First, my apologies to our international readers. E&P does strive to be an international magazine, but sometimes things going on in these here United States simply can’t be ignored.
So I guess it’s somewhat appropriate that on the day of our mid-term elections I find myself pondering the woeful state of political commentary in this country. I’m probably very late coming to this debate, primarily because I don’t watch a lot of television, particularly the kind that has political pundits spouting their views in shrieking tones. I’m sort of in the “why can’t we all just get along?” camp politically.
But this last weekend in Washington, D.C., comedian Jon Stewart held a “Rally to Restore Sanity,” at least partly in response to an earlier rally that conservative talk show host Glenn Beck held. My daughter attended the rally, which was televised, so of course we watched all three hours of it in the off-chance that we might spy her on TV (we didn’t). To be honest, I thought a lot of it was silly, with Stephen Colbert playing his alter-ego and pretending to push his agenda of fear, not sanity. But the last five minutes of the rally were worth the wait.
Stewart gave a brief speech outlining the purpose of the rally, and as part of his presentation, he showed sound bytes of some of the country’s most notable “pundits” basically screaming their heads off about something the other side had done, or not done. “The country’s 24-hour political pundit perpetual panic conflict-inator did not cause our problems,” he said. “But its existence makes solving them that much harder. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”
I’ll say. I may sound like I’ve had my head in the sand when I say this, but I had NO IDEA. The montage showed people from both sides of the political debate yelling at the camera and using incredibly derogatory terms to describe those who oppose them. This type of flap may be considered good entertainment, but it’s not the type of diatribe that the average American should hang his or her political hat on.
“The image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false,” Stewart said. “It’s like looking through a funhouse mirror – the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month-old pumpkin. Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin-assed, forehead eyeball monster?”
Americans live in a democratic society protected by rights such as the right to free speech. As a journalist, I hold that right very dear. As an American, I’m worried about the ways that others abuse it, hawking politics when they should admit they’re just entertainers (and not very good ones, sometimes). So what it boils down to is exactly what the rally was about – trying to restore sanity in a country where the inmates seem to be running the asylum.
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