Saturday, October 30, 2010


Stewart rally draws 215,000, wraps with dynamite speech

by Larry Geller

We spent much of the day watching the "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" which we tivo’d while shopping at the KCC Farmers Market this morning. The attendance was noticeably low today, I wonder if shoppers stayed home to watch the rally? Possible. It seems to have been a huge draw.

CBS used the same firm to estimate crowd size as it used for the earlier Glenn Beck rally in August. For once, Sanity prevailed.

An estimated 215,000 people attended a rally organized by Comedy Central talk show hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Saturday in Washington, according to a crowd estimate commissioned by CBS News.

The company based the attendance at the "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" on aerial pictures it took over the rally, which took place on the Mall in Washington. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 10 percent.

CBS News also commissioned to do a crowd estimate of Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally in August. That rally was estimated to have attracted 87,000 people. Amid criticism from conservatives that the estimate was low, CBS News detailed the methodology behind it here.   [CBS News, Jon Stewart Rally Attracts Estimated 215,000, 10/29/2010]


Here is the text of Jon Stewart’s closing speech today. I am not sure if it is the version released to the press or a transcript as delivered. Stewart did not use a teleprompter that I could see. During the part of the speech referring to cars he showed an areal view of cars merging into one of the Hudson River tunnels:.

I can’t control what people think this was.  I can only tell you my intentions.   This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or at passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear.  They are and we do.

But we live now in hard times, not end times.  And we can have animus and not be enemies.

But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke.  The country’s 24-hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but it’s existence makes solving them that much harder.  The press can hold it’s magnifying up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic.

If we amplify everything we hear nothing.

There are terrorists and racists and Stalinist and theocrats but those are titles that must be earned.  You must have the resume.  Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate.  Just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more.

The press is our immune system.  If we overreact to everything we actually get sicker and perhaps eczema.

And yet with that being said I feel good—strangely, calmly good.  Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false.  It is us through a fun house mirror and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month-old pumpkin and one eyeball.

So, why would we work together?  Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin assed forehead eyball monster?

If the picture of us were true of course our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable.  Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own?  We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do.  We work together to get things done every damn day!

The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV.  But Americans don’t live here or on cable TV.  Where we live our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.  Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, Liberals or Conservatives.  Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something that they do not want to do—butthey do it.  Impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make.

Look on the screen this is where we are this is who we are.   These cars—that’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high.  He’s going to work.  There’s another car-a woman with two small kids who can’t really think about anything else right now.  There’s another car swinging I don’t even know if you can see it—the lady’s in the NRA.  She loves Oprah.  There’s another car—an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah.  Another car’s a Latino carpenter.  Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman.  Atheist obstetrician.  Mormon Jay-Z fan.

But this is us.  Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.

And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long 30 foot wide tunnel carved underneath a might river.  Carved, by the way, by people who I’m sure had their differences.  And they do it.  Concession by conscession.  You go.  Then I’ll go.  You go then I’ll go.  You go then I’ll go, "Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car?  Is that an Obama sticker on your car?"   Well, that’s okay—you go and then I’ll go.

And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned -- and not hired as an analyst.

Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together and the truth is, there will always be darkness.  And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land.

Sometimes it’s just New Jersey.  But we do it anyway, together.

If you want to know why I’m here and want I want from you I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me.  You’re presence was what I wanted.

Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder.  To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine.  Thank you.

Catch a video of this speech if you have not already seen it.

Thank you, Jon.

Afterthought: I hope Barack Obama was tuned in, or at least read a transcript of Stewart’s closing speech. He could learn something, and might try giving an honest speech of his own some time. Sure, Obama is a better speaker than George W. Bush was, but I’m tired of the disingenuous rhetoric. When he calls me on the phone, I hang up. Bush was a liar, but Obama is dishonest and pandering, and we need better than that. Stewart’s speech was non-political and I found it to be inspiring and insightful.

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I LOVE Jon Stewart. But didn't like his speech. It felt contrived and false. In order to pretend he is non-political, he had to adopt a false equivalence approach to the breakdown of civil debate, blaming "extremists" on "both sides."

I call BS on that. MSNBC is NOT equivalent to Fox News. Rachel Maddow is NOT the leftist mirror image of Glenn Beck. While you have some looney ideas on (what some would call) the left, the Right has adopted, with the encouragement of their leaders and funding sources) a lot of irrational ideas: birthers, Obama is a secret muslim/fascist/socialist/Bolshevik, etc.

Under Bush, demonstrators who showed up with anti-Bush or anti-war signs were often arrested. Tea Party people show up at appearances of Democratic elected officials with firearms and nobody challenges them.

The top Democratic leaders have tried again and again to reach compromises with the GOP leaders in order to pass legislation and the Republicans refuse. The GOP senators use the filibuster (or the threat of a filibuster) to prevent a majority vote on important legislation. The Dems never shut things down like that.

Yes, there is anger and frustration on both sides. But it is the right who has consciously decided against compromise and in favor of stirring up irrational, often bigoted sentiment among voters for conscious political ends. There is no equivalence.

Jon Stewart the comedian/political satirist knows this. Jon Stewart the rally organizer feels obliged to appear neutral and evenly critical of both sides to avoid the accusation this rally is "political" or more critical of one side.

There are a few "insane" people on the left, usually outside the Democratic Party. On the right, they have long ago decided sanity is overrated and less effective than fear and anger in motivating voters. And they have a massive outbreak of craziness INSIDE the Republican Party.

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