Saturday, October 30, 2010
The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear Liveblog
Eventually, this escalated to the announcement of dueling rallies - Jon's Rally to Restore Sanity and Stephen's March to Keep Fear Alive. They spent weeks hyping them up after setting the October 30th date, just in time for Halloween. Jon got a lot of public notice and media attention, including endorsements from Oprah, buses courtesy of Arianna Huffington and the Huffington Post, and even mention by president Barack Obama, who appeared on the Daily Show this past Wednesday during their week of shows in Washington, DC.
He held his own as well, when Jon asked some tough questions, and touted his and the current Democratic congress's strong track record of actually getting things done, including vital healthcare reform, financial reform, and effectively stopping a second Great Depression from happening. All true, and all things the right seeks to constantly discredit Obama and the Democrats for accomplishing. (And when I say "the right," I'm generally just focusing on the GOP here - the Democrats are to the left of them, but they're still very much center-right and corporatist. Problematic unto themselves, but more of a problem to be dealt with if we can shift away from the brink as a nation, considering the insanity we regularly hear espoused by the GOP these days.) We've gotten not quite two years to clean up an eight-year mess that will take decades for this nation to likely ever recover from as fully as possible - and some things, like the numbers of lives lost due to reckless decisions by the previous administration, cannot be recovered - and that isn't nearly enough time to undo that kind of damage.
What we have done these past near-two-years, however, amounts to getting a strong, pragmatic start, taking America's recovery one step at a time. Obama's even committed to bipartisanship in ways both conceptually admirable and unwise in application. Still, the fact that he's been so adamant about that speaks volumes about his belief in the political system - in compromise; in actually working together to get things done instead of stonewalling like the Republicans have been since he took office - regardless of how broken its processes currently are. The Democrats - save for those who've lacked the guts to stand by their record these past twenty-ish months - deserve reelection. The Republicans have spent these months crossing their arms and sitting in congress shaking their heads to everything, even policy ideas they had proposed years ago in the first place! No one right of mind should even consider voting for them on Tuesday - not for what they've spent these years representing. I'll get into that more on Tuesday before I turn into a complete broken record, though - I've got an election post coming up then.
Anyway, after all the attention Jon Stewart got - even getting a rally permit for the National Mall, and tying the rally in to a charity to restore and care for the area - Stephen Colbert went mostly ignored, only really getting an endorsement from Rick Sanchez. (Who had a bad day, snapped, and said some terrible, hateful things - lashing out at Jon among others, not having taken being made fun of routinely for all these years so well - and actually had a point in his rant about how underrepresented minorities are in the newsmedia in the next week, losing his job in public disgrace. Unlike Juan Williams, who just lost his job at NPR the other week for his casual anti-Muslim bigotry, Sanchez had the wisdom not to jump to Fox News and went on to demonstrate that despite the things he said, he recognized how wrong they were and at least showed the world that he's not a completely terrible person at heart.) In the end, he came on the Daily Show and signed onto Jon's rally permit, combining the Rally to Restore Sanity and March to Keep Fear Alive into a single event - the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.
All this? A last minute liveblog that I haphazardly decided to do, since the only other one I can think of that I'll be doing in the future will be the upcoming Conan premiere in a little over another week. Worthwhile content. I was going to be asleep before noon - that was the plan - but instead, once the rally started, I just had to stay up and watch it. So here it all is, my liveblog in its entirety - and now, nearing 4 PM, I'm going to take some time to finish up my severely overdue late-September short story before I crash. And tonight, I'm writing a Halloween-themed short story for you guys just in time for the holiday itself for the October monthly short story. This is how backed up I've been on my blog work here - and this is also my dedication to all of you, the silent millions secretly hanging on my every word and dying for the day I finally get an agent and get novels on shelves for you to buy and gleefully hug to your chests in literary anticipation. (PRETEND.)
For those of you following this - if any - as a point of reference, the rally's also streaming live on Comedy Central's website.
