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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jon Stewart's Rally for Blandity

What PZ Myers said:
I'm at a loss about what we're supposed to do in the world according to Jon Stewart. Hey, all you people working for gay and lesbian equality, all you women asking for equal pay, all you workers trying to unionize, all you peaceniks trying to end the war in Afghanistan, all you nurses and doctors and clinic workers trying to maintain reproductive freedom and keep women alive, all you teachers trying to teach science and history without censorship, all you citizens trying to build a rational health care policy, all you scientists and doctors who want our country to progress in medical research, all you damned secularists who want to keep religion out of our schools and government, hey, hey, HEY, you! Tone it down. Quit making such a fuss. You're too loud. Shush. You're as crazy as the teabaggers if you think your principles are worth fighting for.



Martin said...

Of course, everything that PZ said was wrong. Stewart implied none of that. He made it pretty clear that there were big problems and hard work ahead.

"This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith, or people of activism, or to look down our noses at the heartland, or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult and we have nothing to fear. They are, and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times."

His criticism was aimed at politicians and pundits, the "the country's 24-hour politico pundit perpetual panic conflictinator." Less explicitly, it was aimed at wingnuts on both sides -- the people he had seen at Tea Party rallies and the Glenn Beck rally, which was the prime motivator for this rally.

The Rally to Restore Sanity was not designed to get out the vote or get people to vote democratic (some complaints that I've seen). It was exactly what it was advertised as from the beginning: a rally to show that the politicians, pundits, and wingnuts that we have been seeing on television don't represent average Americans; that the inability of Washington to get things done is not reflective of the millions of people who make compromises every day and get things done, despite their political and religious differences.

And yeah, I think Ed Schultz is just as bad as Glenn Beck, and quite *obviously* says outrageous things to get ratings, just like Beck and O'Reilly. This strategy pads their wallets, but it doesn't move America forward.

Dale Carrico said...

Although Stewart said his rally was not ridiculing activists, his "balanced" montage included Glenn Beck saying false deranged things and Keith Olbermann saying saying true intense things and acting as though these are equally problematic. And the montage was comedic, it posed Olbermann and Beck as not just the same, but as equally ridiculous.

If your problems are extreme (as ours surely are) and there are factions engaged in widespread deceit in the face of those problems (as climate change denialists and bigots and neo-cons eager to lie us into illegal immoral wars of choice palpably factually do), there will be few ways for activists to address these problems that will not be vulnerable to Stewart's charge of immoderateness.

Like it or not his rhetoric diminishes the space in which activism equal to the problems at hand can function and does so through ridicule.

Stewart is a rich celebrity in New York. Because he seems to be a man of sense and feeling I do not doubt he grasps that these are hard times. But countless people die in warmonger adventures, countless people die due to the disruptions of anthropogenic climate change, neoliberal financialization and developmentalist SAP and austerity measures are class war with real casualities. I agree that little is helped by figuring these crimes and catastrophes through the narrative of theological apocalypse, but I do not agree that denial about the real violence and real end-time deaths of fellow human beings is sanity.

Of course his event was "aimed at wingnuts on both sides," a completely phony equivalence that is not the problem however much gentle-souled (that is to say, pampered and lazy) liberals would prefer to believe it is so that by ratcheting up their self-recrimination in the comfort of their homes they fancy they have struck a blow for freedom in the face of an ongoing reactionary class war that technoscience has exacerbated onto a planetary field.

I do agree that the Rally to Restore Sanity wasn't finally about getting people to vote. It was an entertaining promotional event for the one hour programming block of TDS and Colbert, rather like a Christmas Special or summer tour. I enjoy both shows myself, but the confusion of this extended ad for organized politics is profoundly demoralizing to me.

What will "Move America Forward" depends on where it is you want to go. The slogan is vacuous, precisely because agreement does not exist as to what America should look like. I personally want a sustainable secular social democracy in the US as a prelude to a democratic federalist world government with a basic income guarantee, lifelong free education, and universal healthcare for every citizen. Are we moving "forward" to that? Would a Tea Bag Patriot agree? Democrats don't say what they are for or what they have accomplished, and the result is that people don't know what they are for and believe the lies of Republicans about what they have or have not done. Stewart said he wants people to be more agreeable and to keep watching his show, and then pretended people who are disagreeable, whether their aims are noble or ignoble, whether they serve up lies or facts, are the problem. He is wrong, and if enough people buy his line things will get worse not better in my view. If they get much worse it is factually possible that these will indeed be more like End Times than hard times, even for rich entertainers, come what may. It is not my saying this, but those who deny this but know better, who are the problem.

Thank heavens the crowd for the rally showed little sign of falling for Stewart's false equivalencies, and I do not doubt that Stewart himself will proceed in defiance of his own BS and continue producing a show ridiculing the actual wingnuts of the right with occasional nudges at the foibles of lefties that reflects reality rather than genuflects at bullshit balance.