I experienced it as less of a critique of our current political structure and more of a critique of the media and the media's influence on politics. Many signs reference absurd things said and done in the political sphere, and repeated uncritically, even amplified, by the media. Much as TDS skewers media coverage, the people in attendance there were as well.

I was supposed to meet my coworkers, who had the signs that we had printed for the rally, promoting our political cause, but in a very Jon Stewart-referential way. I was never able to make it through the crowd to them. We also had a bus load of people from New York who got lost and then stuck on Metro and got there late. I could hear fine from where I was, although I couldn't see any of the jumbotrons (and yes there were many jumbotron screens) because I am so short. The chants of "louder! louder!" kept rumbling up from the back of the crowd and we'd echo them forward. There were also plenty of portapotties were I was, with no line at all when I left. It's clear there wasn't enough sound system in the back of the crowd, but the closer in areas were well-prepared.

I was surprised at how mixed the crowd was, especially in terms of age. I was expecting mostly college students, and the average age was substantially older. It was also one of the more racially diverse crowds I've seen at a rally. There was definitely that "March on Washington" effect of knowing that everyone else was there for the same thing, and striking up conversations with random people in elevators and train stations. I talked to people from San Francisco, New York, DC, Pennsylvania.

Most of the people I know who were there are people who are incredibly politically engaged. One group did canvassing before the rally for Planned Parenthood. A huge group of folks did GOTV calls for Prop 19 in California after the rally. I know White House staffers who were there and people who work in international health and human rights. The set of people I know tends to skew heavily towards political/advocacy types, true, but I think describing the crowd as in any way apolitical is doing it a huge disservice.

I do think that it was more of a rally about media coverage of politics than about politics itself. I think that's part of what may be reading as apolitical to some folks. A huge numbers of the signs I saw referenced a political topic, but often in a way making fun of the absurd presentation of it. People unleashed their creativity on the signs, and weren't limited to a specific political issue or approach. It was probably the happiest crowd I've ever seen at a rally, I'll say that much. People were genuinely enjoying their participation in the whole thing, and happy to be a part of it.

I'm glad I went, in the end. Can't say I'd fly there from California if there were another one, but if I were on the East Coast I'd likely go again.
posted by gingerbeer at 5:17 PM on October 31, 2010 [27 favorites]


Has anyone in this thread made that statement other than you?

Actual quotes from this thread, hopefully not taken out of context:

"Final thought: we will not see any more true grass-roots-generated mass rallies in our lifetime"

"And when was the last one that had a real effect, that changed the dialogue, that turned the country around just a little bit on just a single issue?"

"I'm not a big fan of rallies in general, so I don't disagree, but it sounds to me like you're saying that this one will be better at "changing the dialogue" than the others have been."

A lot of people who are super optimistic about the rally seem to think that there is something special about this rally that is different from all the others that have come before. I don't think I'm alone in gleaning that from this discussion.
posted by Sara C. at 5:17 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


If all other rallies ever have had zero effect on anything, why do you think that this rally will be different?

I can't find anything in what I wrote claiming that I thought this RALLY would. I certainly didn't think Beck's rally had ANY effect on ANYTHING except giving stupid analysts an "influencer" to point to. It's just nice to see any Mass Media event having as much positivity as this one did, because most of the Media believes positivity doesn't sell.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:18 PM on October 31, 2010


a rally that unites people around a shared love of a couple of television shows and some vague reformist sensibilities, none of which has much to do with policy at all.

The rally I saw was different then the one you saw. A bunch of stuff happened. Some of it was satire, some of it was skewering things that needed skewering, some of it was goofy or smart-ass. The whole rally was smart-ass in tone, actually. But occasionally certain words of wisdom were spoken, some very important things were said that needed to get out there. That was exhilarating.
posted by uraniumwilly at 5:19 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Favorite sign: "God Hates Nags."
posted by kirkaracha at 5:21 PM on October 31, 2010


I think I'm tired of the petty word games, nasreddin. They were famous folk singers in their own right, albeit comedic, encouraged an entire generation of legendary musicians, hosted a blacklisted entertainer on their show and let him sing a song critical of the standing president on a venue where such political criticism simply never happened, they endorsed marijuana in an age when that never happened, and this all happened back when there were three TV channels and a third of the nation watched them.

They had a significant impact on the country, and they were as much a part of the counterculture as the Vietnam protests. And The Daily Show is as much a part of our counterculture today, because — just as back then — working for a major corporation doesn't stop you from being an active element in counterculture.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:21 PM on October 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


A bunch of stuff happened. Some of it was satire, some of it was skewering things that needed skewering, some of it was goofy or smart-ass. The whole rally was smart-ass in tone, actually. But occasionally certain words of wisdom were spoken, some very important things were said that needed to get out there. That was exhilarating.

Uraniumwilly, I'm not saying nothing happened. I'm not saying that no positive anything could come out of this rally. I'm not saying it was bad, or that people had a bad time.

But all the things you're saying are so special about this rally? Every other more overtly political rally that has ever happened in DC has also had that stuff. And, hey, I love satire, love wisdom being spoken, love goofing around, love getting stuff out there, love exhilarating political experiences.

I just don't understand how this rally will be better at creating change than other rallies have been. Especially since it seems to be deliberately apolitical, has little to no participation by people who are in a direct position to change anything, and to the extent that such groups did participate others felt it put a damper on the real message of the event. Which, as far as I can tell, nobody can actually articulate beyond "people should stop being so mean to each other."
posted by Sara C. at 5:26 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


here's a visual comparison of crowd sizes between Glen Beck's rally and this one that I found interesting

The ability to crowd one-third of the Mall is insignificant compared to the power of Barack Obama.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:27 PM on October 31, 2010


All this Viacom shit-talking is reminiscent of grassy knoll/Halliburton conspiracy talk. I'm sure they were happy to take a minor gamble and go along with what some of their popular employees wanted to do, maybe they'd make a buck, but I can't really imagine it was a big enough factor to even be talking about it.




I knew that the rally would be confusing to people, because it was obviously going to be big, but kind of vague, and that would really throw people. "Don't be an asshole" is fairly broad, really. It's very interesting to see the point of the it all played out here in such a crystalline way. I liked it for what it was, a nice idea of people getting together to say that demonization and othering is not really helpful to anyone. Like many people here, I have strongly liberal political views, and I think that many of the beliefs that people on the right (including most of my family) have are highly destructive. What I think is most destructive is the extremism of their polarization and inability to understand different perspectives. Anyone who actually believes that the Islamic community center in Manhattan is a "victory mosque" is far removed from a rational perpective. Sara C., while I'm sure I would agree with your politics more than most, I have to say you're also kind of out of your mind here: "And, of course, the nation has NOT been drawn into any sort of "fighting stance", at all. We are in a period remarkable for its political moderation and homogeneity. Our two major political parties are virtually indistinguishable from each other. One party actually had a supermajority in the legislature while ALSO controlling two out of three branches of government and STILL managed not to even come up with any sort of strong partisan agenda."
I think you could make a fair point that both parties tend to be captive of the political system and it's corrupting influences, but that old complaint of "Republicats" is, I think, a gigantic stretch from reality and beside the point. Or maybe, it is the point. It's a distortion of reality that doesn't really help. It's a good thing to fight for what is right, but the fact that this was a very big rally with no overt purpose besides encouraging civil discourse and having fun doesn't make it worthless or merely a corporate shill. In fact, I think it's wonderfully refreshing and helpful for being just that. That part is beyond and above the politics, and I like that. That's what I liked about the rally. As long as the discourse is so heated and hyperbolic, it's going to be hard for people to break through rationally. If people start actually listening to reason... I can only imagine.
posted by Red Loop at 5:27 PM on October 31, 2010


God, the inauguration was amazing. That is all.
posted by Sara C. at 5:28 PM on October 31, 2010


HEY GUYS I THOUGHT IT WAS REALLY FUN !!!

and I'm frustrated that this thread has gotten pulled into the same 'you dickhead--" "--no, YOU dickhead" argumentation that is the very thing the rally was against, and I'm sorry that some people don't really see what the point of the rally was. But, read what gingerbeer said. It wasn't about politics, but instead it was about the media. It was an expression of frustration that the extremes are the ones who get attention, and the propaganda that is Tea Parties, meant to support the narrative that Obama is a failed president and "real" Americans are the ones who watch Fox News. If you don't care about that, well, sorry. Go do your own rally--this one's for us who are tired of all the anger and screaming and fear that is passed off as news.

THE SIGNS WERE FUNNY, TOO.
posted by meese at 5:28 PM on October 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


Why do you think this is about influencing politics? Good grief.

I was interested in the rallies (both local and in DC) because, personally, I'm sick to death of campaign ads shrieking at me on television, glossy cardstock mailers arriving in my mailbox with threats of death and bankruptcy, and people talking past each other all the time without any real interest in anything at all but having their side "win". I'm a very reasonable person, really. Sit down, talk to me, I like facts and well-reasoned viewpoints. I've had my mind changed about issues more than once after a good discussion.

But if this rally is going to have any influence at all, it will likely not be direct political influence. I don't think that Congress is going to be changed, or that suddenly the various parties will stop tossing around labels toward each other like "socialist" or "racist". If it has ANY effect, it will be that those who went and those who watched will not feel quite so alone in their desire for all the shouting and vitriol to just stop. Not feeling alone may help buttress those wills which have been beaten back by what has been going on. Knowing others agree, en masse, that perhaps the quality of rhetoric is not what it should be... can go a long way toward helping keep people involved who otherwise might just quit participating at all, even at the polling booth.

Now, do I know this will happen? Will it have any effect? I have no idea. But I know I certainly felt a tiny bit vindicated to see the photos of the turnout.

I think, perhaps, that you've been Punk'd, Sara C. You saw something which had the shape and form of a political rally, but it WASN'T a political rally. It was a semblance and a send-up of one. And you're unable to really reconcile the fact that SOMETHING happened this weekend, but that it doesn't conform to any of your expectations. And you're angry about it, and want others to be angry about it too, because it's just not FAIR that all those people were together on the Mall for something that looked like a political rally but which actually wasn't.

Call it a promotional event. Call it a reverse rock tour, where all the people come to the performers. Call it a minor social moment where a lot of people decided to engage in performance art. Call it crowd-sourced parody.

But, for pete's sake. It really wasn't a political rally anymore than a U2 concert is a political rally. They both have some kind of social message and let the crowd leave feeling mildly better about being alive, but neither are going to create real change on their own. If people are inspired by either of them to go do things, great. But to try to analyze either of them and declare that either will be successful in influencing politics... is probably a mistake.
posted by hippybear at 5:33 PM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


My critique begins when the main objective of said within-the-system reformists is to eradicate their outside-the-system radical counterpart.

Who are these "outside-the-system" radicals and what do they stand for? European-style social democracy is only radical because the right has declared that it is - in other words, the right has determined what is radical, and the "radicals" simply adopt their allotted role. The free speech zones where protest is domesticated and neutralized is the perfect metaphor for this, and we should blame the radicals, not the authorities for it. I totally agree that Stewart's pragmatic, non-partisan, non-political moderation is a bad thing, but the contrast between his rally and supposedly real political protest is a false one.

In a way, the falseness of this rally exposes the truth of the supposedly "real" protests, Stewart simply takes the logic one step further. Today's political activism is about self-expression and signaling individual identity - the goal of protest is just to protest and there's something non-political about this. It doesn't really matter what your personal values are, just come to the protest, make your voice heard to signal what identity you have chosen, and that is taken as some kind of victory in itself - the people have spoken. The media covers the event which gives the protesters a kind of official acknowledgment of who they are, their demonstrative self-expression is registered by society. Even though in real protests, people allegedly stand for something, it's still depoliticized because it's about personal identity which is implicitly non-political. The only political consequences of this kind of protest is that society should be organized so that whatever lifestyle it represents should be a viable choice.

