Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, pointing his hands up and next to a sign for the Rally to Restore Sanity.

So, I’ve been thinking about the Rally to Restore Sanity. I’ve been thinking about it a lot.  People, it seems, are pumped!  Which I guess is cool – my politics don’t align perfectly with Jon Stewart’s, but I do watch The Daily Show pretty religiously, and I think he is a smart, pretty hilarious guy most of the time.  And going to see him be funny in person sounds kind of fun.  But it’s been really getting on my nerves, and it’s not just because he’s equating people spewing hateful bullshit to people accusing G.W. Bush of being a war criminal (which, as it turns out, he was). Here’s my big reservation: I kinda think some people are going for more than just fun?  Like, maybe because they feel something is wrong with the direction this country is headed, and they want to do something about it:

“I know people like me are frustrated at seeing what’s going on with the ‘tea party’ and the amount of press they’re getting,” said Jim Baum, 55, a private building inspector and farmer who is organizing a “Rally to Restore Sanity” in Seattle. “It’s getting shown as if it’s more of a trend nationally than it actually is. A lot of us would like to counter those people.”

Well, Jim Baum, I think countering the Tea Party (“those people” – alas, the post about classist narratives about supporters of the Tea Party is for another day) is important too!  But Jim, where did you get the idea that this was for anything other than fun? Oh, well I guess Oprah is encouraging folks to go.  What do you know, even the President is talking about it. And there goes Arianna Huffington, offering up as many buses as people need!  Aaaand, that’s it for me.  At some point, it gets to be more than a little ridiculous that so many resources – money, tv time, buses – are going to a rally that is basically a joke.

The point of a protest is that you show up and demand something of someone that can do something for you: a body of elected officials who is supposed to represent you, for example.  So let’s go over the specs here.  The demand of this protest: Restore Sanity.  Um, ok.  The target: I don’t know. Maybe private networks that make lots of money by polarizing our political debates and injecting them with meaningless garbage?  Last time I checked, though, private networks owe the public absolutely nothing, as their primary imperative is pretty much just making money.  In short, I’m pretty skeptical about the ability of a great number of Daily Show fans to get anyone to “tone it down a notch,” particularly people who have a specific profit motive to do the opposite.

Stewart has said over and over again: his show is just a comedy show, and he is under no journalistic obligation to be anything other than a comedy show.  And I think he’s right.  But this is different; he is organizing a group of people.  And so long as you have that much power, that much pull, wouldn’t it be wise to organize on, say, an issue? Or even a set of issues?  They could probably still be funny about it. They don’t even have to go far from where they are now.  I understand that the state of journalism is pretty wack; maybe the rally could be for legislation that could help do something about this? Antitrust legislation, net neutrality, increased funding for public media, I don’t know!  Something?  Or maybe Stewart could have been an ally.  Last weekend, tens of thousands of people went to DC to go to the One Nation rally, a march backed by labor, civil rights groups, LGBT groups, immigrant rights groups, women’s groups, young people’s rights groups, and more.   It would have been pretty cool if Stewart and his famous buddies had organized people to go to that.  But instead, the folks over at The Daily Show are organizing a fake rally, with a fake (and ableist!) demand, and a fake target.  Facebook says that nearly 190,000 are attending, and that’s not even counting the 80,000 Colbert’s got going.

I don’t know what’s more depressing, people taking a meaningless rally seriously, or that people seem more willing to travel cross country to be an ironic activist than they are for something real.  Look, I know Jon Stewart is a comedian, and that he really has no duty to organize anyone.  But so long as he’s doing so, I guess I just wish he’d do it for something other than pumping his ratings.  And sure, there will probably be a showing of left-leaning people gathering just before an election day.  I just don’t know that a group of left-leaning people gathering as a joke, with no real demands, will do anything for anyone.  Except for maybe the aforementioned left-leaning people, who get to pat themselves on the back for Doing Something Important in between episodes of The Daily Show.

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