Let's get sane. (All times EST)
(12:00) The Roots! Not sure what song they're performing to open with. I'm going to try to get the names of all the songs performed. The National Mall looks pretty packed - a veritable sea of sanity. Wonder if we'll see a total turnout bigger than Beck's insulting Lincoln Memorial "Honor" rally months back. And hey, where there's signs, they're actually spelled correctly. Fancy that!
(12:10) John Legend joins them! Now performing a song with them. One of the songs performed was a cover of Monsters of Folk's "Dear God." Mellow, relaxing way to kick things off. Befitting of the theme.
(12:15) A second song by John Legend and The Roots, "Hard Times."
(12:19) A third song by Legend and The Roots. I believe that was "Little Ghetto Boy" by Donny Hathaway.
(12:25) A fourth song, written back in 1973 by Bill Withers. Legend recalling the circumstances of when it was written, in the midst of the Vietnam War. And now we're still at war. "I Can't Write Left-Handed" is the song. Legend was also the first to get away with an unedited "fuck" on-air, not quite half an hour in. Ah, live television. Gotta love it.
(12:32) Fantastic extended jam as the song moves toward its close.
(12:34) Another song. Really energetic rap this time - "The Seed (2.0)." Not a cover this time, but an original by The Roots.
(12:39) And now, the Mythbusters! Adam Save and Jamie Hyneman. Time for them to do some experiments, starting with The Wave. That crowd is ridiculously massive. Cheers for sanity.
(12:43) Adam suggested that the crowd is about 150,000 large. I can see that - this is an incredible turnout. You can't even see where the crowd ends on the horizon.
(12:48) Now they're doing some sound experiments after all the various Waves they had the crowd do.
(12:52) Now they're going to get the whole crowd to jump to create a groundswell. They brought some seismologists and a seismometer to measure the effects of the jump.
(12:54) The results? Not much seismic activity, but still 100 times more powerful than a minor car crash with their second jump.
(12:55) And now the Mythbusters are going. Fun segment.
(12:56) The official opening and Jon Stewart at last makes his appearance as the host of the part of the rally dedicated to sanity! Starting with the crowd standing for a singing of the national anthem performed by four troops. Those ladies and gents can sing.
(12:59) Jon returns! "ARE YOU READY TO RESTORE SANITY!?"
(1:00) Important things first. No littering - the National Mall is a treasure and presently in disrepair. "Let's leave this place cleaner than we found it!" Asking any landscapers in attendance to help out, get some topiaries up. The most important things for a rally? Jokingly, 'Color and size.' "Over ten million people" in attendance - lampooning Fox News's exaggeration of attendance at Glenn Beck's rally. A perfect demographic sample of the American people? Definitely. If you have too many white people at a rally, it must be racist. If you have too many colored people, they must be asking for basic equal rights - something we are not ready to give.
(1:02) With the help of Aasif Mandvi and Samantha Bee in the crowd, they're counting off the exact size of the crowd so no one can doubt the numbers in attendance.
(1:03) Samantha Bee and Aasif Mandvi interviewing crowd members, counting them off and having them identify themselves demographically. And the young ladies can't get enough of Jon Stewart. (STEW-BEEF!)
(1:04) "Jon! Help!" The voice of Stephen Colbert! Trapped in his fear bunker! Comm link on Jumbotron time. Stephen in a very dark place. His fear bunker was 2000 feet below the stage, encased in solid bedrock. Stephen was shirtless in a cave, mostly afraid that no one showed up to their rally. The crowd cheered to let him know they were there. "Are the men handsome? Are the women beautiful? And do they respond to obvious pandering?"
(1:06) He's coming up! An alarm rings and Stephen Colbert emerges to the Colbert Report theme in a Chilean miner pod emergence spoof - clad in an Eviel Knievel style outfit, the always-classy caped jumpsuit. "Chi! Chi! Le! Le!"
(1:08) "Hello America! Hello multitude on the Washington Mall! Oh! Oh, this feels right!" And, of course, "KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!" "They're reasonable for now, Jon. But soon they'll be a mindless panicked mob once I release the bees!" "RELEASE THE BEES!" Bees coated with peanut butter. Deliberately fabricating fears that don't exist. Raising awareness of potential dangers and then allowing an informed public decide whether to cower in terror or die bravely. Our media, all right.
