the circular runner

I Love Jon Stewart–and yet…

In media, observations on October 30, 2010 at 12:46 am

The March to Be Polite...and Impotent

Now that Rubicon is over, I can pretty much go for days and not watch TV. I just don’t care that much about any of the shows. That said, I have to admit that every night at 11, I am tempted to turn the beast on and watch the first half of The Daily Show. I don’t do it to get my news, but I enjoy Mr. Stewart‘s take on politicians, his intelligent use of video archives, and his willingness to call things stupid as he sees fit.

This last week, he’s been filming from DC in preparation for the Rally to Restore Sanity. Well, not to be mean, but DC has not been kind to the show. In fact, every night has gone one step closer to restoring my need to avoid TV altogether. For obvious reasons, Mr. Stewart has been pushing sanity. As an example of the kind of sanity he is trying to restore, the show selected a handful of people to bring to DC. There’s a conservative, a few liberals, a pizza guy who might be libertarian, and a Muslim man. The punchline behind the segment is that these are normal people who may not agree on everything, but who are perfectly able to have civil conversations nonetheless.

These segments are truly sane, but they are also inane. These sane people aren’t really shown saying anything apart from platitudes. They have this kind of “agree to disagree” mentality, which is fine, and may be sane, but doesn’t get at anything. Or to put it another way, without seeming to realize it, Stewart’s example of sanity seems to be nothing more than polite party conversation. No one’s trying to offend anyone else, but no one is trying to get anything done, either. Unlike our politicians, these pilgrims can afford to sit around and be polite.

I’m not saying the march is a bad idea. It is probably a good thing to have a place where people can come together and not say awful things about people on the other side of the political spectrum, but sanity should not just mean civility; it should also mean discourse, conversation, debate. I know Stewart is a comedian and so he is supposed to make us laugh, but he is trying to do something more with this rally. Even if he argues that he’s only a funny guy, there is something deeper going on. The problem is that from what I’ve seen this week, the event later today might fail in two major ways. It may be sane, but it will be too boring to be funny and too polite to be restorative.

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