Dismiss it if you will, but yesterday’s Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear demonstrated one thing very clearly: Corporate media has the power to motivate huge numbers of people to take action, even if that action doesn’t make much sense. Viacom can use Jon Stewart to get hundreds of thousands of Americans to travel hundreds of miles to attend a rally with no meaning whatsoever on the weekend right before a significant congressional election, when those Americans could be out in the streets organizing for congressional candidates instead. Viacom was able to harness the power of television to take a huge number of people out of the political equation yesterday.
The power of television was in full force at the rally itself, as most people at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear didn’t even see the rally itself. They watched it on television – huge TV screens placed up and down the National Mall.
The most surreal moment came before the official start of the rally, when the TV screens were turned on and tuned in to the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Huge crowds of people fell silent, and gazed up at the screens en masse.
Then, the crowds were shown old clips from the Daily Show and Colbert Report. The clips were from the shows in which Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert announced that they would hold a rally in the first place. Almost everyone in the crowds had already seen these clips, if not once, many times. Yet, they laughed.
The crowds laughed at jokes they had already heard about a rally that was being planned, but which they were actually attending in the present. The rally was a re-run even before it was over.
That’s when it hit me: These people had all come to Washington D.C., not to participate in any rally for anything, but just to watch television.