(1:10) Whispers instead of cheers in favor of restoring sanity. That's a quiet cheer. And a massive chorus of ghostly "WOOOOO!"s to keep fear alive. Stephen declared himself the winner, the rally over, and thanked The Roots.
(1:12) For a more traditional start - not a book burning! - Father Guido Sarducci, here to deliver the rally's benediction. He was on the Colbert Report a few months back, as I recall. Still around, still funny. Cheers from the crowd for each religion. Observation about Judaism and Islam - "You know, they don't eat the same meat, and yet they don't get along. You'd think they could build on that."
(1:17) Shot of the crowd as Sarducci talked religion. Someone dressed up as Beaker from The Muppet Show with a pro-science sign. Fantastic.
(1:19) The benediction wrapped. When Sarducci thanked god for dogs especially, they cut to someone in the audience dressed as Clifford the Big Red Dog, too.
(1:20) And now Stephen Colbert's inaugurating things with "an poem," now dressed in a leather jacket and American flag pants. To read it? Law & Order's Sam Waterston, infamous Law & Order sound effect in tow. "Are You Sure?" by the Reverend Sir Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA.
(1:23) The poem concluded. Lots of memes from our half decade of Colbert Report fun. Jon felt that music could express some emotions difficult for us to express with words. Formerly Cat Stevens, Yusuf Islam, performing "Peace Train!"
(1:26) Stephen Colbert interrupted, much to audience protest. Jon had to step in and apologize. Stephen refuses to get on the Peace Train. He has a better train instead, he says, and the conductor has an important announcement to make. Ozzy Osbourne! "Crazy Train," I believe.
(1:29) Jon interrupted Ozzy, refusing to get on that train - it was going off the rails, after all. Back to Yusuf Islam continuing his song! Not even a full minute before Stephen interrupted and threw back to Ozzy. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups sponsor message banner across the screen - I also endorse this candy. Jon interrupted seconds later, and now both are trying to play their respective songs simultaneously.
(1:31) Now things are ruined! They've got no train! Except! Wait! The Love Train! Thus, a performance they could agree on by The OJs. Rally halfway point passed. Wonderful so far.
(1:36) Performance finished. Jon appeared and announced all these fantastic musical guests again. "Sanity does not mean never having unreasonable moments." And now a look at true stories of unreasonable moments people have had in the public eye in montage. Steven Slater, that flight attendant who had a famous meltdown, and Teresa Giudice of - I believe - that Real Housewives of New Jersey reality show.
(1:39) Now discussing the most important thing about a rally - how it's reported on. Either it was a tremendous success or a horrendous failure staged by a fringe movement. Wyatt Cenac and Jason Jones now covering the rally from both perspectives within the crowd. Wyatt's the optimist, and Jones is the pessimist. Talking to crowd members too. Much shakier camera for Jones. Overhead shots for Cenac to show the huge crowd, while Jones tried to present them as being few in number, nothing more than a disorganized fringe mob. Jones kept trying to rile up a guy in the crowd, and it didn't work.
(1:41) And now giving out medals to individuals who demonstrated rationality and sanity in the face of difficult circumstances. The Medals of Reasonableness all had owls on them.
(1:42) The first medal goes to Venezuelan baseball player Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers, who didn't flip out at an umpire who made a bad call. He accepted the medal and spoke well of the umpire via a taped statement.
(1:44) Stephen interrupts with his own medal: the Stephen Colbert Fear Award. His medals depicted a naked man running with scissors. He awarded it to all the news organizations that barred their reporters from attending Jon and Stephen's rally out of fear that they'd be accused of a liberal bias for covering it. Those organizations? ABC, CBS, the AP, The New York Times, and NPR! With no one in attendance to present the award to, he decided to present it to someone with more courage: a seven-year-old girl. Stephen asked if she was scared to be there, and she said it was fun. Stephen warned her about a cooties epidemic you won't hear about on NPR.
(1:46) The next two performers? Here from Chicago, which means they must have been cursed out by Rahm Emanuel. Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy, performing "You Are Not Alone."
