Stewart-Colbert rally aims: 1. Change politics, 2. Sell knickknacks.
The Jon Stewart-Stephen Colbert 'Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear' opens its online store. Can't march on Washington? At least buy a bumper sticker!
With only five (shopping) days to go, the Jon Stewart-Stephen Colbert "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" has a new message. Instead of Stewart’s promises to "take it down a notch," the comedy duo wants you to ramp-up the power of your online dollar.Skip to next paragraph
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This week the pair's site launched official merchandise – you can get a T-shirt that reads, “I have a scream,” or choose from a range of bumper stickers, posters, and buttons.
Sure, profits from the swag sale will go to charity, notably the fund to help preserve the National Mall where the rally is being held. But for a pair of satirists with a serious goal in mind – to take Washington to task over its political dysfunction – does the online bid to cash in on T-shirts and knickknacks cast them as glorified hucksters?
Or is it just one more step toward a world where the lines between politics, entertainment, and commerce melt?
Both, says Kelly O'Keefe, managing director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter. With 24-hour news coverage and endless viral cycles on YouTube channels, “We are seeing a real rise in people viewing their politicians as one more form of entertainment,” says Mr. O'Keefe.
Wearing a T-shirt for an upcoming rally is akin to wearing your favorite sports team's gear, he says.
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The trend toward “seeing these politicians less and less as statesman and more as mere entertainers" is accelerating through commentators such as Fox News’ Glenn Beck, whose credentials are from the entertainment, not politics.
“It’s not too long before I expect to see tabloid shows such as TMZ or 'Entertainment Tonight' regularly following our politicians on their shows,” says O’Keefe.
To some, T-shirts and bumper stickers sold online represent a cheapening of the communal political experience. Memorabilia used to mean you were actually part of an event, indicating engagement. They were totems relating to a real experience.