This reduces political positions to something more like culture expressed through consumer choices - latter-drinkers vs. NASCAR fans - and Stewart advances this "radical" logic by asking why we need to take our individual preferences so seriously that it makes us uncivil, and difficult to pragmatically solve problems. I think he's actually right about the lack of civility, but not for the same reasons. The framing is that either I take a firm political position which makes me uncivil, or I am a moderate who reaches across the aisle, respects other people's point of view, but I think this is totally false. The lack of civility signals the abandonment of any real political position, it means I've adopted some kind of culturalized self-identity and I am angry because I think that other people are threatening my it. Reducing the political to the personal is the ultimate depoliticizing gesture. A real political standpoint is to say that you stand for justice even on behalf of those who disagree with you, hate you, etc.

We are given a false choice between fighting with specific individuals identified as the enemy, or seeing that the enemy is also a human being just like us, and cooperating with them to get things done. The false belief behind both of these options is that political conflict is a kind of illusory epiphenomenon and the real conflict is in interpersonal relationships where the choice is between eliminating the enemy or co-operating with them. I like the way Zizek paraphrases St. Paul on this: "Our struggle is not against concrete, corrupted individuals, but against those in power in general, against their authority, against the global order and the ideological mystification that sustains it."
posted by AlsoMike at 5:34 PM on October 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


Why do you think this is about influencing politics?

Because it's a political rally? On the National Mall? In Washington, DC? Which is the capital of the United States? And it's being held the weekend before a fairly significant midterm election? And because half the thread seems to think this rally will be Highly Influential in a way those other rallies can't possibly be? And because when you tell people in this thread that the Jon Stewart rally was largely apolitical and was really just a fan convention for a popular comedy TV show held outdoors, they call you a dickhead?
posted by Sara C. at 5:37 PM on October 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


I don't get it with the "it's been as bad or worse" crowd. It's pretty horrific, one would hope we'd be evolving, not regressing. The profusion of mean-spirited, bigoted, and ignorant people in the public square since Obama's election and the microphones they have been given has been totally dispiriting to me. The prospect that my fellow citizens will be offering a rounding endorsement to these bullies and yahoos on Tuesday has sent me into the sloughs of despair.

I didn't go to the rally but I watched online while I worked. I was heartened and cheered to have a reminder that there are at least a few hundred thousand of my fellow citizens who aren't total assholes. In these discouraging days, I'll take my little slivers of hopefulness where I can find them, thank you very much.

it was very enjoyable and affirming

...and there ain't nothing wrong with that.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:40 PM on October 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


I just don't understand how this rally will be better at creating change than other rallies have been.

I don't think this rally will be any better at creating change. I don't think the kind of change you're talking about or concerned with is something I associate with this rally. What I want to happen from this rally is a job opening so Jon Stewart can take over CNN.

Seriously, I don't think this rally will result in any political change. The only thing I'd hope for is maybe a bit of new orientation in terms of political dialog, and maybe a flash of light being shed into the world of political theater.

The upshot is something unusual and inspiring happened. The "thoughtful" people in politics were well represented.
posted by uraniumwilly at 5:41 PM on October 31, 2010


It was on the national mall, in Washington DC, which is the capital of the United States, and it was held on Halloween weekend, because Glen Beck's rally was on the national mall, in Washington DC, which is the capital of the United States, and was held on a very significant day.

This is a response to Glen Beck, to the not-even-pretending-not-to-be-politicalness of the media, to the anger and vitriol and polarization of political debate spurred on by the media. It had the form of a political rally, but it wasn't political at all.

You shouldn't imagine it as Stewart, Colbert, and their fans saying, "See? We ARE a political force!" You should instead imagine it as Stewart, Colbert, and their fans saying, "See? We are NOT accepting the narrative the major news sources are selling us."
posted by meese at 5:44 PM on October 31, 2010 [16 favorites]


And because half the thread seems to think this rally will be Highly Influential in a way those other rallies can't possibly be?

Probably brought in and energized a lot of folks who wouldn't have gone to those other rallies. We'll see what happens come the election, but frankly I don't see anything particularly awful about having one more big rally, even if someone made a buck from it. Or do you honestly think that large numbers of progressives walked away from this rally thinking ah, well, I wont bother going to any other political rallies, and I probably won't vote either?

There's a weird competitive edge - often breaking down into moderate vs. radical (or from the other end, corrupt and compromised vs. pure and dedicated) that seems to have snuck into this thread. No offense meant, but perhaps if you don't see the point of this rally, it was directed at getting out the vote at the other end of the spectrum from where you are.
posted by AdamCSnider at 5:53 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I totally agree that Stewart's pragmatic, non-partisan, non-political moderation is a bad thing, but the contrast between his rally and supposedly real political protest is a false one.

I'm not sure I totally understand (or agree with) your point.

I'd wholeheartedly agree that Stewart's apolicial, nonpartisan stance wouldn't make for a very good political party. However, I think that Stewart (and by extension, the attendees of this rally) are playing the role of the referee/designated-driver on the sidelines, telling both sides to "CALM THE FUCK DOWN." Although it'd be naive to believe that Stewart doesn't have a horse in the race, I think he's mainly concerned that the race is fair and accurately-portrayed.

This role is very necessary, and has traditionally been taken up by the media. However, over the past 10-15 years, they have gradually shifted toward stoking the coals, and pouring fuel onto the flames, rather than moderating the perpetual debate. If nothing else, it's that the Media needs to pick back up on this role in a meaningful way.

The networks that have tried to remain politically neutral (ie. not Fox) have done so in a way that's almost entirely eliminated the discussion of what politicians' policy positions are, and how well they've held to them while in office. If you haven't noticed, the actual elected Republicans are fiscally reckless, while the Democrats don't have a particularly great record on social issues. Both parties have completely and profoundly failed at their stated goals, and the media is afraid to report on it for fear of appearing partisan (while the partisan outlets are often too afraid to criticize any member of their own party, even if they happen to be batshit insane). It's a system that's allowed elected officials to operate effectively without scrutiny.

Also: Remember how the coverage of the healthcare debate didn't shift to the actual content of the bill until it had passed?
posted by schmod at 5:57 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow. We broke the Metrorail ridership record for a Saturday:

Metro sets new record for highest Saturday Metrorail ridership

There aren't many other rallies that can say that.
posted by av123 at 5:58 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait, wait, hold up -- Rory Marinich told Sara C. to effectively go fuck herself, and she's the one being "unpleasant?"

You guys rule.

posted by Ouisch at 5:58 PM on October 31, 2010 [13 favorites]


Note to the Women of Metafilter:

Arguing makes you unpleasant.
posted by Ouisch at 6:00 PM on October 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm not surprised. It seemed like Metro was completely unprepared for the size of the crowd and I heard from multiple people that they gave up on attending because they weren't ever able to get in a Metro car.
posted by gingerbeer at 6:01 PM on October 31, 2010


Thousands of people rallying to insert polite civility into vehement political debate would be pretty pointless. People are going to speak their minds, and sometimes people are going to exaggerate or lie to win points. You can't wait for people to be nice to you when there's something valuable at stake.

On the other hand, you can often prevent a screaming match through your own responses.

It would be reasonable to ask authoritative TV journalists to prevent screaming matches, both literal and figurative. They, after all, have some degree of control over what happens on their own programs.

An broader goal would be to encourage the serious news media to focus less on small, meaningless ratings-grab stories. Of course they rely on ratings to earn money, but in the long run people would know who to turn to for objectivity. They could always create discrete ratings-grab shows. And that way viewers could better distinguish between solid information and editorial.

There would need to be pressure from the public-- from the audience, the consumers. People need to call for a lock on the news cycle echo chamber, the one with the incessant noise that drowns out everything else regardless of urgency or significance. It would be great to be able to organize hundreds of thousands of people around that.
posted by zennie at 6:05 PM on October 31, 2010


Ouisch - well to be fair I don't think they're piling on me because I'm female. They just think I pissed in their cheerios because I'm not all breathless about this rally. Or whatever I'm allowed to call it now; I'm confused.
posted by Sara C. at 6:05 PM on October 31, 2010


I don't think the kind of change Sara C is looking for could be legitimately associated with any rally in the developed world, barring - perhaps - the freedom march in 63 and the subsequent passing of the civil rights act.

Rallies are amplifiers. They are not the source, and they generally don't generate political change on a broad scale, because the people who go to rallies are already thinking and demonstrating their desire for that change. They are by nature expressive and reactive. The (second) Iraq war is an excellent example of that, where huge worldwide protests generating unprecedented numbers (in Australia at least) did absolutely nothing to stop our country going into a war that polls had been demonstrating was wildly unpopular for months.

Rallies are just one facet of political communication and action, and as such they exist in a continuum. Only the most unusual rallies could or should be assessed outside of this continuum, because doing so ignores the other varieties of political and citizen action that are not only vital context but also can be just as significant, just as - if not more - potent, and just as valuable.

I mean, come on, this is pretty first year pol sci or PR stuff. Sara C, you obviously had a problem with the rally - it certainly hasn't measured up to the magical rally in your head where everybody agrees 100% about everything and they represent a political groundswell that results in a huge affirmation for whatever the belief happens to be. That's because those kind of rallies only exist in the pages of the People's Daily.

Furthermore, there's no reason why your political viewpoint needs to come at the expense of this type of political action - you're creating a false dichotomy; as already pointed out they can co-exist with mutual benefit.

Ironically, in this thread at least, you're representing they kind of outlook - self- marginalised, angry, persecuted, distrustful, judgmental, unbending - that's very popular among fringe parties/politicians of all stripes. Ones that will never crack the mainstream, because being popular rather than right, building consensus and engendering slow change, inconsistent compromise, etc etc etc is what mainstream politics is at its very core about. Democracy is compromise. People - including myself - hate that, but it's so true. And it's hard. It's hard, humbling, shame-inducing at times; the very opposite of righteous.

If nothing else, this thread should be a lesson for you on the arts of rhetoric and persuasion. True communication - political or otherwise - involves empathy, respect, compromise, consideration and deliberation. You're not demonstrating a lot of those virtues in this thread.
posted by smoke at 6:05 PM on October 31, 2010 [12 favorites]


Ouisch: "Note to the Women of Metafilter:

Arguing makes you unpleasant.
"

Why is your "note" directed specifically to women? I'm unsure what gender has to do with it.
posted by gman at 6:06 PM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why do you think this is about influencing politics?

Because it's a political rally? On the National Mall? In Washington, DC? Which is the capital of the United States? And it's being held the weekend before a fairly significant midterm election? And because half the thread seems to think this rally will be Highly Influential in a way those other rallies can't possibly be? And because when you tell people in this thread that the Jon Stewart rally was largely apolitical and was really just a fan convention for a popular comedy TV show held outdoors, they call you a dickhead?


It wasn't a political rally.

No, really, it wasn't.

And nobody called you a dickhead. Really. Search the page for the word.

And nobody has said that this rally is going to be Highly Influential except you and nasreddin, and you've both been speaking against the rally the entire thread. Nobody. I just reread the entire thread to make sure. A couple of people say that maybe this has planted seeds for future improvement, either in individuals or in the culture at large. That's it.

I think the problem with this rally and what it is or isn't may be largely in your head. It certainly seems to be that way about the content of this discussion thread.
posted by hippybear at 6:07 PM on October 31, 2010


They just think I pissed in their cheerios because I'm not all breathless about this rally.

And nobody thinks you've pissed in their cheerios. I think many in this thread (myself included) are convinced that until you change at least ONE person's mind about the rally, you won't let anything rest... But we're all very clear on where you stand about this rally. Believe me.
posted by hippybear at 6:09 PM on October 31, 2010


I'm unsure what gender has to do with it.