(1:50) Performance complete. Second Medal for Reasonableness time! This one went to Velma Hart for respectfully asking Obama some very tough questions at a CNBC town hall meeting. She came out to accept her medal live. "He gave me his answer, and he's been giving us our answer every day since!" A sane, reasonable, respectful lady. Another good call.
(1:52) Time for the second Feary! (Fearie?) Given to Anderson Cooper's tight black t-shirt, for being with Cooper while he covered a number of scary things over the years.
(1:54) Nobody knows what's next on their program - then it's PK Winsome. An important message from a friend, played by none other than Tim Meadows, of course. Presenting PK Winsome's Commemorative Merchandise Mart, as opposed to his usual deadly pharmaceuticals in his Colbert Report segments. Complete with surplus souvenir mousepads for the movie Antz, as well as "Mice Mice Baby" Vanilla Ice mousepads. He's really desperate to get rid of those mousepads.
(1:57) And now Jon's in an American flag windbreaker. He thanked the crowd for attending and Stephen came out in the same pullover fleece zip-up, as Jon elaborated. Stephen announced that Jon was desecrating it since it matched Stephen's pants. Stephen demanded he take it off. Arguing over who could wear American flag sweaters.
(1:59) And now Stephen and Jon singing about why they love America, dueling over that love with their pullovers. Very awkward start for Stephen as he struggled to find the right pitch. Jon stumbled when he started too - not exactly as rehearsed as their duet on A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! Of course, that also benefited from not being live. You can only get these awkward moments live. Jabs in there at Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez, too. Wonderful and well-deserved. The chorus is about the country being "the greatest, strongest, country in the world." And even a shoutout to straight men who like Glee. Technically in that demographic myself.
(2:03) Toward the end of their song, they're holding up mics to audience members and getting them to sing where they're from to alter the lyrics in "From ____, to _____" form, eventually crescendoing back to the chorus, deeming no one more American than we. Jeff Tweedy backed them with the acoustic guitar.
(2:05) Jon apologized for our having to hear him sing and said we wouldn't have to again - it worked in rehearsal. Then it was time for the third Medal of Reasonableness. Going to wrestler Mick Foley, who seems like a pretty decent guy too, despite what one might think of pro-wrestlers. For exemplifying reasonableness in everything but his day job, he was given the medal. Foley came out to accept the medal live. "Civility is cool" indeed.
(2:07) And the final fear award went to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, who naturally wasn't there to accept it, valuing his privacy more than he does yours. (They've sold a lot of private user data over the years.) Facebook has opened up new forms of fear, too, as Stephen pointed out, since now you could see if your ex found someone cuter - everybody's greatest fear, of course. Stephen accepted the award since Zuckerburg wasn't there and told him to friend him - he was going to post a photo of him wearing the medal on his own Facebook wall. All reminds me that I still need to see The Social Network since that looks legitimately very good. (Plus, these really well-constructed trailers - a rare case of TV spots actually getting my attention for a movie - introduced me to Sigur Ros's Jonsi's music. Wonderful stuff.)
(2:08) Jon gave out one last award, refusing to end their awards with fear. To the "Dude, you have no Koran!" guy from one of the planned controversial Koran burnings back in September- Jacob Isom. Stephen yanked it away and announced "Dude, you have no medal!" Then Isom got his medal and tossed it out into the crowd, walking away wordlessly. I praised that guy on Twitter back in September, and he's still the man. Respect.
(2:10) Another musical guest, performing with Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock. They performed a new song, "Care." T.I. taped a green screen thing for the, since he couldn't be there. He was one of the collaborators behind the song performed. Not the cheeriest song, seemingly about not being able to change the world - the opposite of the message we need to believe in now.
(2:16) And now another song. I'm going to assume this is another new one they're performing here - I can't find a name anywhere. I'm not a fan of either of them, so I'm kind of looking forward to this part being over - I actually like all of the previous musical guests, though I haven't made a habit of listening to any of them with regularity.
