Jon Stewart's Sanity show was one of the oddest, at times dumbest events I've seen. I'm not sure what it actually was or what its organizers hoped to accomplish, but American reality is no saner today than it was before the weekend.
In essence, the rally served as a three-hour Comedy Central commercial, with a "play nice" sermon attached. Even by tame American satirical standards, Stewart's laugh-in was a dud. It reminded us how utterly empty the present culture is, and how subservient countless Americans remain.
At least Woodstock '99 had Rage Against The Machine. Sadly, Rage would've been profoundly out of place on Stewart's stage. Too angry. Too political. Too partisan. Eeek!
I'm not surprised. For as clever as Stewart, Colbert, and their writing staffs can be, they are at bottom corporate mouthpieces, part of the very distraction Stewart bewailed in his closing monologue.
Indeed, Stewart's focus on cable news channels and their corrosive influence on the body politic proved how disconnected he truly is. The vast majority of Americans don't watch these channels, so their lives and public behavior aren't coarsened by blather and sensation. Daily American life batters them enough without O'Reilly and Olbermann screaming in their faces.
Stewart's main audience are white, college-educated/age liberals with deep self-regard. For them, politics is basically voting Democrat and little more. This was seen on the faces in the crowd, and on several signs, celebrating superiority to Tea Partiers and the ability to spell correctly.
Looking at them, you felt no sense of alarm, no anger about present conditions, no effort to make their desires (whatever they are) reality. Just solipsism, smugness, waving at the cameras like they were at a ball game. Afghanistan? The economy? Boring! Appletinis after the show? Sweet!
Again, this comes as no shock. Hostility to political action and indifference to political thought runs through this crowd. I've seen it up close, and the precision with which the larger culture has depoliticized contemporary youth is both remarkable and heartbreaking.
Obama's PR blitz in '08 successfully exploited this sorry condition, and his re-election campaign HOPEs to harness it once more. It may work. Judging from those empty smiles at Stewart's rally, this crop of consumers remains ripe for the fucking.
Unlike Jon Stewart, Bill Maher isn't shy in making his true feelings known. On last Friday's Real Time, Maher noted that in England, more and more newborn boys are being named Mohammed.
"Am I a racist to feel I'm alarmed by that? Because I am. And it's not because of the race. It's because of the religion. I don't have to apologize, do I, for not wanting the Western world to be taken over by Islam in 300 years?"
Well, unless China becomes a Muslim country, I wouldn't worry about Sharia Law spreading westward. But I understand Bill's anxiety -- white male "contrarians" tend to become more reactionary as they age. Still I wonder: Given the growing Latino population, is Maher equally alarmed by Spanish-speaking Christians naming their sons Jesus? Not that said concern would be racist, of course.