Oh, just a silly theory I have.
posted by Ouisch at 6:11 PM on October 31, 2010


It seemed like Metro was completely unprepared for the size of the crowd

Oh no doubt. They essentially just ran a regular Saturday schedule. Which makes it even crazier -- imagine how many people would have made it down if they had run an Inauguration Day level of service. Inauguration Day only had 300,000 more riders, and they ran rush-hour service all day long!
posted by av123 at 6:15 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hippybear - you think I'm so dead set on changing people's opinions to be negative about the rally be-in outdoor comedy show thingamajig? I think maybe I really did piss in somebody's cheerios.

Because I thought I was just having an argument on the internet, of a lazy Sunday afternoon.
posted by Sara C. at 6:15 PM on October 31, 2010


Sara C. pissed in my cheerios, actually.

I was looking forward to someone making a Mefi thread, because I wanted to get a good source for pictures of all the really good signs, and I wanted to see some discussion about what, exactly, the rally was (because the one thing I'm sure of is that it wasn't a political rally, but beyond that? I don't know what it should be considered). I thought it'd be a fun discussion.

So... Yeah. My cheerios were pissed in, because this thread is so angry and shouty and tiring, when I wanted it to be fun and lighthearted. There didn't have have to be an argument.
posted by meese at 6:17 PM on October 31, 2010 [10 favorites]


This is Metafilter; we argue about everything.
posted by Ouisch at 6:19 PM on October 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


How to Disagree

"...if the worst thing you can say about something is to criticize its tone, you're not saying much. Is the author flippant, but correct? Better that than grave and wrong. And if the author is incorrect somewhere, say where."

Sometimes referred to as a "tone argument" in political debate.
posted by Ouisch at 6:25 PM on October 31, 2010


The "Capitol to the Monument" quote that's being thrown around was completely incorrect. The crowd was pretty sparse toward the west end of the mall. Doesn't mean the count was off, but that shaded map is a bit misleading. I actually haven't seen any aerial shots from Saturday that show that part of the mall.

I was on the ground, along with an activist I know that does a lot of these things. The lack of outlying jumbotrons/loudspeakers compressed the crowd something fierce. She was amazed at the sheer human density all the way out to 9th/10th Street-ish. Her informed guesstimate was somewhere north of 300,000--and that's not even taking into account the spillover and churn that happened throughout.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:26 PM on October 31, 2010


[If there's gonna be an on-going metadiscursive debate here please take it to the part of the site meant for that sort of thing. Barring that, maybe everybody can try and drop it.]
posted by cortex at 6:27 PM on October 31, 2010


Hippybear - you think I'm so dead set on changing people's opinions to be negative about the rally be-in outdoor comedy show thingamajig? I think maybe I really did piss in somebody's cheerios.

You certainly haven't been content to have your say, make your points, and let your words stand in the thread as a record. That much is certain.
posted by hippybear at 6:29 PM on October 31, 2010


Oh, my "theory." In scarequotes. My silly little pet theory simply has to do with pretty long experience being a female commenter on Metafilter, one who has been accused specifically of unpleasantness recently for a pretty mildly sarcastic comment, and one who has noted for some time how female commenters -- especially those with openly female names -- are often called stupid, unpleasant, or outright told to fuck off in arguments.
posted by Ouisch at 6:29 PM on October 31, 2010


(Sorry Cortex. Didn't preview.)
posted by Ouisch at 6:30 PM on October 31, 2010


>It seemed like Metro was completely unprepared for the size of the crowd

>Oh no doubt. They essentially just ran a regular Saturday schedule.


Amtrak was incorporating MARC trains into their usual Saturday schedule to handle the load (MARC no longer does Saturdays, normally.) Now, Amtrak does get some warning from advanced sales, but surely Metro should have picked up on that as well?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:31 PM on October 31, 2010


Sara C, the two quotes of mine you used a couple dozen comments back were BADLY out of context, because I absolutely disagree with your premise that "the Jon Stewart rally was largely apolitical and was really just a fan convention for a popular comedy TV show held outdoors". If that were so, the attendance would have been a fraction of what it was. Some came for the stars, some came for the parody of political rallies (most of the sign creators) and some came considering it a political rally. And the fact that there was ZERO conflict among those with conflicting expectations was more than a little impressive.

It's interesting that the same argument - "it's politically irrelevant" - is being made by the same media entities that banned their employees from participating because they considered it "too political".
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:34 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hyper-gender-sensitivity has really come into vogue lately. It makes me sad.

Sara C. being a female has nothing to do with the reaction she's getting.

"OK, so basically you are not at all political and just dug the chance to be in the same zip code as a celebrity. Woo. OMG I have seen the light. You're right, this rally was AMAZING."

Male or female, that is kind of a dick thing to say. It's dismissive and deliberately obtuse. I'm sure Sara would even choose different phrasing, in retrospect, if she could.

Gender equality, to me, anyway, means that males and females alike can speak their mind freely, and be judged based on their contributions' relative positive or negative value.

It doesn't (or at least, shouldn't) mean that females are exempt from any critical feedback of any kind.

Why would they even want such a thing? It would be awfully boring.
posted by silentpundit at 6:35 PM on October 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


Reddit post that inspired the event.

Stewart and/or Colbert was asked specifically about Reddit, and he said Reddit was not the inspiration; the rally was actually planned in march/april. It's Annoying that these guys are taking credit for it.

One would hope sanity is a bipartisan issue.

More like insanity is a bipartisan issue. Not to be a "both sides" person but the republican party is clearly nuts, and the democratic party is just ridiculous.
Schadenfreudiest moment of the day: Arianna Huffington's vaunted Manhattan charter buses get stuck in traffic for hours, miss half the rally.
Lol.

posted by delmoi at 6:35 PM on October 31, 2010


"Stewart can pretend all he wants that the point of his big rally Saturday was just for chuckles, or just to encourage a more reasonable, substantive and civil tone in American politics. The reality is that his own audience was decidedly partisan and decidedly liberal." -WP

I think that the fact that they wanted to have a non-partisan rally about having intelligent, fact-based, open-minded political discourse and mostly liberals showed up says more about conservatives and the Republican party than it does about the rally.
posted by VTX at 6:37 PM on October 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


Andrew Sullivan's analysis of the event.
posted by meese at 6:37 PM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]



Hyper-gender-sensitivity has really come into vogue lately. It makes me sad.

Sara C. being a female has nothing to do with the reaction she's getting.


[scrolls up]

Wait, wait, hold up -- Rory Marinich told Sara C. to effectively go fuck herself, and she's the one being "unpleasant?"
Man, am I going to have to read this whole thread?
posted by delmoi at 6:40 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man, the FARK thread is so much better than this one. I am disappointed.
posted by chemoboy at 6:40 PM on October 31, 2010


Jinx.
posted by chemoboy at 6:40 PM on October 31, 2010


Meta.
posted by gman at 6:46 PM on October 31, 2010


PS: I totally would have gone with a "BARTLET FOR IS THE PRESIDENT!" sign and three people would have laughed.

Respectfully, I would have laughed at you, since we all know Barlet finished his second term and Santos is President.
posted by crossoverman at 6:46 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the things you demonstrate at a demonstration is numbers. 215K says something. Feel free to argue about what.

Extremism and political violence require the violent actors to perceive in some way that their behavior is permitted or condoned. This rally/concert/demonstration/corporate-publicity-stunt shows that there are large numbers of people who do not support political nutjobs acting like morons and maniacs.

Outdrawing Glen Beck's 87K is outdrawing Glen Beck. That's better than 2:1. I think it is safe to assume that those who showed up are neither supportive of nor indifferent to the Beckistas and 'baggers.
posted by warbaby at 6:51 PM on October 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


Before I read through the thread, my sister made the front page of the Washington Post!
posted by odinsdream at 6:56 PM on October 31, 2010


I want Bartlet :(
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:57 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jeez, what a bunch of fucking whiners and cynics there are slumming for cheap applause in this thread. I view American politics from Canada and the inanity but insanity (yes!) of the talking heads on TV frankly scares the shit out of me. So I flew out from Vancouver to be here and I was blown away by the sheer number of people who clearly shared my wish for some tempering of the totally obsessive nature of media "pundits".

I talked to a lot of Americans on the Mall and it was totally reassuring to be touched by the genuine generosity and fairness of ordinary people which has made the US, despite all its blemishes and failures still one of the most vibrant cultures in the world. So it was "massively tied in with those two television shows". So what Sara C? If John Stewart gains a wider audience out of this, I'll be happy. And as for "this isn't going to change the fundamental structural calculus at the heart of the political system" as nasreddin harrumphed, get a grip. Is that a sensible criterion for judging the success or failure of an event?

So I came. I stood in the sunshine, laughed at the creativity of the signs, saw a boyhood hero of mine, Cat Stevens perform publicly for possibly the last time, watched Stewart and Colbert perform their shtick, chatted with some good people, and listened to Tony Bennett, still in magnificent voice at the age of 84 sing "America The Beautiful". I was in the company of a quarter million people who clearly shared my contempt for the venomous discourse that currently passes for political analysis. Somehow, it felt so . . . Canadian.
posted by Neiltupper at 6:57 PM on October 31, 2010 [27 favorites]


Stewart and/or Colbert was asked specifically about Reddit, and he said Reddit was not the inspiration; the rally was actually planned in march/april. It's Annoying that these guys are taking credit for it.

I don't doubt that Stewart et al. were planning something, but the redditors galvanized a lot of people independently (this was previous to any announcement that I'm aware of.) If you recall the morphing idea of what form this rally was going to take (remember the competing rally idea?) it makes perfect sense. I'm convinced the whole 'Fear' aspect was due to the redditor's wanting to take on the Beck rally directly (and that it being pulled into the 'Sanity' message was message control.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:02 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jeez, what a bunch of fucking whiners and cynics there are slumming for cheap applause in this thread

Yeah, good job with that whole civility thing, man.
posted by nasreddin at 7:02 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


This guy did it right.

My second favorite sign was "I Want Gay Rights Shoved Down My Throat"
posted by electroboy at 7:04 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


geezus fracking kites Sara C. we get it, you are better than most people because POLITICS IS SUCH SERIOUS BUSINESS.

your serious politics is such serious that business that i laughed when you wrote upthread that we'd have to consider real grassroots political rallies events like the one america event. that seriously true political rally only attended by people on the payrolls of professional political organizations, unions and capitol hill non-profs.

yah ... those people are serious political activists but not one person in yesterday's rally.

lord have mercy.

so let's make a deal: serious business politics is serious and they're all for you serious professional activists who know all about serious politics because that's what politics and activism is all about: the serious.

now to the lot of us "apolitical" slaves, leave us with our carnivalesque and our neobaroque insouciance to live out what the guy with the funny mustache and penchant for prostitutes once wrote: Not by wrath does one kill, but by laughter.
posted by liza at 7:15 PM on October 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


your serious politics is such serious that business that i laughed when you wrote upthread that we'd have to consider real grassroots political rallies events like the one america event. that seriously true political rally only attended by people on the payrolls of professional political organizations, unions and capitol hill non-profs.


I never said anything remotely like that and have no idea what you're talking about.
posted by Sara C. at 7:18 PM on October 31, 2010


...and listened to Tony Bennett, still in magnificent voice at the age of 84 sing "America The Beautiful".

I think my favorite part about the whole thing was the extremely earnest patriotism behind it. Sure, it was a gag that they both wore American flag sweaters, but never once did they make fun of loving the country, or being proud of it.

I know Americans can be stupidly over-the-top with the patriotism, and I know there is plenty of room to criticize that type of patriotism in general... But one thing I've noticed again and again about the "Jon Stewart outlook" is denial of the narrative that some political viewpoints stem from a hatred of the US, and only those with conservative viewpoints are allowed to be patriotic. I saw the flags, the song choices, and who in particular sang the songs as part of the message they were trying to present.

