19 October 2010

Against the "Rally to Restore Sanity"

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Making Light:
The premise of Jon Stewart’s “Million Moderate March” is vacuous. There’s no inherent virtue in political “moderation.” The “moderates” weren’t the ones who were right about whether we should have marched into Iraq; it was the so-called extremist peaceniks who had it right from the start. The “moderates” aren’t the ones who are right about the priority we should be giving to the threat of global climate change; again, the people who are correct on this issue are labelled as “extremists.” And contrary to Jon Stewart’s foolish assertion, while it may be “moderate” to reject charges that the Bush Administration committed war crimes, it’s also wrong. Because in fact they committed war crimes. (Nor are the current administration’s hands much cleaner on this score, and those who point this out continue to be marginalized.)
I certainly love The Daily Show; it's the finest mainstream outlet for ridiculing the American political scene out there. But Stewart seems to have let the news clippings about his great political influence among the youth go to his head. The"Rally to Restore Sanity" is based around the idea that he is the lone voice of rationality crying out in the wilderness, and that our political problems could be hashed out if everyone put away their signs and let the nice sensible people sit down and have a crack at governing. Which makes him far from iconoclast he apparently fancies himself to be. Rather, he is taking up the mantle of every wannabe High Broderist pundit in the mainstream press; oh, if only we could come together, hold hands, and agree to a solution that both Republicans and Republicans can agree on!

Liberals who are looking to get some yuks at the expense of Tea Party yokels should take heed. As should be clear from the announcement video, the rally is steeped in the sort of conventionally equivalence that says that if you must find fault with a conservative, you have to find several hippies to punch to make up for it. If you marched against the Iraq war, in favor of LGBT or immigrant rights or workplace safety or anything else, this is not the rally for you. It is, by Stewart's own definition, a rally for people who don't go to rallies. In fact, given that Stewart's audience is mostly comprised of hip liberals like you, you are precisely the target audience for this message. "Leave us alone" the political class cries, "to do the Sensible Moderate work of the American people!" Is it any surprise that the rally is being organized by a couple of ex-Clintonite flacks and has been enthusiastically endorsed by celebrity peddlers of wishy-washy nothingism such as Oprah Winfrey and Arianna Huffington?

Finally, blaming "extremists" for the present condition of the American political climate is a cruel joke. Most of the present crises facing us, from the wars to the financial and climate disasters and the complete ownership of the legislative process by business interests, have been fully approved abetted by a bipartisan consensus that the Broderists insist they are always seeking. The problem with the likes of Glenn Beck is that he is a raving hack and dishonest huckster, not that he is an extreme political outsider. Vile as he is, neither he nor his cohort have as of yet any actual political power to affect any of these problems for better or worse. People who consider themselves to the left of the center-right wing of the Democratic Party should be careful about tossing in with the same folks who would gladly kick them to the curb shortly after they finish making fun of the bad spelling at a Tea Party rally.

What we need are more political extremists willing to put a few applecarts upside down in the name of dissent, not to have them herded like docile cattle to be told that the Sensible, Serious people have everything under control.