Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jon Stewart's "moderates" and right-wing "independents"

I rather liked Mike Tomasky's column on the Stewart/Colbert rally taking place in D.C. this weekend, but this misses the point:
Playing off a phrase known instantly in America and dating back to Louis Farrakhan's 1995 Million Man March, Stewart wants a "Million Moderate March". To get his viewers into the intended spirit he offered some samples of the sort of placards he'd like to see at his rally. In this age, when Tea Partiers march carrying placards of Obama wearing a keffiyeh or sporting a Hitler moustache, people know they should pay particular attention to placards; Stewart suggested that an emblematic one for his event would read: "I disagree with you, but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler."

The conflict arises in the fact that this sober and earnest middle is not really Stewart's audience. Stewart's core audience is news-junkie liberals. It's people like National Public Radio host Terry Gross, who, in a recent live dialogue at Manhattan's venerable 92nd Street Y, thanked Stewart for being the last thing she sees at night, which permits her to "go to bed with a sense that there is sanity someplace in the world". It's young urbanites and students. It's the out-of-place blue fish swimming the waters of the vast, red, middle-American sea.
I don't disagree with the qualitative description here so much as I think it misses the point. Liberals tend to like the term "moderate", as we tend to see our agenda as straightforward and reasonable. Common sense, in the parlance of our time. The vast majority of self-proclaimed moderates seem to agree and usually vote for Democrats, which is probably why the term is anathema among conservatives. They tend to see moderation and liberalism as essentially interchangeable terms, and the nom de preference there is "independent", as in not bound to the mainstream dogma. Of course, that winds up meaning commitment to conservative dogma, since the conservative frame of analysis is not regarded as a frame at all. The idea that Bill O'Reilly is in any way independent seems silly to people like myself, and Stephen Colbert has gotten a lot of mileage out of pointing out the ridiculousness of that claim, but right-wingers accept it without irony.

In any event, I don't know if Tomasky's married couple is going to go all the way to D.C., but if they catch some footage of the rally on TV, perhaps it could help the Dems? I think so. I suppose it's possible that it could turn into another iteration of Paul Wellstone's funeral, as Tomasky suggests, but there seem to be some key differences: it's not taking place at a funeral, which made that sorry incident easier to propagandize, and Stewart should therefore have more control over what gets said there. There might be some racy signs out there, but I'm pretty sure it would be easy for liberals to go blow-for-blow over that specific charge.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.