Especially the hokey but sincere "It's the greatest, strongest country in the world" song, with sing-along even. I think the whole point was, "yes, we really ARE all earnestly singing a song in praise of this country. We do that, too."
posted by meese at 7:19 PM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hyper-gender-sensitivity has really come into vogue lately. It makes me sad.

Sara C. being a female has nothing to do with the reaction she's getting.

[scrolls up]

Wait, wait, hold up -- Rory Marinich told Sara C. to effectively go fuck herself, and she's the one being "unpleasant?"

Man, am I going to have to read this whole thread?


Rory's reaction, in turn, was also dismissive, and quite bitter, and I'm sure he would have phrased it differently in retrospect as well.

It's a fun little petri dish of an interchange that fairly well illustrates the sort of emotionally-charged discourse that the rally in question was meant to try to defuse.

It's kind of awesome that it then explodes in the comment thread about said rally.

I mean, when you scrape the bilious layer of snark off the top of the back-and-forth, it's easy to empathize with both positions:

Rory enjoyed the rally and so did many others. We can all agree that's basically a good thing.

Sara C. isn't sold that Jon Stewart simply reminding people to be nice to each other is worth all the attention it's getting, and may even have the side effect of marginalizing impassioned political actors that drive progress in America. We can all agree that is a fair point.

The constant challenge in all human interaction is to really try and empathize with those who we are in conflict with. Democrats aren't Marxists, and Republicans aren't Fascists. The disturbingness of Glenn Beck (as an example) is that he keeps his listeners focused on the conflict with those he perceives as enemies, making empathy impossible.

We witnessed before our eyes two intelligent people igniting, albeit briefly, in palpable anger at each other, over a Jon Stewart event that we will all have forgotten about in two weeks. It's interesting, and possibly deeply illuminating, to recognize conflicts such as these as the basic building blocks of the empathetic chasm that exists between Left and Right, so callously and determinedly maintained by cynical talking heads on cable news.

The TV pundits Stewart is trying to 'take down a notch,' are basically like that kid on the playground, that deliberately escalates arguments into violence by whispering to you, "Hey, he just said your mom was gross," and then walking over to the kid who didn't say that, and telling him that you said you were gonna kick his ass, and is he really gonna take that? Huh? Huh?

It really is gross, and it really does need to stop, and I appreciate Stewart and Colbert taking a stab at addressing the problem.
posted by silentpundit at 7:19 PM on October 31, 2010 [23 favorites]


I drove 480 mi to be there with some friends and family. We got there about 0730 and managed to get spots right up against the fences separating us from the VIPs directly in front of the stage. When Samantha Bee was counting off people in the crowd, I would have been number 16 or so.

I had a great time. Afterward the portapots were almost literally overflowing. We got a bite, waited forty minutes to use a McDonald's bathroom, and then walked the mall. Saw Abe in his memorial on the opposite end just as the sun was going down.

I just sort of really enjoyed being an American yesterday, and I don't care what anyone else thinks.
posted by adoarns at 7:26 PM on October 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


You know, I find it absolutely amazing that a rally about being polite to eachother can evoke such vitrol, not only from people who didn't like it but also from people who were supposedly for it it!. Unreal! Now, I thought the rally (which I watched online) was pretty entertaining. I think it's fair to say people should be nicer to eachother in their debates, and that people shouldn't be afraid.

But, at the same time, I'm pretty cynical about people's ability to be civil to eachother when they disagree. And what's amazing is, on the internet people who support the rally have been incredibly rude to people who don't support their interpretation of what the rally was supposed to be about. There was a a thread on reddit where people got angry about the fact that NORML was going to show up with "legalize pot" signs, despite the fact that stewart held up that exact same sign on his show. In their view, it would discredit the rally and thus those people shouldn't show up.

In this thread, Rory Marinich is a good example:
Go fuck yourself. I just wrote you a 2,000-word essay explaining exactly why I thought this was important politically -- Rory Marinich
That was his second comment in the thread.
Ironically, you ignored my actual message to blindly dismiss my earnest message, which alienated me and made me tell you to go fuck yourself. -- Rory Marinich
She made you tell her to go fuck herself? She made you? Really?
We're saying it again and again and you're ignoring it. The rally was about respecting people for HAVING opinions, even when you have your own. -- Rory Marinich
Just a hint, bro, when you tell people to 'go fuck themselves' you are not respecting them.
people in this country who believe in the kind of civility that Rory has with his Grandfather. -- arabelladragon
But not with other mefite's apparently.
---
Two candidates once ran who loathed each other and their political views; they doesn't prove anything. They didn't have a Congress that threatened to filibuster even close to as much as this, they didn't have 24-hour cable news networks spinning everything in the dumbest directions possible, and they didn't have one network devoted entirely to banging the drum for one side. They were still able to get things done.
You might not be aware of this, but they had these things called "newspaper", and they were pretty fucking partisan at the time.

People who think that early politics was some how less acrimonious then today are delusional. These people not only wrote mean things about each other they got into duals and shot each other. In the face. To death. The reality is the late 20th century was an anomaly in terms of the partisanship in the media, brought on by the fact there were only a few channels who couldn't afford to offend anyone.
Well, besides it being awesome enough on it's own - redditors managed to secure an interview with Colbert by reaching $500,000.
That's a hell of a lot of money for an interview.


posted by delmoi at 7:32 PM on October 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


Guys this rally was kind of a Thing. But it wasn't too much of a Thing, not like when the Other Team does a Thing, oh no. Heh, yeah, I went. Had some fun, got some "digits." Saw some comedians- I'm not one to brag but I awkwardly interacted with members of the opposite sex, if you know what I mean. I'm going to vote for Our Team, and that'll show the Other Team. Hehe, take that Sarah Palin.
posted by hamida2242 at 7:34 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know Americans can be stupidly over-the-top with the patriotism, and I know there is plenty of room to criticize that type of patriotism in general...

Watching World Series Baseball is an exercise in stupidly over-the-top patriotism.
posted by hippybear at 7:35 PM on October 31, 2010


Well, besides it being awesome enough on it's own - redditors managed to secure an interview with Colbert by reaching $500,000.

That's a hell of a lot of money for an interview.


The $500,000 was money that they raised for a charity and not money they gave to Colbert wasn't it?
posted by VTX at 7:38 PM on October 31, 2010


So the title of this thread is pretty aptly funny, it turns out.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:38 PM on October 31, 2010


Look, I'm glad people had fun. All I'm saying is that it's not likely to be very influential politically, but I guess that might be neither here nor there. I've looked over my contributions to the thread, and while they weren't necessarily very thoughtful, I don't think I attacked anyone personally or went beyond moderately snarky in my comments.

On balance, this thread hasn't been all that bad, and certainly no worse than the Fark thread linked to above. If you were expecting anything other than a contentious critical discussion, you came to the wrong site.
posted by nasreddin at 7:39 PM on October 31, 2010


From the Andrew Sullivan link, above:

The point, it seemed to me, was that politics isn't all there is to life, there is something slightly off about those who think it is, and that political ideology has come to define us culturally and personally far too much.

posted by KingEdRa at 7:41 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Heh, just got back from the Viacom fundraiser. Made a couple rich folks a little richer, no bigs though. Yeah, I guess you could say I was at a "party," I mean there was multiple people there, we had a little fun, you know. Not too many people get together for fun times on Halloween weekend, but let me tell you, I spent quite a bit of money and went to great lengths to be seen and have some pics taken for my facebook. I guess I'm just a popular person like that, you know. Got a couple laughs too, had a sign that said I was there for the gangbabg, heh, get it? Well I didn't really expect you to, but it's all good. Wish I could have seen the look on my uncle's face- he's a "Tea-bagger," I bet he would have been farkin' pissed!

[leftism slides even further into irrelevance]
[national discourse moves to the right]
[big business increases its control on American politics]

Yeah, guess you could say we restored some sanity, if you know what I mean, heh. This corporate-sponsored multimillionaire celebrity acted like he was a Chilean miner! Lmao!! That's internet lingo for 'laughing my ass off,' hope you don't mind. Anyway, let's just not think too hard about the direction the country's going in- I'm tired of the craziness from *both* sides, you know?
posted by hamida2242 at 7:44 PM on October 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


On the other hand- this is already 200 comments and it's not about 'conservative says a thing [more misogyny inside!]' or bacon, zombies, or a font; so I guess that's an improvement for MF.
posted by hamida2242 at 7:46 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


had a sign that said I was there for the gangbabg, heh, get it?

I saw your photo on flickr earlier today.
posted by hippybear at 7:47 PM on October 31, 2010


Carles? Is that you?
posted by nasreddin at 7:47 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


So after reading this thread all day, the answer to the question, "Has Sanity Been Restored", is no.
posted by wv kay in ga at 7:49 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Watching World Series Baseball is an exercise in stupidly over-the-top patriotism.

You just hush your mouth right now. GO GIANTS!
posted by rtha at 7:52 PM on October 31, 2010 [9 favorites]


rtha: I'm not criticizing baseball at all. It's my favorite sport. And certainly Go Giants. No problem with that. But the GINORMOUS american flag being held up by service members while two (!) color guards marched onto the field from either side while Lyle Lovett sang the National Anthem and then seeing GHWBush and GWBush drive around the field while the crowd went semi-wild.....

that was certainly over-the-top.
posted by hippybear at 7:54 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


And while I loathe the 7th inning stretch singing of God Bless America, it was cool to see the same group sing that today as sang the National Anthem for the Rally yesterday. 4Troops, or something? Great voices, nice blend. I like them.
posted by hippybear at 7:55 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry but this is just driving me up the wall: what kind of font was on the gangbang sign? I thought I saw a serif or two in the beginning but I just got thrown off track! Must have been from trying to keep these zombies from eating all my bacon!

Damn it, no you can't has cheeseburger- Mr. Norris, get that cat away from that cheeseburger! Too late- all their cheeseburger belong to us! And it was good cheese too- monkey cheese!
posted by hamida2242 at 7:57 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


The point, it seemed to me, was that politics isn't all there is to life, there is something slightly off about those who think it is, and that political ideology has come to define us culturally and personally far too much.
Yet, Stewart literally said that that was not the point.
“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. -- Jon Stewart
That's what he said in his 'serious' speech at the end of the rally. He explicitly said the rally wasn't about ridiculing people who cared about politics or were activist, yet, lots of people on the Internet decided it was exactly that, and started bashing anyone who actually cared about politics. It was kind of amazing really. -- Even a movement against people being assholes attracts it's own assholes!
posted by delmoi at 7:59 PM on October 31, 2010 [8 favorites]


If you're asking me, I have no idea. I looked through 300 flickr photos before my brain melted this morning, and I know I saw that sign as part of the flow... The guy with the sign was posed with a "thumbs up", and might have had on a purple shirt, but that last detail could just be the braincloud setting in.
posted by hippybear at 8:01 PM on October 31, 2010


delmoi: " There was a a thread on reddit where people got angry about the fact that NORML was going to show up with "legalize pot" signs, despite the fact that stewart held up that exact same sign on his show. In their view, it would discredit the rally and thus those people shouldn't show up. "

Heh. I hadn't seen that before. Take my word for it, there were a number of people unhappy with NORML over that sign.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:04 PM on October 31, 2010


rtha: I'm not criticizing baseball at all. It's my favorite sport. And certainly Go Giants. No problem with that. But the GINORMOUS american flag being held up by service members while two (!) color guards marched onto the field from either side while Lyle Lovett sang the National Anthem and then seeing GHWBush and GWBush drive around the field while the crowd went semi-wild.....

that was certainly over-the-top.


