Monday, September 20, 2010

Rally around the rallies

Last week Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert announced events they are holding in Washington, D.C. on October 30. Both are obvious responses to Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally from last month.

The Daily Show's is the "Rally to Restore Sanity," which purports to represent the 80% of the population who are not in the extreme for either side of the political spectrum and who don't tend to be heard by the alarmist parts of the media.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party
It's the parody of Beck that's the opposite of Beck.

Colbert's response is the higher satire of his show, which will seek to "keep fear alive" and defend those in the media who get ratings by talking about of what their audience should be afraid.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
March to Keep Fear Alive Announcement
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News
Those pundits and quasi-journalists are what Colbert trenchantly skewers by seeming to be the worst of them, and so his rally is ostensibly ratcheting up what Beck did.

Some will interpret these events as efforts by those comedy programs as striving to exert legitimate political influence as Beck seems to strive to do.

Those people will be missing the joke.

Stewart, Colbert and Beck are all ultimately entertainers, but the difference seems to be that the hosts from Comedy Central have not forgotten that. What's the same is that both Stewart/Colbert and Beck benefit from what the other does; the Comedy Central late night shows have an ideal source of material to spoof in what Beck does, and Beck undoubtedly can spin their parodies as a flattering and legitimizing form of imitation. It's true that to make fun of something carries with it the connotation that the source material is important enough to be lampooned. That there is no satirizing Beck without strengthening his influence may be the strongest irony of all.

But that's no reason for them not to mine the lucrative vein that Beck has left.


Are there those who watch The Daily Show and Colbert Report and find the absurdities raised by those shows to be politically influential? Certainly. However, that I'd attribute not to a specific intent by those shows but because the people drawn to those shows don't feel themselves represented by the parts of the media that provide the fodder for what those shows point out as absurd.

It's an indirect influence at best. And not an intentional one.

(Even if you find distasteful the fact that comedy shows can be serious factors in the political spectrum, can we all agree that we're glad Craig Kilborn isn't trying this? And yes, I'm aware of the Kilborn File. Much as I wish I wasn't.)


Now, if only actual politicians were politically influential... oh, but that's really absurd.


  1. Yes, that's what's the most depressing, that there is a demographic of young people who ONLY get their news and information from Stewart and Colbert. And they vote. ;-) But that's fun that Stewart and Colbert are parodying Beck.

    I spoke with a friend who was at the Beck rally. She said it was an amazing experience, very calm, very respectful, and there had to be almost half a million people out there on the Mall. The media didn't cover it much, because they couldn't make it look bad.

  2. Oh, come now, Marvin--I'm sure there's some old people who only get their news from Comedy Central!

    Given that scenario, would you rather that: a) these only-watch-Daily-Show/Colbert people were not watching that or the news, and voting by flipping a coin; or b) they weren't voting at all?

    Of course, it seems like one could interpret the depressing aspect as a failure of the legitimate media to be able to draw these young people.

    And what you should be depressed about is actually the people who get their news from Facebook.

  3. Or, perhaps, the media didn't cover Beck because they realize giving dangerous lunatics air time is bad. Likely not, though, since giving kooks air time gets people to watch. The idea, however, that the media didn't give Beck's rally much air time because they couldn't make it look bad seems more than a bit silly to me. It implies that the media wants to make Beck look bad. Honestly, as a collective, they couldn't care less what he looks like as long as they get good copy. Assuming otherwise is just a bad assumption. While it may be true that journalists, on the whole, lean to what is commonly viewed as leftward (itself a horrible descriptor left over from 18th century French Politics), the majority of editors and corporate controllers lean rightward. Assuming, therefore, that journalistic biases will cause reporting to swing leftward ignores a just as influential group of right-leaning biases. It is easy to see, however, that both groups want to sell copy, and that this is likely their highest motive. So I find claims that the media is filled with anything other than soul selling whores looking to make a buck dubious, at best.

    As far as Beck, a Mormon fearmongering fact-challenged infotainer with histrionic acting skills trying to claim the mantle of Dr. King while claiming it's just a coincidence is pretty fucking far from respectful. The audience may have been reasonably well behaved, and good on them for being so. And your friends number is close to the National Park's estimate of 300000, so it's even more impressive that there were no major incidents. Still, though, not respectful at all, just oblivious to the irony.


So, what do you think?