Jon Stewart is calling for a "Million Moderate March" on Washington this October 30. Unfortunately, his prescription for political change is that we all just "take it down a notch."
When he announced the rally, Jon Stewart made a concerted effort to appear politically unaligned, screening clips that imply an equivalence between the wacky right and the wacky left. As Jon Stewart has it, the problem is "loud folks" and a tone of political debate that has become untempered: too many crazies yelling and screaming, comparing people they don't like to Hitler.
But yelling is not just a matter of loud noise expelled through the human throat. It matters what's being yelled. When it comes to the Republican Party -- and Democratic fellow travelers -- they are shouting in favor of corporate exploitation and war.
The Tea Party far right leans on made-up things, also known as lies -- "ground zero" Mosque, illegal immigrants purposely causing highway accidents, death panels killing grandma -- to win political power. The left has a different problem. We could have used a little more hysteria in recent years, as Wall Street robbed Main Street and the most powerful military on earth invaded multiple countries. Instead, a real anti-war movement never materialized to challenge one of this nation's most violent presidencies. The people "who have shit to do" that you cited as your fan base, Jon Stewart, should have been out in the streets protesting and putting our 1960s radical parents to shame. But we've got "shit to do." On the Internet, I suppose.
Is the October 30th rally then a smug celebration of political apathy and detachment? Thankfully, the people leading movements for the eight-hour day and civil rights and against the Vietnam War didn't "chill out."
Yes, it's true. Medea Benjamin and the Code Pink folks can look freaky. It's not a flattering color scheme. And yes, there are even crazies so crazy on the margins of the radical left -- the Maoist cadre of the Revolutionary Communist Party, for example -- that I doubt Jon Stewart has ever heard of them.
Calling Obama a secret Muslim Manchurian candidate set to destroy America is something else altogether. Because Obama is not that, which makes it a lie. Same goes for Newt Gingrich's bizarre seconding of Dinesh D'Souza's rant that Obama is driven by "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior."
But just what the hell is wrong with a Katrina survivor telling Dick Cheney, "go fuck yourself?" Why include that clip in your pastiche of political insanity?
It really does matter what those "loud folks" are saying. George W. Bush can plausibly be called a war criminal, however hyperbolic it may seem to raise your voice about it. He invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, which has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. Bush's crass exploitation of tragedy fueled a fact-averse "9/11 was an inside job" conspiracy theory, largely supported by people, by the way, who are Ron Paul libertarian types, and not lefties.
Ironically, the Rally to Restore Sanity repeats the liberal establishment's greatest error: when Republicans go on attack -- either at home with lies or abroad with bombs -- hunker down somewhere in the middle and plead for civility. This young century's great problems are a government abetting ruthless misadventure at Wall Street and the Pentagon, not rudeness and rank partisanship. Jon Stewart, you are funny as hell. I laugh with you most weekday nights. But your march is seriously dumb, and I'm laughing at you. One of those sad, what-the-fuck-is-wrong-with-the-world laughs that so define our political moment.