Oh, well, yeah. We hit mute, go get more beer, etc. And the singing of God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch is just...ew. People who don't want to sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game hate America, is all I can figure.
posted by rtha at 8:04 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


rtha: during the 2001 world series, (when the whole God Bless America thing started), they would actually do BOTH during the games in the ballpark. I went to game 2 in Phoenix, so I know. But they only ever televise the post-9/11 solidarity half of the singalong.
posted by hippybear at 8:06 PM on October 31, 2010


commas AND parentheses? good grief
posted by hippybear at 8:08 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


He explicitly said the rally wasn't about ridiculing people who cared about politics or were activist, yet, lots of people on the Internet decided it was exactly that, and started bashing anyone who actually cared about politics.

I agree with you that a lot of people online have done exactly this, and I think that is sad. However, I don't think you necessarily have to read Sullivan's comment as contradicting Stewart's.

There seems to be room to suggest that, as an aggregate, the United States culture is too much defined by political party while, at the same time, suggesting that there is significant and worthwhile political positions to take. The one is disagreeing with the whole "Red states are like this and blue states are like this" simplification of American culture and people who would say things like, "Anyone who disagrees with me is a puppy-murderer!", the other is simply noting that denying this simplification is not the same as belittling those who really do care about making the world a better place. So... you can be zealous without being a zealot.

That's how I read it, at least.
posted by meese at 8:11 PM on October 31, 2010


Anybody who cares about politics is out canvassing on the Saturday before midterm day. They should have called it "The Rally to Depress Democratic Turnout on Election Day"

I canvassed for weeks for Obama. I also phoned people for hours. Both of these activities were astoundingly useless. I would say that literally no one I spoke to was moved to either vote at all, or vote democratic, because of my call or visit.

As a method of statistics-gathering it was somewhat effective. I certainly didn't find it useful in causing people to vote Democratic, and if it happened to help indirectly by reminding people what fucking day the election was on, we've got serious fucking problems.
posted by odinsdream at 8:14 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


The people at the rally were not apolitical by any stretch of that word. The point was to care about getting things done and making things better, and that this could be better handled by finding ways to work together instead of looking for the best ways to attack one another. It was about progress taking center stage over theater.

Yes, this rally was the real thing. With a good sense of humor. People didn't come in droves from all over the country in numbers seeming close to those of the inauguration for a costume parade or a joke. The people were there because they cared about making their presence known; that the newsmedia was moving the message by featuring only the (right-wing) fringe and that doing so is hurting the country. Yes, it was predominantly right-wing, but I saw more than a few proud republicans there as well, cheering on their pride in joining their left-wing compatriots in a movement that too many of those from their own side didn't understand.

I don't know if it will affect the election results on Tuesday. I don't know if anything Stewart and Colbert could have done or said would have done so. I also don't think that was the point and I frankly believe those snarking are falling into a one-upmanship contest as to who can be the most cynical, and that is simply empty and useless and I have neither time nor respect for it.

This was a bunch of passionate people, politely and happily gathering to confirm that others are just as willing to talk things through as they are. If nothing else, it was refreshing and exhilerating for those who were there to be amongst hundreds of thousands of polite and friendly strangers, all there for the common purpose of setting an example of how we can manage to get along.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:21 PM on October 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


I canvassed for weeks for Obama. I also phoned people for hours. Both of these activities were astoundingly useless. I would say that literally no one I spoke to was moved to either vote at all, or vote democratic, because of my call or visit.

Funny, I was reminiscing with some friends about our crazy college activist days, and I was a little bit sobered by the idea that the afternoons I spent phone banking for Obama was probably the most politically effective form of activism I ever participated in. Did I personally change any minds? Probably not? I don't know? But that was definitely a situation where grassroots activists spurred a presidential campaign into the closest thing we have to a landslide. Including pulling swing states nobody would have dreamed, even a few years before, would EVER vote to elect a black President.

It's hard to say whether activists did that, or whether it was just the "zeitgeist" or whatever. I tend to side with the former, because seeing only the latter is, to me, akin to just chalking all political life up to The Magical Hand Of The Zeitgeist. Which means nothing anybody ever does can ever mean anything. Which sort of makes me want to jump off a bridge.
posted by Sara C. at 8:24 PM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm also not required to read your 2000 word essay on why politics is stupid and doesn't work.

If you didn't read the comment, how the hell do you KNOW you disagree with it?

True, you're not REQUIRED to read it, but wouldn't it be the decent thing TO read it, so you know what the argument IS that you're actually disagreeing WITH?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:29 PM on October 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Delmoi: I don't think Sullivan's take is contradicted by Stewart's comment at the end of the rally at all. I think that what they both are pointing out is that there are a lot of people who are tired of the poiliticization of EVERYTHING in their lives. FWIW, that's something several commenters in this thread have missed in the debate over what this rally/corporate event/whatever was about.
posted by KingEdRa at 8:30 PM on October 31, 2010


I canvassed for weeks for Obama. I also phoned people for hours. Both of these activities were astoundingly useless. I would say that literally no one I spoke to was moved to either vote at all, or vote democratic, because of my call or visit.

We all have our personal anecdata but the overwhelming evidence is that canvassing is quite effective at increasing voter turnout.

This conference presentation summarizes some famous and/or recent results in the works cited.
posted by Kwine at 8:43 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's hard to say whether activists did that, or whether it was just the "zeitgeist" or whatever. I tend to side with the former, because seeing only the latter is, to me, akin to just chalking all political life up to The Magical Hand Of The Zeitgeist. Which means nothing anybody ever does can ever mean anything. Which sort of makes me want to jump off a bridge.

The zeitgeist inspired you, and you in turn inspired the zeitgeist. It's those brain-hurty feedback loops that are how big things happen.

It doesn't mean nothing anyone ever does means anything. It just means that the actions of one person rarely mean anything to anyone other than that person, and it takes lots of people to achieve great things.

Which, in order to make lots of people work together, you need compromise and civil discourse.

And sometimes you need to have rallies to encourage that sort of thing.

(And also, thank you for your work in preventing Palin-ocalypse).
posted by silentpundit at 8:45 PM on October 31, 2010


Sara C: I think that it's probably a bit of both. Without the dedicated efforts of activists of all kinds of flavors and dedication, it's unlikely that Obama would have found enough groundswell underneath him for the zeitgeist to take hold and lift him into office. People doing political work actually do make a difference, although "political work" can be a very large umbrella which covers everything from national campaign fundraisers to soup kitchen volunteering.

I remember 15 years ago when I was working hard to shake my hometown in southern NM into having some kind of gay community. We were very community-minded with our political activism, with a newsletter that grew into a 'zine very quickly, and had a huge distribution for a short time. We were fighting for very bare-bones quality-of-life issues at the time -- nothing like the mainstreaming one sees these days. Basic things, like trying to persuade people that homosexuals weren't boogeymen/women but actually people who were present at every level in the city.

I remember, shortly before I left, one of the bars actually had a GLBT dance night. The first time any bar in town had hosted a queer crowd at all. Being there was one of the most amazing evenings of my life. Sadly, I moved out of town, as did a few others who were really the batteries pushing the engine for change. Most of that energy died out quickly, and there still isn't even a gay bar in that town. Zeitgeist, indeed.
posted by hippybear at 8:48 PM on October 31, 2010


Sara C. I too have been to many rallies. Most have been clusterfucks of uselessness, and generally a forum for liberals to safely detonate their own beliefs away from where they might actually do anything. Yesterday's shindig was really mostly a fun time, but more importantly a way to respond to Beck's hate-and-fearathon with triple the amount of people coming out to do the opposite. Simply being there was part of the point, and just as one person voting never really makes the difference, being there helped show the amount of people who care about the nature of poliutical discourse n this country, as opposed to those who want to keep dragging it into the mud.

And I can say for myself that my activism was not exhausted. I'm driving from DC up to Fairfield, ME tomorrow to help a friend and fellow mefite (he's mostly a lurker) get elected to the Maine State House in the 82nd district. We will be canvassing, we will be staking out polling places and other throughfares to get people out to vote. The rally was still meaningful, even if it wasnt the ultimate solution.

(And any Mefites in Fairfield, Smithfield or Rome - in Maine, that is - need to show up tomorrow to vote for Aaron Rowden for state representative. Memail me if you want to know more.)
posted by Navelgazer at 9:06 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


And while I loathe the 7th inning stretch singing of God Bless America, it was cool to see the same group sing that today as sang the National Anthem for the Rally yesterday. 4Troops, or something? Great voices, nice blend. I like them.

They were so good! Often when the National Anthem is done in a non-standard way that makes it difficult to sing along with, it annoys me a little. But they were just so damn good I didn't care.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:12 PM on October 31, 2010


I spoke to my parents. They were very disappointed that they didn't plan well enough to go. The DC metro failed them, and after hours of trying to get on a train, they finally went upstream to the end of the line and got on one. Then the train broke and they all had to disembark. After several hours of trying they gave up and made it back upstream to their original station where the car was parked. While walking to the car they recognized some signs. Some people were still waiting on line to buy a ticket.

It is anecdotal, yes, but there would have been a lot more people downtown if the transit systems had allowed for it. Not that it's about the numbers. The message was about not being so vitriolic in our discourse. Living 3,000 miles away, I had to get my taste of this event through Flikr and meta blogs like this one. And the blue has had the most vitriolic discourse I've seen, although I'm sure someone can prove me wrong. As far as I can tell, this event was wonderful for those who attended, but stirred up a froth in those who could not attend yet also considered themselves liberal.

But I'm in San Francisco, it is halloween, and the Giants are one win away from winning the first world series since they moved here. I'm going outside to find some love and I won't have to look far. You all take care of yourselves, and each other. No one else will do it for you.
posted by chemoboy at 9:25 PM on October 31, 2010


I don't think Sullivan's take is contradicted by Stewart's comment at the end of the rally at all. I think that what they both are pointing out is that there are a lot of people who are tired of the poiliticization of EVERYTHING in their lives.
I think it's kind of obnoxious and condescending to say there's something "a bit off" about people who care a lot about politics, especially from someone who blogs about politics 24/7.
posted by delmoi at 9:39 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think it's kind of obnoxious and condescending to say there's something "a bit off" about people who care a lot about politics, especially from someone who blogs about politics 24/7.

Almost as obnoxious and condescending as putting words in other folks' mouths. Because that's actually not what he said:

The point, it seemed to me, was that politics isn't all there is to life, there is something slightly off about those who think it is, and that political ideology has come to define us culturally and personally far too much.
posted by AdamCSnider at 9:50 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I didn't see it upthread, but here's C-SPAN's archived 3 hour video of the rally.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:00 PM on October 31, 2010 [7 favorites]


To take this line of thought a bit further (and I'm sure that I'm not the first to level this criticism) why wasn't this a massive, nonpartisan, GOTV canvass? Celebs lead crews for two hours or whatever, cameras in tow, everyone meets on the Mall for a "Participate in Democracy No Matter Who You Vote For" rally/party afterward. Satellite events do the same. Edit the best parts into a primetime special. What a missed opportunity.

There's no role for the Colbert character in an event like that, but that's a feature, not a bug. There's no clear path from his brand of tar pit matryoshka irony to getting asses in motion the way that there is with the daily show's biting, pleading despair. It's all entertainment on the far side of 11:30.
posted by Kwine at 10:02 PM on October 31, 2010


On that point I thought that Stewart's metaphor about merging into the Lincoln Tunnel was spot-on. We don't know our fellow travelers, beyond their bumper stickers, but we find a way to all get through. Politics is important, but it really isn't everything. And the better we understand that, the better politics itself will get as well.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:05 PM on October 31, 2010


So anyway, I thought the roots were good, and I liked what john legend did with the bill withers song.
posted by freecellwizard at 10:16 PM on October 31, 2010


I think it's kind of obnoxious and condescending to say there's something "a bit off" about people who care a lot about politics, especially from someone who blogs about politics 24/7.

