Why Jon Stewart's rally won't kill his image: It's the fans who are making it political
Daily Show host Jon Stewart has said many times that his Rally to Restore Sanity Saturday is not going to be a political rally, and I believe him.
Because any bit of time spent talking to fans reveals that they are the ones who will make the day's event a political one, using the spectacle of Stewart's road show as an excuse to build a huge network of like-minded friends who are exasperated by the divisive tone of today's politics.
I have a story on the front page of today's St. Petersburg Times outlining a bit of this, quoting several admitted liberals who say they find the current, no-holds-barred political climate discouraging and more than a little bit scary.
I’m having a real hard time finding a middle ground in this debate," said Ricardo Fernandez, an executive recruiter for a Tampa law firm who should be in Washington D.C. right now, scouting out a plot lot of land on the National Mall for he and about a dozen like-minded Floridians to meet in person on Saturday. "I don’t hear my voice and my thoughts being spoken by a lot of people…I’m just seeing crazy people going nuts out there...It's my small way to say stop shouting, do something that’s going to help people. It’s almost like a retreat – my reward for having suffered through this campaign season. After all this, we need to go some where and have a good laugh and find some perspective in all this. That could be a very productive message to carry out.”
Given that Stewart and company haven't said much about who or what will be appearing at their rally - the Christian Science Monitor got hold of their permit application and says everyone from Sheryl Crow to The Roots will be there, but lists no politicians -- fans seem to be filling in the blanks themselves, networking on Facebook, Meetup.com and RallyMAO (geekspeak for Rally My A-- Off, of course), making plans to get together in Washington D.C. or rally around a television set in any one of more than 1,000 cities.
From her home in Venice, Kathy Payne has worked weeks to maintain RallyMAO, a site packed with information on bus and car pools. rally parties across the globe, online discussion group and more. Payne hopes all the online communication and outrage over extremism produces an inclusive network of people ready to put the brakes on the current political craziness.
"We all understand that Jon and Stephen (Colbert) are putting on a show," she said. "But we also understood it was a huge opportunity. More than anything, especially those first couple of days (after Stewart announced the rally) people are saying this is wonderful; I’m not alone. People had felt isolated. We’re so surrounded by people willing to spew their negative opinions regardless of whether they’re asked. As a Democrat, I’m really tired of being told I’m apathetic."
And even though some conservatives worry this rally will juice Democratic turnout before a crucial midterm election, Payne thinks the message transcends party affiliation. "For us (Daily Show fans), it is political; we're saying 'Hello media and politicians we’re here.' We don’t jump up and down and yell. But we’re here, we vote – and now we all know each other.”
Check out the RallyMAO site here. Comedy Central's official site on the rally is here. And a Facebook page listing details on two Tampa Bay area rally parties can be ffound here.
I'll be livetweeting and blogging coverage of the rally, which is scheduled to air live from Noon to 3 p.m. on C-SPAN, Comedy Central and online.
What do you think about the event's political implications?