(2:21) Done. Whew. And now an important announcement from Stephen Colbert. Our keynote speaker for the afternoon: Jon Stewart.
(2:23) Stephen interrupted Jon's keynote, noting that every point must have a counterpoint. FORMIDABLE OPPONENT! Stephen needed to be empodiumed - though it's not a word - in now challenging Jon to a debate. First Formidable Opponent segment where Stephen's not just debating himself - they never do this segment enough on the Report. Jon's arguing for reason, while Stephen's arguing on the behalf of fear. Where Jon turned to history, Stephen turned to the bible. Jon invoked FDR's infamous quotation, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." As Stephen pointed out, Nixon said, "People respond to fear, not love." That's why Stephen proposed to his wife by hiding the ring inside a rabid badger.
(2:26) Jon called out media fearmongers, while Stephen wanted to know what the new, latest thing to be afraid of was - Jon turned to korbamite (Corbamite?) from the first season of the original Star Trek, all the way down to citing the specific episode referenced.
(2:28) And now Jon's calling out fearmongering against Muslims. Excellent! Truth. Oh, hey, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar! There to represent Muslims - "No matter our religious positions, we're all on the same team." Yes indeed.
(2:31) And in calling out Stephen's bigotry toward robots, an appearance by the one and only R2-D2, "one of the good ones." They even invoked the infamous R2-scream when Jon mentioned that there was a blender backstage with its eye on him.
(2:32) Jon's reasonableness is poisoning Stephen's fear, so he's summoning... FEARZILLA! A big papier-mache Stephen Colbert, throwing to a montage of mainstream media fearmongering. They like to ask "Could it be in your neighborhood?" a lot.
(2:34) Stephen declared himself the winner and high-fived his papier-mache self, but Jon insisted that most of the fears in the montage were overblown and would never come true. Then Stephen threw to media and political hyperbole with violent shots back and forth between the right and left - the right's worse and gets much, much, much more coverage and focus, being allowed to push the narrative as they do, but we've had some embarrassing moments on the left well worth calling out too. (Though compared to the rest of the globe, our "left-wing" and "liberals" here are pretty much sane centrists.) Another montage that demonstrated well - like the one prior - how horribly broken the media and our political discussion are.
(2:36) Stephen declared himself the winner again. Jon admitted the montages were pretty dispiriting. Jon brought out his hotel remote to point out that it's a weapon against the media - something we can use to turn off the TV or change the channel to escape the media. Stephen threw to an Early Show segment (And other morning news show clips) on the dirtiest things in hotel rooms where the horribly disgusting things found on hotel TV remotes were discussed. Stephen declared the Daily Show over and said Jon would be missed, declaring Jon killed.
(2:38) John Oliver is here! In forest green tights as Peter Pan, no less, calling Jon completely dead, telling him to stop talking. And since Jon died and needed the crowd's help, Peter-John appealed to them and told them to clap for Jon. Jon insisted that he appreciated but really didn't need their help since he wasn't dead. John tried to get people to do the Hambone, or the Arsenio - a little jig. Next up was chanting - chanting, "Will this help?!" And the chanting started killing Stephen Colbert, the American joining together to chant as one, burning and melting Stephen and his powerful fear - My preciousssss - sending him to the ground along with his puppet, officially dead. John dragged Stephen off-stage and stagehands took the puppet away.
(2:41) Now Jon was alone on stage. He addressed the incredible musical performances they'd had, and some technical comedy too. And now a moment - however brief - for sincerity, possibly violating that comedian-pundit line. He discussed how we could've looked at today's gathering, and discussed how they wanted to put on the best show possible - our time was valuable, so they didn't want to waste it, and were honored to perform for all of us in that beautiful space, on the National Mall.
(2:44) "What exactly was this?" He can't control what people think it was, he can only state his intentions. It wasn't a rally to ridicule people of faith, activism, the heartland, people of passionate argument, or to belittle the difficult times we live in. "But we live now in hard times, not end times! And we can have animus and not be enemies! But unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two broke." Addressing the broken 24-hour newsmedia, and that while they didn't cause our problems, its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold a magnifying glass up to our problems and illuminate otherwise unseen issues, or they can use it to light ants on fire - they do the latter. "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing." "There are terrorists, racists, Stalinists, and theocrats, but those are titles that must be earned!" He went on about our tendency to thoughtlessly throw these labels about, doing a great disservice to the actual horrible people in the world - "just as our inability to distinguish between terrorists and Muslims makes us less safe, not more."
