It’s the “Rally to Restore Sanity” versus the “March to Keep Fear Alive,” Jon Stewart versus Stephen Colbert, the big competition of the faux political events, set for Oct. 30 on the National Mall in Washington.
In terms of dominating the run-up to the actual smack-down, who’s winning so far?
Let’s give it up for moderation! But quietly – somebody nearby may be napping. As of midday Monday, 98,756 people had checked the “planning to attend” box on the Rally to Restore Sanity Facebook page. The corresponding number for the March to Keep Fear Alive? Only 38,659.
You’ve heard about all this, right? Glenn Beck’s Aug. 28 “Restoring Honor” rally on the Mall was the inspiration. After Mr. Beck’s gathering, someone mused on the Reddit.com site that maybe Stephen Colbert should hold his own public event. The Huffington Post picked it up, a Facebook page sprang from nowhere, and next thing you know, Comedy Central stars Stewart ant Colbert were both announcing that they would announce something important at some point. Then last Thursday, they made the final announcement: dueling rallies on the same day, may the best point of view win.
“It’ll be like being in a chat room, but real!” said Mr. Stewart on his show.
The “Rally to Restore Sanity” is looking for people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat, according to its official website. It is a rally for people who usually don’t have time to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs, but on this one day, might ask the sitter to stay a few extra hours so they can attend.
“If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence ... we couldn’t. That’s sort of the point,” says the website.
On the other hand, the March to Keep Fear Alive is intended to counter those “dark, optimistic forces trying to take away our fear,” according to its webpage. Those who attend will get to hear “The Rev. Sir Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A.” expound on how “reason” is just one letter away from “treason.”
On Twitter, Mr. Colbert last week said, “Join my March to Keep Fear Alive, Washington Mall, Oct. 30! Be there or be scared! Actually be there AND be scared!”
The dueling rallies both have Facebook pages and Twitter feeds that urge people to indicate they plan to attend. Of course, the competition here is on the level of professional wrestling, in that it’s fake and scripted. Are we breaking your heart by pointing that out?
Jon Stewart is a producer of “The Colbert Report,” after all. Thus, the real winner here is the Stewart/Colbert commercial enterprise, which gets free publicity about an event it can tape and use again and again in its various media enterprises.
(Speaking of which, we would be remiss if we did not remark that our kids absolutely loved Stewart in “Elmopalooza.”)
We’ll also bet that Viacom, which owns the cable channel Comedy Central, is pretty happy about the way these events are developing.
Not all conservatives are cheering, however. They see the rallies as designed by liberals to mock Glenn Beck’s own event. As a Washington Post TV columnist has noted, the application for the rallies submitted to the National Park Service was co-signed by Comedy Central and two media consultant groups, both headed by former press and event aides to President Bill Clinton.