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!
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Now, you can buy the rally memento before the rally has happened and without actually attending it. "The one danger is that there will probably be some people who will buy the T-shirt and not go to the rally,” says Matthew Hale, a political scientist at Seton Hall University. “In order for this to be a success for Stewart, lots of people have to actually show up at the rally – and perhaps the merchandise could detract from that."Skip to next paragraph
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To others, however, the memorabilia are "a form of political engagement." The entertainment factor in the Stewart-Colbert rally is helping to drive a deeper political activism, because the rally is not simply a comedian's prank, says Amber Day, author of “Satire and Dissent: Interventions in Contemporary Political Debate.”
Stewart and Colbert have built a loyal following with their "skilled deconstruction of the flaws of contemporary political debate,” she says, and fans look to these shows to poke holes in the media spectacle.
“They draw attention to the emptiness of political talking points and to the hypocrisy of the media pundits who repeat them,” she says.
Wanted: web traffic
As for Viacom, the parent company of Comedy Central, which will show the rally, getting people to the website – for information, charitable donations, or purchases – is all that matters, says Gordon Coonfield, a mass communications expert at Villanova University.
Money made on each purchase is not as important as the website loyalty and sheer traffic, agrees Paul Levinson, author of “New New Media.” Merchandise is just another way to generate site loyalty, he adds.
But the lines between modern politics and entertainment have been blurring since the 1960s, when Vaughan Meader created the JFK parody album, “The First Family,” he adds. The difference today, he notes, is technology-driven.
“The ease of access today makes engagement with every form of political and entertainment activity almost effortless,” he says.
That could lead to satire becoming an even greater influence on future political dialogue. “Satire was never meant to be merely quiet tongue-in-cheek,” Mr. Levinson says. “What new, new media has done is put a Bunsen burner on what is already a provocative mix.”