(2:47) "The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything, we get sicker! And perhaps eczema." "That being said, I feel good. Strangely, calmly good." Because the image of Americans reflected by our media and political processes is a false one - it's essentially a fun house mirror, distorting everything. Every day we hear about how we can't work together to get things done and how we're on the brink of collapse, but it's untrue - "we work together to get things done every damn day!" "The only place we don't is here or on cable TV! But Americans don't live here or on cable TV. Where we live, our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done. Most don't live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals, or conservatives. Americans live their lives as people just a little late for something they have to do - often something they don't want to do, but they do it. Impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises we all make."
(2:51) Jon looked at images of cars in traffic on camera and described the kinds of people out there in them, all the little things that make us different and all the things that unite us. Every car is filled with "individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear," often in sharp conflict with one another, but they still have to funnel into little off-turns and navigate the roads together, each compromising constantly and taking their turns as we drive where we need to get to go. And occasionally we see selfish jerks who rush ahead and cut other people off, but those people are rare, scorned, and not hired as an analyst. "Because we know instinctively as a people, that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light, we always have to work together. And there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn't the promised land - it's just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together."
(2:53) Jon said that our presence was what he wanted at the rally - that was all he'd wanted. "Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To see you here and the kind of people you are today has restored mine." Uproarious applause and cheering.
(2:54) Tony Bennett is out to sing "America the Beautiful." Fantastic closing.
(2:56) Jon thanked everyone for coming today and thanked Stephen, who came out then too. They thanked everyone on their shows, and all the musicians who came out to share their time with us.
(2:57) And now all the musical artists are out for one final song, along with all the other guests and award winners, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, R2-D2, the seven-year-old girl, and all the correspondents. The musicians then joined together in their final song. Not sure what the song is. I'll try to get that next - "I'll Take You There," I believe. End credits rolled.
(3:00) Over. I'll finish polishing bits of extra info in this liveblog, then it's done and I need to finish a short story here before I sleep. Crazy.
Final thoughts: the right-wing laden media (Which they even called out in many mainstream outlets being afraid to cover the rally and risk being labeled "liberal," pathetic as that witch hunt has always been) will try to label this as a failure to fire up the left to vote on Tuesday and stop the teabaggers from wrecking the nation. And we'll undoubtedly see as much negative slant against Jon, Stephen, and everyone involved here as possible. It probably will fire up a lot of America's youth, especially, though - and I'd bet that most if not all of the people in the crowd and viewers on TV will vote, and the majority of them probably won't be voting Republican. It was all more mellow entertainment mixed with a call for reason and rationality than it was any leftist manifesto, and as great political cartoonist Tom Tomorrow observed on Twitter, a lot of it sounded like a college freshman stoner session. And he's not wrong - the themes were pretty typical to that sort of stereotypical thought. But in their simplicity and appeal, they're not wrong or any less beautiful.
I doubt we're going to be seeing any kind of a return to sanity in the end for all this - things are going to take a horrible turn if the right gets the massive gains they're expecting next week, and if we manage to stop them and keep the country focused in a better direction, the discourse is only going to get shriller and nastier - but for what it all is, and for the sentiment expressed, it was still a good way to spend three hours. Three hours in which we could all sit back, listen to some good music, laugh at some awkward comedy, and join together in just wanting to feel like the world hadn't lost its mind for a little while. And these days more than ever, as stressful and trying as the times are, we need to be able to feel that way. To separate ourselves from the consuming madness; to look about us; to look at each other, even; to clear our heads; and to say to ourselves, "I haven't lost to all this yet."
Now the remaining questions are, what happened to Stephen's "Ghost of Jon" song and the winners of the sanity sign and fear costume contests they were going to show?