On Saturday Oct. 30, Jon Stewart, host of the 8-time emmy award winning variety program The Daily Show, and Stephen Colbert, the satirical ultra-conservative host of The Colbert Report, led the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. An estimated 215,000 people attended according to AirPhotosLive.com, which took aerial pictures of the event. Formally announced as a non-political rally, it remained neutral by only entertaining participants with a myriad of performers from Ozzy Osbourne to Tony Bennett, and skit routines. The show didn’t promote specific politicians or political parties. The official website www.rallytorestoresanity.com encouraged diverse minds to attend.
“If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence. we couldn’t. That’s sort of the point.”
So what provoked nearly a quarter of a million people to dress in costumes, totting signs to America’s capitol? Demand for more moderation and civil discourse, both in politics and media.
Mild-natured signs held by participants read “death to nobody,”‘ and “I disagree, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler.”
The reasonableness began early as Stewart asked the crowd to leave the mall as clean as they found it, quickly adding “cleaner!”
Sam Waterston from Law and Order introduced ironic sobriety in the reading of Colbert’s playfully silly Are you sure poem. He described hypothetical situations that induce fear and worry and also a few giggles. Two lines from the rhyming poem bounced from unlikely to nightmarish.
“Choking on a biscotti being whacked by John Gotti, Getting trapped overnight in a full port-o-potty.”
Colbert encouraged his audience to wear costumes that embodied their worst fear in the shows leading up to Halloween Eve. Witches holding “I’m not a witch, I’m you” signs and business-clad “journalists” holding plastic microphones branded FOX mocked a specific self-proclaimed “fair and balanced” news network and their TEA party sweetheart Christine O’Donnell.
And it shouldn’t have been a surprise. The rally was an informal response to Fox News Network whose personality Glenn Beck had his gathering Restoring Honor on the anniversary and same location as Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech last August in D.C.
In addition to portraying America’s implied state of dishonor, Beck called for the usual religion-inspired change and anti-government convictions. During his speech he told his supporters “America today begins to turn back to God. For too long, this country has wandered in darkness.”
Fear-inducing exaggeration was addressed by Stewart during his speech. He made an analogy of the media’s role as using a magnifying glass to either focus on problems, or to use it as a weapon to burn ants. He reminded the massive crowd and live national audience that he is not suggesting “.that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear, they are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times.”
Cars merging into a single lane before a tunnel in D.C. shown on the jumbotron screens illustrated his major point.
“.we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.”
While the enormous gathering dispersed throughout D.C. after the rally, some decided to stay and clean up, heeding Stewart’s plea. Many others decided to contribute in a different way, to the Trust for the national mall which boasts $188,360 in donations in the name of the event.