Sunday, September 19, 2010

Reservations about Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally

Generally speaking, I really like what Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart do with their respective shows (The Colbert Report and The Daily Show).  I often find them hilarious, insightful, and serving as something of a media watchdog.  Stephen Colbert's roast of George W. Bush at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in 2006 was one of the boldest and funniest comic routines that I have ever seen.  And Jon Stewart, although he seems to have become more partisan, still has done a lot of great work.

That said... I think both of these fantastic comedians have made some very counterproductive and hurtful presentations which relate directly to their planned rally.  I know a lot of people idolize these men, and criticism of such progressive leftist icons will be distasteful to many party-line liberals, but in this instance I think it's particularly important to offer some friendly criticism and to hold them accountable for  their recent comments (or the lack thereof) about other rallies, protests, and demonstrations. 

During the G-20 Jon Stewart really dropped the ball and disappointed me greatly.  He overtly trivialized the protesters and misrepresented events and actions surrounding the summit protest.  In effect, I feel that he stabbed in the back some of the most concerned, dedicated, and well-intentioned people -- and they weren't all anarchists (although anarchists are a valuable and important faction at many protests).  And it's easy to pretend that the protesters didn't have well-thought-out critiques if you listen to the cable news soundbites or watch snippets of edited video, but that belies the truth.  Many of those protesters DID have comprehensive critiques of the G-20 leaders who actually ought to be held responsible for their warmongering, their environmental policies, and their promotion of economic policies which benefit the wealthy and the corporate elite at the expense of the world's poor.  But not only did he marginalize the protesters by pretending that they had no real message, but he ignored the brutal crackdown that many totally innocent people suffered at the hands of the police.  This was overwhelmingly a non-violent protest and even uninvolved passers-by were getting abused by the police.  So now.... Jon Stewart wants to be the host of big rally with political overtones, but he totally ignored the violation of supposed free speech rights, and many serious messages, of people at an actual rally who were brutalized.  Subsequently, I find his promotion of this "moderate," light-hearted rally, a bit sanctimonious.  And you can be certain that if the police get mildly out of hand surrounding his rally (which truly and intentionally is a joke) he would be incensed.

I'd also point out that, in the same episode which I've linked to above, Stewart practically rattles Obama's saber for him in regard to Iran.   

As for Colbert... I was very critical of his support for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.  I hope people will hear me out before they guffaw and dismiss this criticism.  The problem I had with his very real and sincere support was that it caused him to ignore a lot of the issues surrounding the Olympics which had inspired a lot of people to protest the event aggressively (although this protest was marginalized and ignored by the media like many other protests with a real purpose). 

For starters... the promotion of corporate culture that goes along with the Olympics is disgusting.  It might be fun to put a shiny happy face on it, but that hides the realities of the corporate sweatshops operated by some of the sponsors and the environmental destruction other sponsors are involved with.  And these sponsors are benefited greatly by their association with the Olympics.  Also... many indigenous people were outraged at the whitewashing of conditions in their communities and the Olympic facilities which were built on sacred grounds.  I'd ask you to not callously dismiss these problems, and others associated with the Olympics, but that is exactly what Colbert did during the event.  And he really didn't have to.  He could have owned up to his participation with the Vancouver Olympics and continued with his patriot act, but still could have given a lot of time to the serious issues surrounding the event. 

Now... it's not my intention to totally demonize Stewart & Colbert.  But in light of their marginalizing responses to serious rallies and protests concerning real and important issues... I am a bit skeptical of what they actually want to accomplish now with their own rally.  It's all fine and dandy to goof on the Republicans, and mock politicians in general, but, in the end, this country needs a real rally, focused on serious and substantial change.  If you'll pardon the expression... a left liberal circlejerk isn't really that much more significant or important than a far right circlejerk.  I understand that Colbert and Stewart are comedians, but they shouldn't ignore the real political implications and obvious undertones of the material they spoof.  Their tongue-in-cheek rally belies the real need for an actual rally of historic proportions. 

So my hope for this rally is that it will actually have a serious side with serious messages and real implications for the power structure.  Colbert & Stewart will have a national stage to reach an audience which otherwise would ignore them and the many important issues they could highlight.  And many of the people likely to attend the rally (October 30, 2010), will likely have a decent grasp of the serious issues we face.  So, perhaps, if nothing else... maybe this event could be utilized to revitalize the anti-war movement.  But, really, I'd reiterate that we need a lot more to change than simply the military stance of America. We really need some major protests surrounding many  fundamental issues -- environmental degradation and the  prison-industrial complex quickly come to mind at the top of any list I  would make.

So, in short, I'd like to see people actually bringing their real issues to this rally.  What happened to the anti-war movement?  Why aren't we demanding a change to corporate politics as usual?  Has anybody heard about what happened in the Gulf of Mexico or about this thing called global warming?  These are things that need to be addressed as more than merely the subject matter of jokes.  I'd like people to sincerely recognize and consider the implications of what actually happens in the halls of power of Washington D.C..  I'd like people to realize their own power and work to actually change things, to end the wars, and to protect the environment.  And I'd like Colbert & Stewart to recognize the necessity of something like this happening.  Business as usual has to change -- and that will require real rallies which literally shut the city down and preface a nationwide general strike until, at least, the wars are truly ended.  As for the rest of our rights, including the right to live on a planet that isn't being destroyed by pollution, we should continue with various forms of protest until, at very least, substantial changes are made with certainty.  I know it sounds grandiose, and perhaps over-reaching... but that might be what needs to be done.