Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" has gone global, sparking sister rallies from Tel Aviv to Mt. Everest Base Camp on Oct. 30, the same day that Mr. Stewart will convene a gathering of like-minded cohorts on the Washington Mall.
"Everyone was getting excited" about the rally in Washington, says Kittie Brown, a marketing consultant and mother of three who lives in Paris. "I thought, 'Gosh, why couldn’t we just do something local?'"
And so Ms. Brown did. Through Facebook she is organizing a gathering in Champs de Mars park, with at least 100 people currently expected to attend.
"We’ll be doing it sanely and calmly and with a sense of humor. Which is a change from what's been happening," she says in a telephone interview, giving a wink to the violent French protests in recent days.
The Paris rally will be one among more than 800 happening in 67 countries, showing the popularity of Stewart and the ability of national topics such as his rally to quickly morph into international events.
Internet amplifies sentiments
Perhaps more importantly, says Archon Fung of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, the rally underscores a growing appetite for more level-headed discourse. "It’s weird to see people so worked up for the sake of a more rational political process," says the professor of democracy and citizenship.
Professor Fung points out that even the grassroots coffee party, which lacks a popular leader like Stewart, accrued tens of thousands of followers within weeks of its founding last spring in its call for calm, reasonable debate over the role of government.
The Internet only amplifies these movements, says Philip Seib, a professor of journalism, public diplomacy, and international relations at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. "I would think we’re going to have more and more phenomenon that start national and become global."
Amid all the Internet chatter about Stewart's rally and fellow comedian Stephen Colbert's rival "March to Keep Fear Alive," he says, "It’s a relatively easy matter for someone in Tel Aviv to say, ‘We’ve all been reading about this on the web. Why don’t we do it?’"
Which is exactly what's happening. A gathering at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque will watch the rally live in Washington. “Now is OUR time to join forces and bring the people to the streets,” the event organizers wrote on Facebook.
Stewart's rally, which comes in response to conservative television host Glenn Beck's Aug. 28 rally at the Lincoln Memorial, advertises itself as "for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn’t be the only ones that get heard."
Promoting the Tel Aviv sister rally in The Jerusalem Post, an op-ed laments: "Here, too, sometimes it seems like only those shouting loudest are the ones being heard. ... There’s only one problem. How does one restore sanity to a part of the world where it never existed? I therefore propose calling the gathering in Israel the Rally to Introduce Sanity."
At Mt. Everest Base Camp
Similar Facebook-organized rallies may happen in Amsterdam, London, Copenhagen, Montreal, New Zealand, and Melbourne (at the Birrarung Marr BBQ Area near the river, in case you’re interested). Organizers plan to watch the rally live or show a taping. While many attendants appear to be American expatriates, locals are also joining in.
There’s even a sister rally at Mt. Everest Base Camp in Nepal, with organizer Scott Sevens of Las Vegas collecting Tibetan prayer flags for the event. “This rally will include some Tibetan-style symbolism," he states on Facebook.
For Americans living abroad, says Ms. Brown of the Paris rally, the anger seen in the tea party is alarming. "They’re so rabid in their protest style," she says. "It seems really bizarre, like America is losing its sense of humor."
The little 'Jon Stewarts'
Not only Americans abroad watch "The Daily Show" or will be attending the "sanity" rallies around the world, says Professor Seib. In Dubai and Kuwait, where he says he recently visited, many locals watch "The Daily Show" frequently.
"I think one of the reasons Jon Stewart is so popular in the US, and this would carry over elsewhere, is that despite the fact that he says this is basically a comedy show, it is also, in many instances, an alternative journalism," he says.
"His questions are well researched, he asks solid follow-ups ... and when you mix that with the sarcastic critique of events and policies, that has pretty substantial audience appeal. And the one thing he does not do, is he doesn’t waste time as many mainstream news organizations do chasing the celebrity scandal of the moment. He uses the conventional media as a foil and that also enhances his popularity," says Seib.
"People are dissatisfied with conventional or mainstream journalism," he adds. "That holds true in a country like Israel or the rest of the world."
And just as smaller "sanity" rallies are popping up worldwide, Seib says he would expect little "Jon Stewarts" to appear around the world, inspired by the American comedian.
Indeed, the magazine Foreign Policy recently profiled some of those people in a story titled, aptly, "The World's Jon Stewarts."