Jon Stewart says it’s a go, the much bantered about Rally to Restore Sanity on the National Mall in Washington D.C. The date is set for Oct. 30. His competing comedian/satiric news-commentator, Stephen Colbert, promised that his own announcement on a Washington D.C. March to Keep Fear Alive would follow the Stewart announcement. Both rallies are the product of social media campaigns to counter and satirize the recent Glenn Beck rally on the National Mall.
The social media campaign to bring Colbert to the Mall has already produced change in America; Colbert fans, gathering momentum on Reddit, contributed a record-breaking and server-breaking sum of $100,000 in a single day to charity via DonorsChoose.org. The tally subsequently increased to $194,000 which will be used to support education.
While the Glenn Beck rally was billed as a non-political event, it brought together social conservatives on the far right end of the spectrum, including former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who is closely associated with the Tea Party movement. The grassroots Tea Party movement is a loosely structured backlash against the political establishment funding far-right-leaning Republican candidates like Christine O’Donnell, whose views are apparently so unappealing to the general electorate that she scrubbed her campaign website immediately after her primary win, according to the Examiner.
The Stewart and Colbert rallies are not about advocating progressive policies so much as curbing the political extremism fueled by anti-establishment rage, or as Stewart describes it, restoring sanity. As to the chances of Stewart or Colbert restoring sanity in the face of political extremism, their influence is not insubstantial.
A Rasmussen poll in March 2009 showed that 32 percent of adults age 30 to 39 viewed the comedic news reports by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert as overtaking traditional news reports. When the survey was expanded to all Americans, the percentage dropped to 24 percent. But even those who didn’t believe that Colbert’s and Stewart’s fake news reports will replace traditional media apparently are influenced by the comedians. Thirty-nine percent of adults responded that comedy news like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show make people more informed about news events. Their rallies in Washington aim to do the same.