“Don’t care,” Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart said of the impending media response to his Restoring Sanity and/or Fear rally in Washington, D.C.
Stewart and his on-air cohort, Stephen Colbert, hosted their much-hyped rally Saturday in time for the midterm elections.
Their goal, their underlying theme, was reason. Sure, the rally seemed to play out as some kind of educational high school assembly at times, but they got a point across – especially when Stewart gave his parting speech, which summarized his goal perfectly, especially his statement about media overreaction.
“The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything, we actually get sicker and, perhaps, egsma,” Stewart said.
Stewart also emphasized unity in the times of trouble that he acknowledged we are currently in. In a nutshell, if we stigmatize every tea partier as racist or every person of Muslim faith as a terrorist, we add fuel to the fire. Stewart elaborated on this point in his parting speech.
“The inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe, not more,” Stewart said.
I urge you to watch or listen to that final speech.
Overall, the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was amusing and appropriately light-hearted, yet it gave us something to think about. That was the goal, and Stewart and Colbert met it.
I’ve already read and heard criticism. Most of it seems to completely miss the point. Some of it arrived before the rally even took place.
Madea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace, writes that Stewart’s attitude perpetuates “slacktivism.” Specifically, she believes Stewart encourages Americans not to protest the unjust. She cites the BP oil spill and Iraq as examples in her column in the Huffington Post on Oct. 27.
“So let’s get this straight: people who were so horrified when the U.S. invaded Iraq that they joined millions of others to protest are not sane?” Benjamin said.
Actually, at no point does Stewart speak out against perfectly sane protests. He and Colbert are not opposed to having differing viewpoints on war or other political issues.
Benjamin seems miffed that Stewart considers CODEPINK part of the problem he rallied against – the problem of political sides in the United States demonizing each other, going to extremes to prove the opposition is evil. She takes issue with this because she doesn’t consider CODEPINK obnoxious or demonizing in any way.
Maybe, then, her organization should reconsider protesting the war by encouraging people to dress as zombie soldiers and ghostly war veterans and walk around the perimeter of a White House Halloween party for military families. That seems extreme. Surely there’s a better way to protest a war.
Despite that, I must give her credit.
Benjamin and CODEPINK did support the rally, hosting a Mad Hatter Tea Party on the mall. Benjamin herself does support Stewart and Colbert’s efforts in her column. I believe she simply misinterpreted part of the rally’s message.
I’ll show you how easy it is to admit you’re part of the problem. When I previewed Stewart and Colbert’s rally, I made one joke about Glenn Beck shoving a quesadilla burger down his throat and another vague comment about him being stupid.
Yes, Beck is fat. Yes, Beck over-dramatizes and cries a lot. Easy as it is to make fun of fat, crying men, the insult didn’t prove or solve anything. I demonized someone I strongly disagree with on a regular basis by insulting him instead of simply pulling some quotes and debating points in a reasonable and mature manner.
There you go. I contributed to the exact problem Stewart and Colbert tried to combat on Saturday.
The problem with politics and the media in America is the constant mud-slinging and negativity that surrounds our elections. “The Daily Show” pokes fun at and simultaneously exploits this problem. Even with the consistent layer of comedy, the show makes valid points about the absurdity of both left and right-leaning news programs.
Stewart elaborated on the issue of comedians taking stances in the press conference following the rally.
“I’m proud to be a comedian. I think it’s hard,” Stewart said.
“It’s not a way of dismissing what you’re saying.”
Stewart and Colbert have valid points to make. George Carlin was one of, if not the, greatest stand-up comedian of all time, and his stances on world issues were quite influential, unique and thought-provoking. He even intertwined these observations into his comedy act, bringing out not only laughter from the audience, but deep thought as well.
Stewart and Colbert attempt to do the same every day, and on Saturday, they succeeded.