The Aftermath

Editor's note:  This post has been altered to reflect the fact that maybe not everyone can watch the clip (hi, Google Buzz!)

I wasn't going to say a word about the "Rally to Restore Sanity/Fear" here because anything I'd say about it was likely to have been said by somebody else already.  For instance, somebody has already said this
I have two things to say about Jon Stewart's speech. One: bravo. And two: bravo.

I know this wasn't a political event, but I am a liberal -- a capital-L liberal and a small-L liberal -- and that 'you go, I go, you go, I go' principle, I believe it, and I'm really happy that in my country, over 200,000 people turned out to cheer that.
And there have also been some who have criticized the rally's "pox on both of their houses" message as constituting an oversimplification at best, and false equivalence at worst, clips of which are seen here on yesterday's Daily Show:

For the record, I wouldn't even bother saying any of this if I weren't a huge fan of Jon Stewart.

The boxing gag is brilliant.  But as for the rest?

My intention was not to make no moral judgment between competing arguments... It was to suggest that we be perhaps more judicious with our blanket slander

I'm sure anyone who's watched as much Boston Legal as I have knows this:


I know that he doesn't literally mean slander, the crime, but given the context of the argument being made against him-- that he's equating actual slanderers to people who say mean, true, things-- the words were poorly chosen to say the least.

Right before that quote, Stewart passive-aggressively exclaimed, "Well, I guess the rally was a massive failure."  Which is funny, because the only person  in those clips who thought that the rally was a massive failure was Bill Maher.

If you were going to say that there was a left-wing equivalent of Bill O' Reilly, you'd be wrong, but if you squinted a little and turned your head, you could be forgiven for mistaking Bill Maher for that fictional entity.

So Bill Maher said that your rally wasn't about anything.  He also said that there's no reason to get a flu shot.

The person who I quoted up above there?  It was Rachel Maddow, who didn't even say a word about the rally on the air outside of that quote, and yet a segment in which she voiced her support of her colleague Keith Olbermann appeared on The Daily Show, for reasons passing understanding.  She was talking about how Keith's suspension on the grounds of private donations he made to three Democratic candidates reflects on the narrative prevalent in the media--some of which is driven by Jon Stewart, but most of which isn't-- that there's no real difference between Fox News and MSNBC.  The full transcript can be found here.  That song, as Stewart once told Jim Cramer under similar circumstances, wasn't about him.
As for Keith?  Jon took clips from a segment the Monday after the rally in which Keith made the case that Stewart, in putting clips of Countdown alongside those of Glenn Beck in his blame-the-media mashup, was equating sticking up for the powerless with sticking up for the powerful.  That one of those clips was him using the phrase "un-American Bastard" to refer to a man who'd said "Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims," and who'd utterly refused to admit that he was wrong in doing so (though all that was shown was "un-American Bastard) is I think instructive.  In any case, here's what Keith had to say in the segment preceding that one on Countdown that night:

The overall message that the tone needs to change, that the volume needs to change, was not lost on any of us. The anger in this news hour was not an original part of it, nor was it an artifice that we added to it. It was a response to a threat to this democracy posed by Mr. Bush, and now by his lineal descendants. The anger happened, it will still happen. It is not for ratings and it is not "get angry first and find a reason later."

But there is an institutionalization of it that may no longer be valid. That is "The Worst Persons in the World" segment, which started as a way -- of all things -- of defending Tucker Carlson. It's satire and whimsy have gradually gotten lost in some anger, so in the spirit of the thing, as of right now, I am unilaterally suspending that segment with an eye towards discontinuing it. We don't know how that works long-term. We might bring it back. We might bring back something similar to it. We might kill it outright. And next week, we'll solicit your input.

But I suppose showing that-- or Rachel's statement in support of Stewart-- would ruin the bit.  Which one could say is fair, for a comedian  But in his inveighing against the problems concerning cable news, he seems to be vigorously co-opting at least one of them:  The tendency to pull quotes out of their original context and arrange them in whatever way most fits your own narrative.  Which he doesn't need to do to make his point, and he doesn't need to do to be funny.

Ok, so I saw that clip from The Daily Show this morning, and wrote most of this post on notebook paper while I was riding the subway into Boston to try and get enrolled in Massachusetts' public option.  The last sentence was going to be:  "Instead of what I embedded here, Stewart should have had one of the three people in the video on his show to discuss what bothered them.  Surely, that would have been more in keeping with the spirit of the rally."

And then, I got home, logged in to twitter, and saw this:

Well, there we go.  Everything else I've said still stands though.  And I'd very much doubt that Rachel's appearance in that segment didn't come up in the back-and-forth before the interview was confirmed.


  1. I can only take your word, not having watched any of it, and not having the time to do so, but that having been said, they all give each other work..and that 's a good thing.

  2. Yeah... I realized that what I'd written relied a bit heavily on the reader watching cable TV. Hopefully the rewrite doesn't

  3. Shit I just wrote a long comment and clicked something wrong
    I haven't really written about the rally though it took me a day to get there and a day to get back because it was such an intensely moving and personal experience.
    Know the cliche "my happy place?" I finally get it as every time I put the rally on--I DVR'd it I go to "my happy place."
    Yes I was with 2bazillion people who think as I do--and my friends were great also :)
    For somebody who left a life where everybody is liberal to one where most people watch Fox News, wow, was that rally a release and I can be nice to everybody here again.
    That's what Bill Maher and Keith don't get. We might be the party in power but the tea party is growing and includes people who make blanket statements about terrorists--I would have screamed out "Timothy McVeigh" but he's never called a terrorist
    We have to be "nice," "polite" and above all rational because god knows they ain't
    I understand where Rachel's coming from in her tweets but think Keith did what he did to prove a point--journalism's an art not a science--and I'm exhausted as the last three times I tried to post this didn't get "post comment." Only happens on your site Wombat. Though as we virtually watched BL together know you're not keeping me out--I'm just another paranoid Dem or is the Repubs who are?
    It's all so tiring and let's just try to get this country working again as Cooper can't run it by herself.

  4. Pia, I would never, ever, ever keep you out. I'm going to write to tech support and see what's up.

    Now that I reread it, it may not be completely clear, but I got the exact same feeling you did when watching 90% of the rally. There were just some spots in it that rankled me, and watching Jon respond to the people who were saying what I thought raised it to the point where I felt the need to say something.

    Here's one point that Bill Maher made that Jon Stewart hasn't responded to. Stewart says that the argument has been dominated by the people on the people on the right who say that Obama is a socialist and people on the left who say that 9/11 was an inside job.

    Almost ALL national Republicans believe the former. The one Democrat who was ALLEGED to have believed the latter was run out of town, with Glenn Beck gleefully showing off his freshly-cut scalp.

    And Van Jones was shown the door by "reasonable" Democrats.

    I would have mentioned that in the post but it was already running long and I didn't feel like deputizing Bill Maher into my argument, because he's at best a useful fool.

    Stewart made another, similar equivocation between people who refer to Obama as a Nazi and those who refer to Bush as a war criminal.

    Bush approved torture. Torture is a war crime. Ergo, Bush IS a war criminal. We shouldn't be put in the same box as Glenn Beck for saying so.

    The rally was a great idea, and most of it was phenomenal. But you can only further reasonable discourse by being reasonable, and part of that is addressing criticism by its merits, not finding the easiest way to ridicule it.

    I hope that Stewart wound up deciding that the Rachel Maddow Show was the right venue for that kind of dialogue.