Jon Stewart, anchor of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show", has announced plans for an anti-extremist "Rally to Restore Sanity" in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 30. Not to be outdone, fellow Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert is leading a satirical "March to Keep Fear Alive" on the same day. Here's a quick guide to what to expect:
How did this come about?
An online campaign aimed at persuading Colbert to hold a rally began shortly after Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" event took place in August. Members of the online forum Reddit even asked its members to donate money to Donors Choose, Colbert's favorite charity, to convince him to take to the National Mall. The effort raised $100,000 in a matter of days, and the total currently stands at more than $250,000. All that grassroots campaigning paid off, as the pair announced their dueling events on Sept. 16.
Why is it happening on October 30?
Unlike Beck's 8/28 rally — the date of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech — the date has no particular significance, though some pundits say it is timed to deliver a "rallying cry to an exasperated mainstream just days before the midterm elections in November." Stewart said the day was selected only because "The Daily Show" will be broadcast from Washington, D.C., in the week leading up to the event.
What can attendees expect?
No one except the organizers know just yet. Plenty of comedy, certainly, with Stewart and Colbert continuing the pretend feud they have had since the latter host left "The Daily Show" in 2005 to start "The Colbert Report." A series of "special guests" are also promised.
How many people will be there?
The permit application predicts around 25,000 people will attend, says Politico — far lower than even the lowest estimated audience figure for Beck's rally. But others claim Stewart and Colbert will draw even more people than did the outspoken Fox host. Nearly 100,000 have RSVP'd to the event's Facebook page alone, points out Ryan Witt at the National Examiner. "So far all indicators point to Stewart's producing a larger following than Beck."
Is it a direct respose to Beck's rally?
The Fox News host's 8/28 rally was certainly the catalyst for the online campaign, but neither Stewart nor Colbert explicitly mentioned Beck when announcing their events. The pair are attempting to keep things non-partisan — a video montage of fear-mongering "loud folks" on "The Daily Show" featured not only Fox News pundits like Beck and Sean Hannity, but also liberals jeering at George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
Is it really apolitical?
Actually, this event is an "unavoidably political act," says Keach Hagey at Politico. It will undoubtedly be read as "an important measure of the enthusiasm of young Democratic-leaning voters 10 days before the midterm elections." And Stewart's attempt to paint liberals with the same brush as the Tea Party extremists smacks of false equivalency, says Glenn Greenwald at Salon. His "examples of right-wing rhetorical excesses" are "pervasive" in today's GOP, whereas the "left-wing excesses... have no currency (for better or worse) in the Democratic Party."
What does the right wing say about it?
The idea that this will be non-partisan is indeed laughable, says Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters. Think about all the "anti-GOP" Halloween costumes that will be on display, and the Bush, Palin, and Glenn Beck dolls "likely to be burned in effigy" as this so-called "moderate" event goes on. "Doesn't present a picture of sanity, does it?"
Where can we learn more about this?
On the "Rally to Restore Sanity" and "March to Keep Fear Alive" websites, and of course the comedians' Comedy Central shows. Stewart will also be appearing on Bill O'Reilly's show on Wednesday to discuss what the rally hopes to achieve.