Restore Sanity: Wear Your Sarcastic Hat

I didn’t get around to watching Jon Stewart’s September 16th Daily Show until last night.  By then I’d already seen some blog reaction to the “Rally to Restore Sanity” announcement, so I knew what was coming.

Even so, I was shocked.  A “million moderate march”?  I literally squirmed in embarrassment, all the more so as it became apparent Stewart actually meant it.  As a rallying cry, “let’s tone down the rhetoric” has all the oomph of “let’s keep it down to a dull roar, kids.”  I remember Richard Nixon’s pathetic appeal to the “silent majority” (and all the good it did him).  What the hell is Stewart thinking?  What pressures are his corporate masters putting on him?

The people Stewart says he’s trying to rally?  Moderates?  First, that’s not his audience.  Second, moderates are not and never will be agents of change.  Moderates go along to get along.  If it were up to moderates, schools and lunch counters would still be segregated.  There would be no labor unions, no minimum wage.  Women would still be in the kitchen.  We would not have gone to the moon.

Moderates won’t go to this rally.  Stewart’s fans will, and there are a lot of them, but what will they accomplish?  Show that Stewart can draw larger crowds than Beck and Palin?  Is that really what this is all about?

As contemptuous as I am of tea party morons who allow themselves to be manipulated by billionaires who’d press them into indentured servitude if they thought they could get away with it, at least the tea party morons think they’re fighting for some kind of change.  But this . . . and I don’t doubt it will come off, or that a huge crowd will show up for it . . . will be more like an article in The Onion: worth a chuckle, devoid of meaning.

There’s something wrong here, wrong and off-putting.  Not only is the idea behind Stewart’s rally lame, it’s purportedly aimed at a group of lamers who by definition do not attend rallies.  I predict the inevitable crowd of Stewart’s fans will be swelled by activists from the left who won’t be there to “take it down a notch” . . . and that Stewart’s going to have real problems if he tries to stifle or control them.

Personally, the most disturbing thing about all this is the unexpected shift in Stewart’s message.  Up to now, Stewart has mercilessly exposed and skewered the racist, corporate, war-mongering agenda of the right.  With this announcement his message is compromised, perhaps fatally so.  He says . . . quite specifically, if you watch the video . . . that moderation lies halfway between the false claim that Obama is a socialist Kenyan grandmother-killing Muslim and the objectively truthful claim that Bush and Cheney committed war crimes.  This is not moderation; it’s not even true centrism.  This is merely being a chickenshit, and it’s so unlike Stewart I can’t help but wonder who got to him.

The title of this post comes from a memorable line by Colin Covert in his review of The Brothers Bloom: “The leads have zero comedic skills, but you can tell they’re being funny because they all wear sarcastic hats.”

© 2010, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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