Not to mention the irony in that Sullivan was a former editor of The New Republic, a publication responsible for numerous "death-panel"-style political attacks during his tenure.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:17 PM on October 31, 2010


Actually, Sullivan was on some NPR interview recently where he says that he knows he's changed his views and manner of expression over the past decade or so, and makes no apologies about that other than basically saying "I'd hate to not have grown at all over time, and am glad to be who I am today" or something similar.

I think it's good when people grow and change. Sometimes when I see people's statements from 10 or 20 years ago brought up as a method of discrediting their current expression, I often wonder who it is in this world who thinks that nobody ever evolves their worldview. (See earlier in this thread re: Yusef Islam)
posted by hippybear at 10:21 PM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Read the Ames article. I LOLed with him, because he is right about everything. And then I LOLed at him, because the only thing more Xer than holding an ironic rally against lameness is going to that rally ironically and leaving because it is lame. And then I LOLed at myself, because...yeah. And then I cried. I guess it really is turtles all the way down, huh guys?
posted by Hollow at 10:54 PM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


(Quick apologies for my language when I responded to Sarah. My social circle tends to use extreme profanity for just casual conversation, and I used "go fuck yourself" thinking it would come across as "super polite and humorous" and not "jerkish and assholey". Please replace "Go fuck yourself" with a bad imitation of GOB saying "Come on!", which was my intent.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:55 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sometimes when I see people's statements from 10 or 20 years ago brought up as a method of discrediting their current expression

My view is that this is less about the odd statement here or there, and more about a long-standing pattern of conduct.

It's great that he claims he's mended his ways, but he has made a career out of always being part of the problem, so perhaps it is somewhat justified to take his current perspective with a grain of salt as large as the damage he has left in his wake.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:02 PM on October 31, 2010


Stewart (and by extension, the attendees of this rally) are playing the role of the referee/designated-driver on the sidelines, telling both sides to "CALM THE FUCK DOWN."

Yeah, but he's also saying that the conflict between the two sides is manufactured, we're not so different, etc. I partly agree there, but his conclusion that it's a media spectacle designed to drive up ratings is mostly wrong. I think the manufactured conflict signals that the real political conflict is repressed, and the symptom of that is a depoliticized ersatz conflict in the form of culture war. It's bread and circuses, except that there are lots of well-meaning leftist activists who think that being part of the spectacle is a real form of political engagement.

So there's a moment of truth in what Stewart says: it's mostly sound and fury signaling nothing. But far from being an unnecessary muddying of the waters that we can get rid of if only sensible people work together, it's the necessary supplement, the other irrational side of the coin to Stewart's preferred mode of rational, bipartisan problem solving. The spectacle is necessary so that the "pragmatic" bipartisan consensus on globalization, neoliberal economic policy, national security, etc., won't be challenged.
posted by AlsoMike at 11:58 PM on October 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Sara C: Look. I'm going to spell this out as simply as I can, because you're still not getting what others are saying. The rally was NOT directed towards politicians, rather it was about influencing the media. There's something incredibly postmodern in this rally. The change that Stewart seeks is the media apparatus, which shapes the way the issues are framed and therefore influence legislation.

You have attended rallies which the party in which grievances were directed towards the legislative and executive bodies of government. This rally was directed towards 24/7 news networks. Your frustration that this will not create any direct legislative impact is immaterial towards the goal of this rally. This rally was about telling the media that we're sick of their shit.

Rewatch the rally. Understand that this was directed towards the media, and it will make a whole lot more sense. Notice how the original post up top was talking about the media's reactions to the rally and how the media is incredibly introspective (albeit in the early stages of denial still), notice how there was no mention of politicians' responses (because it's not relevant).

Fundamentally, I suspect you may also be misunderstanding what The Daily Show is about. Many have this misunderstanding (still?!), it's not "fake news". It's rather satire about news reporting. It's news about the news. Very postmodern meta blah blah blah. The target is not politicians, but rather targeting the way news is reported about politicians.
posted by amuseDetachment at 12:04 AM on November 1, 2010 [14 favorites]


Civility is the new slack.
posted by flabdablet at 12:15 AM on November 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Something to keep in mind is that "politics" doesn't have to mean policy or ideology. Sometimes, as in the case of this rally it means "discourse". I think this rally will have an effect on political discourse going forward. Even if only in helping to somewhat ridicule the concept of political signs substituting for actual ideas. Mostly I think the reason so many people feel good about this rally is that for the past two years the media narrative has been pushing the false story that the Tea Party faction of the right wing is the only voice in American politics with any momentum. Which is and has aways been patently false. They were propped up by corporate interests and the media until they could get going under their own steam.

The reason to stand up for civility is not because overnight everyone is immediately gonna change their minds. And it's not about the right being more nasty so they have to apologize first. It doesn't matter who's being uncivil, what matters is that there are those who use wedge issues and partisan rancor to further their own agendas, and those agendas hurt most all of us, regardless of what side of the left/right divide we're on.

I think the reason Obama is president today is because his statement back on '04. "There isn't a red America or a Blue America, there's the United States of America" was the most accurate analysis of how most of us feel that we've heard in a long time. I think this rally was a small, snarky affirmation of that belief for the 80% of us that the news media, and the pundits and the wedge-issue politicians have no interest in ever paying attention to.
posted by billyfleetwood at 12:56 AM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


--he has made a career out of always being part of the problem--

Thank goD we have rigid sin-free ideologues whose purist attitudes aren't at risk from contaminating growth capacity.
posted by peacay at 1:12 AM on November 1, 2010


This is worth showing everyone, I think.
posted by gc at 2:57 AM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


On that point I thought that Stewart's metaphor about merging into the Lincoln Tunnel was spot-on.
The problem is he uses it all the time. So it's kind of old.
To take this line of thought a bit further (and I'm sure that I'm not the first to level this criticism) why wasn't this a massive, nonpartisan, GOTV canvass?
I thought that was a little odd myself, I would have expected at least that he'd tell people to go vote. But. There isn't really any such thing as a "non-partisan" GOTV. If you're talking to group X and telling them to vote, and you know group X happens to vote for party Y more often, what you're really doing is boosting Y's numbers. If Jon Stewart got his minions to vote, then that would probably boost the democrats. A GOTV message on MTV or Univision or BET is going to have a very different effect then a GOTV message on FOX or CBN (pat robertson's the Christan Broadcasting Network)
I used "go fuck yourself" thinking it would come across as "super polite and humorous"
ಠ_ಠ? this is the internet. We can't hear your tone of voice. Unless you include emoticons. "Go fuck yourself" read quite differently then "Go fuck yourself ^____^~"
posted by delmoi at 3:09 AM on November 1, 2010


(*reads quite differently)
posted by delmoi at 3:10 AM on November 1, 2010


Unfortunately, this picture of a couple of idiots who missed the point is making the rounds on conservative news sights/forums under any headline pertaining to the rally. It's funny to watch them feign disgust over distasteful hitler-stache signs as if they've never seen it before.
posted by windbox at 5:03 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wonder if that's what redstate thinks about Olberman.

Friend, that's what the BLUE states think about Olberman, even. Both he and Beck are pandering pundits in it for the cash.
posted by jeanmari at 5:42 AM on November 1, 2010


Respectfully, I would have laughed at you, since we all know Barlet finished his second term and Santos is President.

You make an excellent point. I just like the sign.

RE-ELECT SANTOS!

And the singing of God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch is just...ew.

I agree. All members of Red Sox Nation know that the proper 7th inning stretch song is "Sweet Caroline." Duh.
posted by sonika at 6:00 AM on November 1, 2010


The target is not politicians, but rather targeting the way news is reported about politicians.

I don't know -- they do target politicians sometimes -- their skewering of McCain last week was pretty damn effective. After showing a clip of John McCain saying "Washington is broken, and we're the people to fix it," he followed it with a series of clips showing McCain saying the exact same thing every year, for the past 21 years (out of his 23-year tenure in the Senate).....which, in itself, was actually pretty damn good reporting.

Granted, the media is usually the target, but TDS is just as willing to criticize politicians for joining in on the frenzy, or making profoundly stupid and/or buzzword-laden statements.
posted by schmod at 6:43 AM on November 1, 2010


Anyone see any photos of me and my girlfriend with this sign? A lot of people took pictures of us with our sign, so one of them is bound to have gone ON-LINE.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:55 AM on November 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


ಠ_ಠ? this is the internet. We can't hear your tone of voice. Unless you include emoticons. "Go fuck yourself" read quite differently then "Go fuck yourself ^____^~"

Yeah, which is why I apologized. My conversations with friends go like:

"So, rumor has it the Yankees lost last night."

"Yeah, guess who else lost? The Phillies, you moron. You can't brag when they also lose."

"Yes I can. Fuck you with a rake."

That's verbatim from a text message. From there it degenerates into phrases like "dickwad" and "asstie". So, like I said, I made the mistake of saying "go fuck yourself" thinking it would come off as a good ol' New Jersey prefix ("Go fuck yourself, what's up?"), and forgetting that people here are far more civilized and respectable than my posse.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:03 AM on November 1, 2010


But, after watching it live, I sure had a real hankering for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups!

In a really overblown bean-plating analysis (probably only thought about by moi) -- Hershey's Reese's cups made for an ideal sponsor of the television broadcast on Saturday afternoon. The show was free of commercial cut-aways. The occasional banner at the bottom of the television screen: "Reese's is a proud sponsor of 'The Rally To Restore Sanity And/or Fear'" was the only advertising (as no advertising is allowed at an event on the Mall).

Ideal in that peanut butter cups are a favorite Halloween treat. The rally was held the afternoon before.

Ideal in bringing to mind their famous advertsing campaign:
"You got your peanut butter in my chocolate!" "You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!" "Two great tastes that taste great together."
And, how about their later campaign:
"There's no wrong way to eat a Reese's."
See, two sides CAN get along. And sometimes there's more than one way to look at things.
posted by ericb at 7:48 AM on November 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wait, Rory's from Philly? That explains everything.
posted by octothorpe at 7:52 AM on November 1, 2010


Recapitulating the spectacle.

Next up: Rally to Restore Irony and/or Literalism.
posted by warbaby at 7:52 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


windbox: Isn't that sign just making a (perhaps bad) joke that putting hitler mustaches on people doesn't make them scary?

The people who really missed the point aren't the ones with these signs. There were a handful of people who did absolutely miss the point, like the people who were actually protesting Obama policies with regard to the continuation of war, Guantanamo, gun legislation, etc. I felt bad for these people, mostly, because they really didn't get it.
posted by odinsdream at 8:05 AM on November 1, 2010


Friend, that's what the BLUE states think about Olberman, even. Both he and Beck are pandering pundits in it for the cash.

I have to disagree. Olbermann has his excesses, but I don't see any evidence that he is "pandering for cash." Where do you get that?

Since back in the "impeach Clinton / blue dress" days, he was just about the only online news figure to question the circus. I appreciate that he forged a path for a liberal voice in cable. I agree that he is now often over the top and that disappoints me, but I don't question his sincerity. To put him on any par with Beck is false and unfair equivalence.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:07 AM on November 1, 2010


Rory: Dude, (if I may call you dude), I gotta say - while "go fuck yourself with a rake" is an awesome sentiment to share with your friends... even I, with blurtus outus disorder, can tell that translating that to the wider internet just isn't a wise move. I say any variety of stupid things to my friends that would just give the wrong impression were I to try and say them on MetaFilter.
posted by sonika at 8:11 AM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


meese: You shouldn't imagine it as Stewart, Colbert, and their fans saying, "See? We ARE a political force!" You should instead imagine it as Stewart, Colbert, and their fans saying, "See? We are NOT accepting the narrative the major news sources are selling us."

BOLD added for emphasis. Stewart's and Colbert's shows have always been about a lot of things, but for me, their core appeal has always been this basic message. These shows (these individuals) have never claimed to have an answer to anything, have never put forth a platform/agenda of intended political action. What they have done very, very well is suggest that there's more to the reality of "what's really going on" than good vs bad, black vs white, red vs blue, right vs left, us vs them, hip vs square ... yadda-yadda-yadda.

