Gabe argues convincingly that "Rally to Restore Sanity" is a chance for "young people to express the frustration we feel." Who cares if it is satiric, or substance-less, so long as it is cathartic?
I'm all for getting people enthused, and certainly for expressing frustration with the dog-and-pony show of modern politics. But the Stewart rally still feels false to me. Our political expressions have become even more abstracted from the actual policies and actions that promote inequality and discrimination. Stewart is, at the end of the day, an entertainer. This rally is about the theater, largely commercially driven, that has taken the place of real politics. As Ana Marie Cox put it over at GQ, "A rally for the status quo is not much of a rally at all, and to the extent it's a rally trying to change anything, it's not the people at the rally who feel they need to be changed."
Do I begrudge those who are rallied by satire as their motivating force to political expression? No. But it is not a substitute for actual action. "The attitude that it's better to stay cool and amused than to risk making arguments or expressing too much ardor -- this is not civility," writes Scott McLemee at Inside Higher Ed. "It's timidity."
And, frankly, the event smacks of politics as commodity. "It’s fantastic for the brand," observed MSNBC analyst Lawrence O’Donnell. Addressing injustice involves more than simply mocking it, and humor, however effective in drawing a bead upon an opponent, will not actually solve the underlying problems. What is on offer is not actual participation, but very commercialized amusement. (Guess who has a new book out?) I like Jon Stewart as a comedian. I respect him as an interviewer. But he's not a political figure. He's made a point of saying as much. So to act as if participation in this rally is meaningful political expression is naive.
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