We finally found out the real problem with the mainstream media: They're agnostic on sanity.
That's the only conclusion that can be drawn from the refusal of mainstream-media organizations to allow their employees to attend Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity on Oct. 30 in Washington, D.C. That's right, in a showdown between nonpartisan sanity and partisan madness, the traditional media have boldly decided to... not take a stand.
It started with Ellen Weiss, NPR's Senior Vice President for News, sending a memo to NPR employees forbidding them from attending the rally. The policy was clarified in a NPR blog post by Dana Davis Rehm. "Their rallies will be perceived as political by many, whatever we think," she wrote.
Heaven forbid! Clearly if someone is going to perceive something NPR does as "political," it's best not to do it -- even if it's not actually political. Better to let what's acceptable be defined by the most extreme elements than be perceived as "political" -- and to keep a pristine reputation by not taking a stand on sanity and reasonableness.
NPR was joined by the Washington Post, which sent out this statement to its newsroom managers:
Events, like those organized by Glenn Beck or involving Jon Stewart and Steven [sic] Colbert, are political, and therefore Post newsroom employees may not participate. By participate, we mean that Post newsroom employees cannot in any way put themselves in a position that could be construed as supporting (or opposing) that cause.
Got that? Can't be seen supporting sanity, but must be seen drawing a ludicrous equivalence between Glenn Beck and Jon Stewart! The Post does say that it permits "observing... watching and listening from the sidelines." You know, just like the press -- with some very honorable exceptions -- did during the run-up to the Iraq War. Or the financial crisis. Or the housing crisis.
Similar statements have been put out by ABC News, CBS News, AP, Politico and the New York Times.
Actually, this media groupthink explains a lot -- including why we find ourselves in a time and place in our country in which a rally to restore sanity is even necessary. The media didn't take positions on the most insane events of the last ten years, so, the thinking seems to be, why start now? It certainly explains why, as our political process becomes more and more insane, the media act like guests at a dinner party ignoring the fact that the guy sitting at the end of the table is proceeding to set it on fire. You want to say, "Uh, yeah, the wine is very good, thanks, but does anybody else notice that guy over there with the gasoline and the Zippo lighter?" But pointing out the insanity would be "partisan." Better not to rock the boat... even as it's sinking.
We've seen it again and again: In the name of "objectivity," the media pretend that every issue has two sides, and that both deserve equal weight. For the Pontius Pilate press, washing its hands of responsibility, the best route is to stand on the sidelines -- leaving the question of "what is true" to the public.
It should go without saying: Not taking a stand is, in fact, taking a stand. Fortunately, more than 200,000 people have already pledged to take a stand, having signed up to attend at the rally's Facebook page.
And we here at The Huffington Post will be driving thousands of them from New York to D.C. and the rally. As you might have heard, in a moment of rational exuberance during my recent Daily Show appearance, I pledged that HuffPost would provide buses for people who needed a ride. At the moment, more than 10,000 people have signed up to allow HuffPost to drive them sane. We think of them as our Sanity Riders. Yes, that will be a lot of buses -- but there's a lot of sanity to restore.
We've known for a while that if we're going to pull ourselves out of the various messes we're in, the answers are not going to come from Washington. And now we know they are not going to come from the major media either. They'll be on the sidelines, just as they were as the fringe ideas and extreme rhetoric that have taken over our political conversation became more and more unhinged.
Taking a stand for sanity is not a partisan position. It's neither right nor left. It's reasonable. So stroll over to your window (no need to rush), open it, and, without shouting, repeat after me: "I'm sensible as hell... and I'm not going to take it any longer than is reasonable."
For more on the media's stance on (not) taking part in the rally, check out HuffPost's Jason Linkins, our go-to guy on all things Rally to Restore Sanity. "I'm not surprised by the stupidity of it all," he writes. "I'm just surprised by the way they boldly, proudly, fetishize the stupidity." Me too, Jason, me too.