And they're funny.

interesting to me that a quick search of this currently 325 comment thread reveals not a single use of the word "jester". Colbert and Stewart are court jesters who have risen to positions of significant prominence. But their genius is that they remain jesters, not getting sucked into the power game, just moving from laugh to laugh, because there's so darned much to laugh at. gods love 'em.
posted by philip-random at 8:28 AM on November 1, 2010


FWIW: The 'official' flickr tag for event photos is sanityandorfear, if you want to browse more than one person or set.

The $500,000 was money that they raised for a charity and not money they gave to Colbert wasn't it?

It was raised for DonorsChoose.org, a charity Colbert is a board member of. Also, it was done as a goodwill gesture, not a quid pro quo.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:33 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sara C.: "If all other rallies ever have had zero effect on anything, why do you think that this rally will be different?

The turnout isn't unusual. There was no united goal or cause or cohesive message. As far as I can tell no politicians or activists spoke at the rally, and the organizers didn't attempt to endorse any particular political candidate or even any particular agenda. There have even been complaints in this thread that some affiliated sister rallies held in other places allowed a political party to participate.

What single issue would you say that this rally stood for, beyond "calmness and civility"? And if you would agree that "calmness and civility" is the overarching political theme of the rally, what kind of impact do you think that will have on the wider political stage? How will your rally effect change where all other rallies fail to do so
"

I'll take a shot at this, in a hypothetical fashion.

If enough people are convinced that the way for America to solve it's problems is through reasonable discussion and compromise, then the Republicans will lose this election, and if they don't lose this election then they will surely lose the next election.

It seems like the vast majority of Republicans are running on the idea that they can gain lasting power solely by opposing to the last man everything that the Democrats have done or will try to do. If the large number of American's who are independent decide that the one thing that they want from their politicians is for Congress to have an intelligent and honest debate of the issues, I feel like not only will the Democrats win but all of America wins.
posted by jefeweiss at 8:47 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rory: Dude, (if I may call you dude), I gotta say - while "go fuck yourself with a rake" is an awesome sentiment to share with your friends... even I, with blurtus outus disorder, can tell that translating that to the wider internet just isn't a wise move. I say any variety of stupid things to my friends that would just give the wrong impression were I to try and say them on MetaFilter.

Yep! I agree. Hence me repeatedly saying I'm sorry. Stupid and/or dick move on my part.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:16 AM on November 1, 2010


Speaking of spectacle, Chris Hedges weighs in:
The Rally to Restore Sanity, held in Washington’s National Mall, was yet another sad footnote to the death of the liberal class. It was as innocuous as a Boy Scout jamboree. It ridiculed followers of the tea party without acknowledging that the pain and suffering expressed by many who support the movement are not only real but legitimate. It made fun of the buffoons who are rising up out of moral swamps to take over the Republican Party without accepting that their supporters were sold out by a liberal class, and especially a Democratic Party, which turned its back on the working class for corporate money.
Link
Look, I understand that the rally was a good time for a lot of people, and it gave folks a sense of community that they may never have experienced before. Just remember that while hipster snark may be the preferred discourse at metafilter, an ad agency, a web 2.0 startup, or a Democratic Party Convention meeting, it does not translate well to a blue collar environment. People who work with their hands and in dangerous jobs want to know that they can trust the people they work with. There's a certain unironic discourse there of trust and reciprocity. When you are loading a cardboard baler, moving heavy stuff, or operating a spot welder, you want to know that the people around you are actually engaged and clearly communicating. Otherwise people get hurt pretty fast. Ironic disengagement isn't confidence inspiring in that environment, I can tell you from experience.

I also notice that no one answered my comments regarding people who can't be negotiated with. To clarify, that's not all the Tea Partiers-- I should have been more nuanced there. Hedges is right, there are certainly people who count themselves as Tea Partiers who have totally legitimate complaints and anger with a system that is pretty much failing them. But, there's no reaching across the aisle to people that want to kill my friends because they are gay.
posted by wuwei at 9:17 AM on November 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


But, there's no reaching across the aisle to people that want to kill my friends because they are gay.

There's not a lot of those people, though. You might get better results by constructively engaging the folks who oppose, say, gay marriage. Which was rather the point of the exercise here.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:27 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Faze, I didn't see your comment until just now, but I will now say "Touché," and very well-played.

In my own defense, it's not "memory loss" that's responsible (although I can't claim to have no memory loss going on), it's that I was too young then to have had any memory to lose. More generally, there are many people in this thread, some who are younger than I am, who have no direct experience of what it was like to live through those times. Relying on the old canard that "tsk tsk, it has to be so difficult for you to understand because you weren't there" is kind of what your generation's parlance used to term an easy cop-out, and I suspect it's probably something that you thought was a cop-out when your parents and grandparents did it, too.

I wasn't "there," in an adult-sentient way, but I'm aware. Although from the sound of your comment it's as if anyone younger than you has never opened a browser or picked up a newspaper, let alone read a book -- or been beaten over the head with the collective memory of every event that took place in the 1960s for almost as long as he or she could wobblingly toddle across the room to flop in front of the blaring TV set.
posted by blucevalo at 9:27 AM on November 1, 2010


It seems like the vast majority of Republicans are running on the idea that they can gain lasting power solely by opposing to the last man everything that the Democrats have done or will try to do.

Whether it is true or not, I get the same impression and this is the main thing that keeps me from even considering voting for any republican. I never know if the candidate's views are what they actually think or what they've been told to think by the party. Even if there were a candidate who disagreed with the party line, I'm afraid that they would vote with the party anyways. That they would be willing to compromise but won't for fear of being shunned by their party.

I'm all for smaller government and a lot of the high level things the republican party stands for. I might have even voted for McCain in 2000 had he won the nomination instead of Bush. But, I know enough about economics to know cutting government spending is not something that should happen in a recession. There is simply no way a republican candidate can say something like that and expect to have any support. Furthermore, I feel like the behavior of the Republican party over the last few years (particularly the extensive use of the filibuster) is starting to cause the same kind of polarization with the democrats. If the republicans disagree with every stance you take just because that is your stance, its inevitable.

I think this rally is way to say, "Most Americans don't want it to be this way." We want it to be okay to find common ground and for it to be okay to change your mind on large issues, to be persuaded by facts and data, to disagree with your party's stance and for your party to be okay with that.
posted by VTX at 9:28 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


ChurchHatesTucker:
I didn't say I was not interested in reaching across the aisle. I am, actually, and that's why I posted the link to Hedges' article. I regularly have discussions with people that are highly sympathetic to the Tea Party movement. We tend to bond over common interests like cars and other technical geekery. There is a lot of common ground actually, in terms of shared concern and anger regarding the people that Theodore Roosevelt once called "malefactors of great wealth."

I'll close with a quote from another notable conservative American, Barry Goldwater:
"I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also, that moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue."
Youtube Link
posted by wuwei at 10:27 AM on November 1, 2010


I was at the Seattle rally. I saw lots of people. Lots of funny signs, poking fun of Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck. There were signs I wasn't sure if they were serious or not. There were serious signs that made it clear what party the holder was, or at least opposed most.

There were also some very real people feeling some very real emotions, not just there for laughs.

I found it an amazingly un-cycnical experience. I just wish it hadn't started raining, and I'd found better parking.
posted by nomisxid at 10:37 AM on November 1, 2010


Previous FPP: Is Jon Stewart the Most Trusted Man in America?
posted by ericb at 10:58 AM on November 1, 2010


I didn't say I was not interested in reaching across the aisle.

OK, then. Nobody said that it would work in all cases. The point is to try, and hopefully to make those who refuse to engage the outsiders rather than the media darlings.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:59 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was at the Seattle rally.
I just wish it hadn't started raining

More proof of the leftists' complete disconnect from reality.
posted by kafziel at 11:06 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


More proof of the leftists' complete disconnect from reality.

Hey, less than 24 hours later, it was perfectly dry, google weather control dude! =p
posted by nomisxid at 11:11 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pedicab driver told that the mass of the Beck rally equaled to that of Stewart rally as the former were much heavier and came with oxygen tanks and dialysis machines...

My hand and signs seen here and here.

Not sure if I can attach deeper meaning to the event, but it was nice to meet people and read funny signs. Maybe some will even vote tomorrow and try to make a difference.
posted by zeikka at 11:32 AM on November 1, 2010


Interviews with Attendees of 'Rally to Restore Sanity'.
posted by ericb at 11:34 AM on November 1, 2010


Pastafarians Represented at Sanity/Fear Rally
posted by homunculus at 11:43 AM on November 1, 2010


From the Fark thread.

Fantastic!
posted by mazola at 12:29 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Two criticisms.

"Stewart spent a whole show last week interviewing Obama about everything from health care to the economy. But neither man mentioned the wars, even though the billions spent on them could go a long way toward fixing the economy and paying for health care."

- Let's Rally to Restore Peace

"The Rally to Restore Sanity, held in Washington’s National Mall, was yet another sad footnote to the death of the liberal class. It was as innocuous as a Boy Scout jamboree. It ridiculed followers of the tea party without acknowledging that the pain and suffering expressed by many who support the movement are not only real but legitimate. It made fun of the buffoons who are rising up out of moral swamps to take over the Republican Party without accepting that their supporters were sold out by a liberal class, and especially a Democratic Party, which turned its back on the working class for corporate money. "

- The Phantom Left


I'm guess I'm glad the rally got more people than Glenn Beck did, but that's about it.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:30 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


ericb, those interviews make me sad. They started out hopefully enough, but nobody at the end could name any races in their districts or any candidates. We have no voters!

On this pre-election day, I am keeping fear alive. Things looks so freaking dire. I am hoping for some type of deus ex machina to make things less bad. I am hoping that my expectations for tomorrow are so horrible that the reality cannot possibly be as bad.
posted by madamjujujive at 12:52 PM on November 1, 2010


those interviews make me sad. They started out hopefully enough, but nobody at the end could name any races in their districts or any candidates. We have no voters!

Here in WA, I don't pay any attention to campaigning at all. Period. I couldn't name candidates off the top of my head if you asked me to.

But, last night, I sat down with my mail-in ballot (the entire state is vote-by-mail), and started with issue 1 on the ballot, and did internet research, and made a decision, and filled in the oval. And so on, all the way down the list, both sides of the ballot.

Why should people have to know about candidates and issues off the top of their head when there's a system in place like this one?

(When I lived in states with polling places, I'd do basically the same thing a day or two before the election, and walk into the voting booth with a piece of paper in my pocket indicating my choices.)

Sometimes the ability to vote doesn't mean that you've bought into all the popularity contest bullshit of the campaign process. It means that you make decisions and express them at the polls. The candidates might WANT me to know their names, but I don't play that game.
posted by hippybear at 1:02 PM on November 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've got to throw in with underwhelmed and unimpressed crowd.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:05 PM on November 1, 2010


Is the Rally to Restore Sanity in this thread over on MeTa?
posted by TheFlamingoKing at 1:19 PM on November 1, 2010


No, that's the thread for if you want this thread but ultra-crazy.
posted by Artw at 1:41 PM on November 1, 2010


Why should people have to know about candidates and issues off the top of their head when there's a system in place like this one?

Um, because there was a primary and they learned about candidates and voted for them then? Because they have been talking about issues with their family and peers? Because they have been reading the news? Because they want to be an informed voter?

Good if it works for you, hippybear, but I am not comforted to think that a night of cramming on the internet is how we pick our leaders. I understand that a lot of those people were students and new to a district but what about their home districts or absentee ballots? Sorry, I don't see an excuse for it. You can be sure the tea party people know who they are voting for.
posted by madamjujujive at 2:24 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good if it works for you, hippybear, but I am not comforted to think that a night of cramming on the internet is how we pick our leaders. I understand that a lot of those people were students and new to a district but what about their home districts or absentee ballots? Sorry, I don't see an excuse for it. You can be sure the tea party people know who they are voting for.

