From a distance it would have looked like a collection of costumed crazies singing, dancing and carrying on in insane unison, though the purpose of Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity was to advocate rationality.
Widely seen as a response to conservative firebrand Glenn Beck’s ‘Restoring Honor’ rally, the event – held on Saturday in Washington – gathered around 150,000, the crowd stretching almost a kilometre from the Capitol building to the Washington Monument.
Among them were Yusuf Islam (the artist formally known as Cat Stevens), soul group The O’Jays and even over the hill rocker Ozzy Osbourne, who isn’t typically associated with the “s” word (at least not “sanity”).
Colbert and Stewart led the charge. They divided their shtick: Colbert took care of sanity and Stewart managed fear. Stewart spoke probably the most resonant line of the day: “We live now in hard times, not end times.”
They made fun of both extreme right and extreme left figures and claimed the rally to be non-partisan. However, the Democrats would have inevitably been hoping the event would have lifted their electoral prospects for the midterms. Halloween was on the weekend, but for the Democrats true horror will probably have to wait until November 2.
Here’s a look at some of the international headlines:
Sydney Morning Herald
Simon Mann: US comedians seeks to unite the nation
Stewart denied party politics as his motivation in a message of unity, which he did not coat with sugary sentiment, preferring instead to draw an analogy of several lanes of traffic having to compromise to be able to advance through a narrow tunnel. Little by little, Americans could get through, he said.
The Huffington Post
Lisa Solod Warren: What the Rally for Sanity and Obama Have in Common. It’s Not Politics
The quarter of a million people who turned out to for the Rally for Sanity (along with the thousands who never made it because of Metro malfunctions and highway traffic) and President Obama have something very important in common. And it’s not politics. Not at all. It’s the deep-seated belief that we have the duty and responsibility to educate ourselves. To read. To think. To pay attention.
Brian Beutler: Cat Stevens Appearance At Sanity Rally Rankles Right Winger
Conservative bete noir Yusuf Islam (a.k.a. Cat Stevens) made a guest appearance at the Comedy Central rally today, inspiring an instant backlash from at least one right winger, a group fond of accusing the musician of sympathizing with terrorists.
The Christian Science Monitor
Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” in Washington has sparked more than 1,160 mini-rallies in 84 countries, morphing into something of a global political happening. The last time a political rally in America gained such international traction was during the 2003 protests against the Iraq war, says Timothy Patrick McCarthy, director of the Human Rights and Social Movements Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Hadley Freeman: Jon Stewart rally: moderation breaks out in Washington crowd
most asked – politely, humorously and correctly spelled – for the kind of moderation Stewart was advocating: “Maybe you’re wrong, maybe I’m wrong – let’s grab a beer”; “The founding fathers were east coast liberals”; “I masturbate and I vote (but not usually at the same time.)”
One key aspect of Stewart’s rally was said to be to promote dialogue and tolerance across the political spectrum, a point even Republican conservatives were willing accept.
“Both sides have to be able to take a joke,” said Connie Ryan, a self-described conservative from Pittsburgh. Ryan was meeting a left leaning friend from New Jersey. Linda Moskowitz said she was there to highlight the ability of both sides to get along.
It is expected that the House of Representatives will probably go Republican – but the question is by how much? If Colbert and Stewart succeed in mobilising left leaning voters to the polls, then the anti-Democratic swing could be kept down and more Democrats could survive the Tea Party-led efforts to oust them.
The three-hour rally raised questions about politics and comedy. Stewart insisted that it was all about the laughter.
Despite his claims, was it trying to make a serious political statement? Was it a joke that snowballed out of control? Or was it just a publicity stunt for Stewart and Colbert to pump up their already impressive ratings?