Home > Uncategorized > The Rally to Restore Sanity

The Rally to Restore Sanity

I sat down to watch The Daily Show the other night, as you do if you’re a fully paid up member of the liberal media elite, and was surprised to find that the guest on the show was none other than POTUS himself (I shouldn’t need to explain that, West Wing fans).

Predictably, he was given a pretty easy ride (as was John McCain when he used to pretend to be normal by appearing on the show), but I didn’t realise until I read a slew of pieces in the next few days the extent to which The Daily Show has supplanted the traditional ‘news’ channels as the medium of choice for many politicians in the US. To put that into some sort of UK context, it would be the equivalent of David Cameron swerving Andrew Marr’s sofa and making his only terrestrial TV appearance on Have I Got News For You (that’s not an ideal comparison but it’s the best I can do).

Why? Because the other options are Fox News, which is a televisual carehome for the politically incontinent, and a swathe of bland, cowed, cynical and dull mainstream political shows that nobody watches. The Daily Show’s interview with Obama was especially notable because it was followed at the weekend by Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart’s Rally for Sanity, which produced a pretty big crowd and some pretty funny placards.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/gallery/2010/oct/30/restore-sanity-rally-jon-stewart?intcmp=239

This event was conceived as a platform for people who represent the ‘silent majority’. When I first read about the rally, I thought it an odd and strangely unengaging idea: mildly amusing but destined to be something of a damp squib. But its success has made me think. Spend any time reading internet forums and you will know how quickly discussions – especially political ones – are hijacked by aggressive, bile-filled correspondents who aren’t interested in reading anyone’s opinion but their own. I don’t contribute to these comment pages, and I suspect there are very few people in the silent majority who do. What’s the point? No one likes being insulted, especially by strangers, for daring to have an opinion that may not tally with their own. Especially when the chances of getting into a valuable, nuanced and mutually respectful exchange of views is infinitesimal.

My point is that the UK seems, as ever, to be following the US to a place where political discourse itself is being politicised and impartial news sources like the BBC are forced to defend themselves against accusations of bias. (Does anyone really think the BBC is left wing? It’s just staffed, on the whole, by sentient, reasonable human beings who enjoyed the benefit of a reasonable education: members of the silent majority, in other words.)

The Daily Show rails against idiocy, vested interests, hypocrisy and greed. You can call it liberal: I’d call it normal. The danger is that by ceding the online forums to the ranters and ravers, and the press and airwaves to the monied and powerful, we are sleepwalking into an environment where sensible views – you know, like not ruining the planet for future generations, or providing a safety net for the poorest, oldest and most vulnerable – are seen as extreme.

My advice: get involved. Organisations such as Avaaz and others are doing a good job of coralling the opinions of the silent majority and using the strength of numbers to influence decision makers. Let’s not concede the online space to the playground bullies. That’s it. Disagree if you want – I promise not to shout at you…

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