This is way more thought than most people put into their votes, especially the smaller local races.
posted by VTX at 2:40 PM on November 1, 2010


On this pre-election day, I am keeping fear alive. Things looks so freaking dire. I am hoping for some type of deus ex machina to make things less bad. I am hoping that my expectations for tomorrow are so horrible that the reality cannot possibly be as bad.

But this sentiment is the exact antithesis of the rally. We live in "hard times, not end times", remember? Years down the road, we are not going to give a shit whether or not republicans gained X seats versus Y seats in the house.
posted by Think_Long at 3:24 PM on November 1, 2010


CNN I report video of signs at the rally.
posted by bearwife at 3:26 PM on November 1, 2010


>On this pre-election day, I am keeping fear alive.

>But this sentiment is the exact antithesis of the rally.

Well, half the rally.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:14 PM on November 1, 2010


But why not, madamjujujive? The issues presented by the candidates aren't going to change over the course of a campaign. And all the information that has been laid out for months ahead of time is present and easily locatable online. I watch the news all the time (well NEVER the local news), I watch a debate here or there, but they're never any more informative than sitting down and reading what's presented online...

I never discuss politics with my family or peers or others I come into contact with, unless it's strict issue politics which have immediate impact, or are gay rights issues, which have a lot more to do with worldview than election processes. I guess I was raised to believe that casual discussion of such things is, at best, impolite, and taken to an extreme can tear apart a family or group if they don't see things the same way. "Never discuss politics or religion" has kept me in good stead for decades.

The only time I've recently gone further than this was in the 2008 election, when WA had their "everything but marriage" domestic partnership referendum on the ballot. For that election, I actually called every state and local candidate listed on my ballot and asked them what their position was on that issue. Because if someone doesn't feel I'm a person worth full equality, I won't vote for them. I talked to a lot of candidates personally that year, and it was an interesting couple of days while I made the calls. Some of them seemed to think I was going to argue with them about their position, but I was just calling for information.

There are a lot of ways to be an informed voter that don't mean that you're buying into the whole "I'm more popular than you" ego-trip that is most campaigning. If you know what you believe is good as far as policy goes, it's really not hard to gather information which lets you know who will vote somewhat in line with those beliefs. And isn't that what representational government is about?

(And maybe I'm not passionate enough about politics or something, but telling me that the tea party voters know who they're voting for doesn't really impress me much.)
posted by hippybear at 4:27 PM on November 1, 2010


Think_Long, glad to see you living up to your name ;-)

Listen, I buy into the "let's be more civil" stuff, but if the message that people come away from this rally with is "...years down the road, we are not going to give a shit whether or not republicans gained X seats versus Y seats in the house" I am not down with that one bit. That has just not been my life experience. That's how I rationalized away my sick feeling the night Reagan got elected in a landslide. That's how I tried to accept it when Bush "got elected." How bad can it be? It's just politics... well we all learned how bad it can be and we'll be stuck with that lesson for a good damn while yet.

I have lived long enough to know that not only do I still give a shit years down the road, I give even more of a shit, and I am stuck with their damn supreme courts for eons and eons.

hippybear, you seem like a reasonable person and if you have your system, well and good. I think if you have taken the time to call to find out candidate's stances, there is more to your system than leaving it all to one cram session the night before.

I stick with my dismay that the people interviewed couldn't name a single candidate or issue in their districts. We are facing one of the most critical elections I've seen in my lifetime and the stakes are very high. The house and the senate hang in the balance and could well be taken over by the extreme right wing. In my world view, that would be disastrous. That will allow for rampant redistricting and blocking federal judge appointments, the effects of which will be felt for years to come. Legislative issues that are important will be stalled entirely or pulled unacceptably far to the right.

Now I have surely had my disappointments with Obama but there are many important issues that I don't want to see frozen or reversed - the future composition of the supreme court, choice, gay rights, separation of church and state, worker safety, immigration, ending the war, health care, privacy, campaign finance, yadda yadda yadda.

The fact that the right wing is taking this election very, very seriously concerns me greatly. And to see people with whom I presumably share values having an "enthusiasm gap" or being unaware of the choices before them ... well, in my world that just plain scary.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:45 PM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


And to see people with whom I presumably share values having an "enthusiasm gap" or being unaware of the choices before them ... well, in my world that just plain scary.

And what are the options? (a) Vote for the incumbents, and reinforce their conception that they're doing just fine (b) Vote for the opposition, and hopefully send a message, but possibly the wrong one to the opposition, or (c) Don't vote, and hopefully send a message.

C.F., Gen O
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:15 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, but give the rest of us a little credit. I was there. I can tell you more about my local candidates and ballot initiatives than you want to know (and there are a LOT of both). I work for an organization very actively supporting a state initiative, and I have strong opinions about the rest of the ballot too. Yes, the stakes are very high, and I'm very worried about the election tomorrow. But give the people who were there credit for being a diverse set of folks with diverse motivations for being there and a variety of levels of engagement with local politics.

In fact, if any Mefite wants to know how to vote in San Francisco or California, I will be happy to tell you what I'm doing and why!
posted by gingerbeer at 6:21 PM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Photo: The Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear, from Space.
posted by ericb at 6:27 AM on November 2, 2010


Olbermann Suspends 'Worst Person' Segment In Wake Of Sanity Rally.
posted by ericb at 6:29 AM on November 2, 2010


Rally To Restore Sanity: The Media Responds.
posted by ericb at 6:32 AM on November 2, 2010


Fox & Friends Mock Rally For Sanity: Stewart ‘Looks Fancy In His Suit, Like He’s A Real News Person’.
posted by ericb at 6:36 AM on November 2, 2010


Olbermann Suspends 'Worst Person' Segment In Wake Of Sanity Rally.

Olbermann pulls a classic Grade Four-ism and hangs things up by protesting that though MSNBC might have done some WRONG things, FOX is much more WRONG. And they started it. Olbermann needs to be called out for missing the f***ing point, and sent to MetaTalk.
posted by philip-random at 8:01 AM on November 2, 2010


I wasn't at the rally, didn't watch it, only finally got around to reading a transcript of Stewart's closing speech yesterday evening. So I'm mostly commenting here on what I've seen as responses to the rally.

From friends' comments and Facebook pages, it helped energize a number of people. That's a good thing. And his closing speech? Well, there's nothing wrong with it as far as it goes... but I'd have to agree with some of the detractors of the rally that it doesn't go very far. Just focusing for now on the "affecting media discourse" aspect of the rally, it seems to me that Stewart was calling for calm discussions in place of overheated punditry - "News Hour" instead of Glenn Beck, as it were. Not bad, but... there's a broader historical and cultural context that Stewart's speech is an addition to, which affects the meaning that people will take away from it.

1. He sort of came out in favor of fact-informed calm discussion, but he also sort of came out in favor of "listening to all sides of an issue". Presenting two (though often not more than two) sides to an issue is a time-worn journalistic imperative. Unfortunately, as can be seen with much science journalism, it can be used to amplify or create a (polite, calm) "controversy" (over evolution, global warming, etc.) that doesn't really actually exist. I'd have been happier if Stewart had more clearly given a nod to this pitfall, maybe emphasizing the "reasoned" part of calm, reasoned debate a little more strongly.

2. Calm, reasoned debate can still be a strong force in promoting inequities and other problems through what is omitted, what topics are not even talked about. Stewart talks about directing traffic in the Lincoln Tunnel between Manhattan and Jersey City, but not about how that helps or relates to falling-apart cities like Camden (which Chris Hedges, quoted by some other people above, talks about), black men who are disproportionately profiled and thrown in jail or shot at by police (sometimes despite being polite and reasonable), and who then are disenfranchised (along with everyone with a similar name) in states like Florida, people and families who are now homeless due to mortgage and foreclosure fraud (because they tried to fight their foreclosure politely and reasonably in court, rather than occupying their homes and refusing to be evicted with the help of a neighborhood support organization), people and families who are now starving due to inadequate social safety nets (and maybe having to make the choice between politely starving to death versus criminally stealing some food), people who have lost their lives or returned emotionally or physically injured from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. Yes, it is bad times but not apocalyptic end times (well, except for those people dying in pointless wars or starving to death or committing suicide from war- or economically-induced depression - pretty end times for them, albeit still not in the worldwide apocalyptic sense), but:

2a. Calm, reasoned debate where you respect the experiences and point of view of other people begins by acknowledging their experiences and feelings. Stewart did not do this for the many, many people across the U.S. who have serious complaints that it would be entirely reasonable to not be calm about.

2b. Stewart offered his not-bad remarks in an unfortunate historical context where many people's very reasonable (in retrospect) complaints have *always* initially been blown off and not allowed into the "calm, reasonable debate" discussions that Stewart promotes by people trying to maintain the status quo who label anything that they don't want to hear about or talk about as unreasonable. Witness: early abolitionists, women's suffragists, initial calls for black civil rights (that is, the decades of polite asking that came between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement), farmworkers movements, the beginnings of 2nd wave feminism, women bloggers pointing out blatant sexism on the internet, etc. I think the reason that many people who have been more involved in social activism are reacting negatively to Stewart's comments is not because we oppose calm, reasoned debate, but because we've too often heard similar phrases used to deny or belittle us and our (entirely reasonable) causes, and to excuse and defend a not-acceptable status quo.

Ok, post is getting way too long and I have to go to lunch. That's a snippet of some of my reaction to just Stewart's closing speech and reactions to the rally that I've seen, anyways.
posted by eviemath at 8:40 AM on November 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Good if it works for you, hippybear, but I am not comforted to think that a night of cramming on the internet is how we pick our leaders.

Me I just vote the straight party ticket.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:01 AM on November 2, 2010


Just focusing for now on the "affecting media discourse" aspect of the rally, it seems to me that Stewart was calling for calm discussions in place of overheated punditry - "News Hour" instead of Glenn Beck, as it were. Not bad, but... there's a broader historical and cultural context that Stewart's speech is an addition to, which affects the meaning that people will take away from it.

I think this is one of the better written examples of the problem a lot of people had with the event. It didn't promote their agenda/wishes/sense of history.

And that was the object of the excercise.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:10 AM on November 2, 2010


OBAMA = KEYNESIAN?
- He was born in Hawaii? What proof do you want?
- And you think that establishes that he's definitely not Keynesian?
posted by Anything at 10:10 AM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


then seeing GHWBush and GWBush drive around the field while the crowd went semi-wild.....

Oh god, wasn't it so wonderful to see the Rangers go down in flames to the heathens from San Francisco. At first, I was a little disappointed we didn't get to beat the Yankees (avenge 1962! (and all the rest)), but Texas, man, you can't get much worse of a villain.

Didn't Nolan Ryan lose some bet? Doesn't he have to wear a dress and marry a man now?

And that was the object of the excercise.

The object of the exercise was to promote no one's agenda or cause? I like it. Very anti-design.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:05 AM on November 2, 2010


rally to restore sanity, antarctica
posted by zarq at 11:38 AM on November 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


A note to whoever made this into an actual sign: You were on The Daily Show!

\o/
posted by Sys Rq at 11:52 AM on November 2, 2010


Ah, but wanting to not promote any agenda or cause is also an agenda or cause, just like the set that contains all sets that don't contain themselves is also a set. (Thus we should not base the foundations of mathematics on Jon Stewart, clearly!)

Despite dumping on the message of the rally in my last post, I'm glad that people went, and found it energizing. That's the point of a rally - to rally people in your group. Rallies are fun.
posted by eviemath at 1:53 PM on November 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older Broadcast on Halloween night 1992 Ghostwatch - a l...  |  The entire run of the Bell Sys... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments