So comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held a rally on Saturday, and apparently a few people came. The critics had the knives out early for this; their critiques before and after are not hard to find, most providing, like criticism so often does, an X-ray of the sensibilities of the critic rather than an examination of the subject in question. Howard Fineman damned it with faint praise,and two other bloggers at HuffPost condemned it almost out of hand. While this account seems to sum up the response to the affair after the fact:
Jon Stewart managed to do something with his Rally to Restore Sanity that hasn’t been done in a long time. He confused the mainstream media to the point of a near collective nervous breakdown. The media couldn’t figure out what this rally was about, and it was only when Stewart explained it to them that they realized that it was about them.NPR, to its credit, ran that portion of Stewart's speech in its story this morning on the rally. But, I wonder, whence comes all this confusion?
The media just didn’t get it. In fact, the whole point of the rally eluded them until Jon Stewart told them during his speech to close the event. Stewart explained that the media themselves were part of the point of the rally. Cable news’ approach is part of the problem, “But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying 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 sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic. “
Ricouer would call it a narrative, not meaning quite what we now refer to as the "narrative" of the media (which has replaced "paradigm," which is, after all, sooo po-mo and pre-9/11). Odd, of course, that Stewart's rally doesn't fit the national narrative, but this does:
Just last night it was revealed that, at the rally I had for Joe Miller on Thursday, it was revealed and we have the tape that proves it, that the CBS reporters, the affiliate in Alaska, conspired to make up stories about Joe Miller. We have the tape, Chris. I can't wait until it busts out all over the nation to show what it is that we, kind of what I put up with for two years now with the media, but what Joe Miller is faced with, in dealing with someone who feels, Lisa Murkowski, so entitled to seat that she and some of her people including some complicits [sic] in the media will do anything, they will stop at nothing.This is pretty much in keeping with the Cat Stevens cameo-at-the-rally controversy, except this appears to be a legitimate controversy (i.e., the accusations are being denied). But it fits the narrative we expect; what Stewart and Colbert did Saturday, didn't fit that narrative, anymore than Stephen Colbert's testimony to Congress did. Everybody talked about what he said in character; nobody talked about his reasons for testifying. As Jason Easley put it:
I'm saying that we have it on tape, the CBS reporters in the affiliate up there in Alaska are on tape saying let's find a child molester in the crowd as a supporter for Joe Miller, let's blast that. Let's concoct a Ron Paul moment there let's find any kind of chaos so that we can tweet an alert and say, 'oohh there's chaos, Joe Miller got punched.' That's sick. Those are corrupt bastards.
The corporate media didn’t expect anyone to catch on to their role as the dissemination system for partisan polarization. The media may not be to blame for the partisan divisions in our country, but they definitely help to spread and reinforce them by tilting their coverage towards conflict and sensationalism, while completely neglecting information and rational discussion.So we'll hear a little or a lot about Sarah Palin turning "CBS" into "Corrupt Bastards" (although even FoxNews won't touch it), but whatever we hear will be more than we heard about Stephen Colbert providing witness to exploitation and compassion for migrant workers.
So I'm glad there was a rally. Now, can we go beyond restoring sanity, maybe think about restoring decency and humanity? Or is that just...insane?