I was at the rally (anti-rally?) on the Mall yesterday. It was a remarkable, electric afternoon. The signs were hilarious, the attendees were genuinely not-angry, and the entertainment, save a couple of underwhelming musical performances, was not disappointing. I heard cries from well behind me of people chanting "LOUDER! LOUDER!" Apparently, the closer you got to the Washington Monument (about five blocks from the stage), the harder it was to hear. Which, in and of itself was remarkable, because if there were people halfway down the Mall, it meant attendance was enormous, or as I heard Geraldo say on Fox last night, not quite the size of Beck's rally but still large. Which, in Foxese, means attendance was twice as large for the Stewart/Colbert rally.
The afternoon was worth the hassle it was to get there, and the even greater hassle it was to get out of there, though please don't get me started on Metrorail.
I was struck my Stewart and Colbert's genuine desire to be completely bipartisan. The words "Fox News" and "Glenn Beck" were never uttered from the stage. Similarly, while introducing a businesswoman who asked a tough question of President Obama on CNBC last month, not one of her critical comments about the President were heard.
The only politician or cable news personality singled out was Anderson Cooper (for fearmongering), who is easily the most balanced host in prime time cable! I like Andy Cooper, and think he's done some great work recently against gay bullying, but this was hilarious.
It was like they bent over backwards to not turn this into anything resembling a partisan event, which was great. And, ironically, something they had in common with Glenn Beck's speech at his rally this past summer.
But in a series of clips played near the end of the rally and introduced by Colbert, MSNBC personalities Ed Shultz and Keith Olbermann (as well as Rep. Alan Grayson) were equated with name-calling, bad-for-the-discourse hosts on Fox News. Many of the clips from both MSNBC, CNN and FOX News were too short to be considered anything but out of context, but the most striking of the brief clips of cable outrage was Olbermann labelling Scott Brown an "irresponsible, homophobic racist." I say this because, in the section where I was standing, this got the loudest applause. Well, that and the media clips telling us to be afraid of our flip-flops.
Stewart had mocked Olbermann for his Scott Brown comment in January, but the audience yesterday was a bit larger.
Yesterday, Olbermann twitsponded:
It wasn't a big shark but Jon Stewart jumped one just now with the "everybody on Thr cable is the same" naiveté
Not that simple. If you watch The Daily Show enough, you know that Stewart hates Fox News, and that when he mocks CNN, it's because he holds them to a higher standard. And liberal Stewart is clear eyed enough to see that just hyperbole is hyperbole, whether it comes from the left or the right. Obermann later retweeted this comment from a follower:
kittywellington @KeithOlbermann Agreed. Stewart’s only flaw: false equivalency syndrome.
Agreed. Wolf Blitzer did not belong in that video montage. But otherwise, the effect of the montages was to show the effect of a quantum of cable news and Congressional loudmouthery. It creates division where they really isn't, Stewart argued. And yeah, that's a bit simplistic, but if the point you're making is that cooler heads should prevail, then what's the false equivalence between a Hannity quote and an Olbermann quote? Olbermann tweeted again late last night:
he did not hurt my feelings. I thought his message, on the eve of an election full of Tea Psychos, was terribly timed
In Keith Olbermann's defence, one of Andrew Breitbart's employees agreeswith him. Hurray!:
MSNBC is staffed with a legion of beclowned fools, but Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann deserve credit for not hiding behind the cloak of lies found in the words "objectivity," and I will take 50 openly honest left-wing MSNBC loons — 50 honest brokers over any ONE of those who refuse to remove that cloak, namely the Stewart-approved PBS, ABC, NPR, and CBS – and most especially a Comedy Central comedian who appears to be a little uncomfortable with the messiness of democracy and then arrogantly assumes that he’s one of the elite few who can make sense of all the amplified cable noise. Gee, thanks Jon, what would we among the great unwashed do without you to inform us that the press over-reacts.
Personally, I like the noise and I relish the fight...
Because it is honest.
The writer of that piece, John Nolte, is obviously a conservative, and I tend to think conservatives are hardwired differently, because they seem to prefer opinion journalism more than liberals. I'm generalizing here, but liberals did in fact prefer NPR to Air America. And conservatives do prefer Fox News and radio stations with names like "The Patriot" to, umm, NPR.
Stewart's message was both that Tea Partiers are not crazy, but also that - generally speaking - they should cool their rhetoric. I can get behind that. Television news has been Jon Stewart's bugaboo for years. Never mind his Crossfire takedown, anyone rememberhis Mexican standoff with Ted Koppel at the DNC in 2004? Jon Stewart is a liberal, and Stephen Colbert surely must be. But that doesn't mean they would or should let media figures off the hook simply because they share their politics. If they did that, they wouldn't be effective. If Stewart ripped a dumb attack ad from Meg Whittman and Sharron Angle, but ignored ads by Alan Grayson and Jack Conway, they would lose some of their credibility as political parodists.
Similarly, if Stewart and Colbert, who skewer Glenn Beck nine times for every stick they poke at Keith Olbermann, were to lay off the MSNBC lineup entirely, they would be seen as hypocritical.
I think most of the people in attendance yesterday were progressives, but ones who appreciate that not every conservative is nuts, and not every liberal is beyond reproach. I'm sure many attendees, like myself, expected a full throttle evisceration of Fox News and were initially surprised it never came. Stewart and Colbert probably knew that, and by subverting our expectations helped made yesterday such a pleasant surprise. It wasn't about just about Glenn Beck and it wasn't about Keith Olbermann. It was about all of 'em. I don't think it will change anyone's viewing habits (though I'm not sure any Fox News viewers showed up), but I'm glad Stewart got that off his chest.
Okay enough with the typing, now everyone sing!