Friday, August 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

UPDATED: Stewart, Colbert to rally...for irony we can't believe in

UPDATED: Stewart, Colbert to rally...for irony we can't believe in

As you were warned last week, I've written a story for today's Daily News about the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally in D.C. this Saturday, the people from Philly who are attending, and what it all means. Here's an excerpt:

But - in perhaps a commentary on the absurdness of the American political moment - there remains little agreement over what the rally is actually about, even among those who've plunked down hundreds of dollars for train tickets and motel rooms.

Is it, indeed, an in-your-face rejoinder to conservatives Beck and Sarah Palin, who drew a large throng to the Lincoln Memorial on the other end of the Mall for their Restoring Honor rally in late August?

Is it nothing more than a big outdoor comedy show with rock bands on a glorious October day - with no grander purpose than biting satire, and perhaps moving a few copies of Stewart's new book?

Or, is it what Stewart himself has said, "a rally for the people who've been too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs) - not so much the Silent Majority as the Busy Majority"?

As they say on Facebook - where as of yesterday some 221,543 people claimed they would be attending - it's complicated.

I have my own thoughts about the Rally to Restore Sanity -- in fact, I wrote an op-ed that's scheduled to run in the Los Angeles Times on Friday -- but I'm a little tied up with a midday event, so this is a chance for you to weigh in. I'll update the post with my commentary later today.

UPDATE: The headline for the post refers to "irony," which Stewart and Colbert are the masters of -- the arched eyebrow and what not. They are also, as I've argued here several times over the last couple of years, arguably two of the best journalists working in America right now -- because they're not afraid to ask tough questions from time to time (that's mainly a reference to Stewart) and because they've done so much to expose hypocrisy, from politicians (an easy target!) and in the media (also an easy target, but one that rarely gets its proper due because the media doesn't like to report on itself). Last night was a good example, tracing all the times over the last 21 (yes, 21 years) that Sen. John McCain has proclaimed that "Washington is broken!" You think maybe with all this time he would have fixed it by now.

That's what the Comedy Central duo do. They function not just as comedians but as ace journalists from the comfort zone of their studios in Manhattan -- but journalists generally don't stage large outdoor rallies, not even for a cause as vague as "sanity," and with good reason. Rallies are typically for something -- and not for irony.

Like most members of my Generation Jones coming in the wake of the tragically sincere Baby Boomers (maybe peace love and understanding is funny, afterall!), Stewart and Colbert revel in irony, the constant hypocrisy of our pop-culture that now permeates political culture. Irony is "hipsters" who go out on the town and have a grand time wearing a trucker hat and drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon, the joke being that they are not the kind of person who would really wear a trucker hat and drink PBR...except that here they are doing exactly that. Ironic, huh? Now here come thousands of liberally leaning folks but not the kind who would ever attend a real political rally for a controversial cause. Yet now they're enjoying the comaradarie and good times of a rally, without commiting to anything -- except the irony that they are attending a rally of their own.

I guess I'm predicting that the Rally to Restore Sanity will be the trucker hat and PBR of political rallies -- but Stewart and Colbert still have three days to prove me wrong.

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