Saturday, October 23, 2010

Grim Laughter

Timothy Noah is wary about the Stewart/Colbert rally next weekend:

There's still a lot we don't fully understand about the Tea Partiers and the political independents who have lost faith in Obama. But one thing we should all be pretty clear on by now is that they hate, hate, hate anything that smacks of elitism. The spectacle of affluent 18-to-34-year-olds blanketing the Mall to snicker at jokes about wingnut ignoramuses and Bible thumpers will, I fear, have the effect of a red cape waved before a bull. Stewart and Colbert aren't supposed to want to affect the midterm elections, and for the most part I believe they don't. But let Republicans regain the House (and maybe even the Senate) in part because Comedy Central used mockery not merely to burlesque political protest but also, to some inevitable extent, to practice it—and I think Stewart and Colbert will be sorry they came. I know I will be.

I don't know that this is entirely Stewart and Colbert's fault. All along their gig has been reacting to the political event of the day, which for a couple years now has meant Glenn Beck. Responding to his moist and self-pitying August rally with two(!) of their own is a natural progression, albeit one that comes perilously close to shark-jumping.

The problem is us. Sarcastic comedy shows are not going to make our country a better place. Political engagement will. The liberal rally from the beginning of the month that hardly anyone heard about might have been a nice start. And going out and getting candidates elected that will enact progressive policies, that could work too. But gathering en masse in order to be ironic? That liberals are more excited for a joke rally than the elections that are coming a mere three days afterward is basically an admission of defeat.

And, yeah, I'll be there. I'm not begrudging anyone their shot of whiskey before a gruesome electoral surgery. I just don't want anyone pretending it's victory Champagne.

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