Olbermann questions Stewart’s sanity at rally

Sanity Rally Sign
Photo by Win McNamee-Getty Images

Saturday’s Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, D.C. has left some of the so-called mainstream media more than a bit flummoxed.  While the expectations were for the event to primarily be a liberal political rally, it turned out to be more of a snark-laden dope-slap at the 24×7 cable news networks.

Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and his on-air foil Stephen Colbert took aim at cable news for cultivating a persistent state of fear.  They highlighted their point with several montages of clips from all the major news networks highlighting some of the fear mongering that has become part and parcel of the news cycle.  In his closing remarks Stewart said, “The country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder.”  He added, “If we amplify everything we hear nothing.”

This seemed to ruffle the feathers of liberal pundit and MS-NBC host Keith Olbermann who threw a minor hissyfit on Twitter.  Among his tweets:

  • It wasn’t a big shark but Jon Stewart jumped one just now with the “everybody on Thr cable is the same” naiveté
  • The America before today’s cable wasn’t reasonable discussion.It was the 1-sided lockstep of Fox and people afraid of Fox.That got us Iraq.
  • I wish it were otherwise. But you can tone down all you want and the result will be: the Right will only get LOUDER. Sorry.

Olbermann later qualified his position by saying he still loved the rally as well as Stewart and Colbert.  Although that may have just been a belated recognition on his part that his fans and Stewart’s heavily overlap.  Still, Olbermann has a point.  If MS-NBC went neutral or silent, it wouldn’t remotely tone down the right-slanted Fox media juggernaut.  Yet importantly, Stewart wasn’t advocating for that.  He didn’t encourage Olbermann or anyone on the media’s left to lay down arms and lead by example.  Rather, he was urging that everyone on both sides calm down and take a seat.

The New York Times took a different slant.  They opined that the rally was irrelevant as only about 2% of Americans watch cable news on a given evening.  The rally’s relevance aside, you’d have to have been living in a bunker these last 15 years to think that cable news wasn’t having an impact on American political opinion.  Perhaps as a newspaper, there’s solace in those numbers.  Yet while maybe only 2% watch it live, those 2% link and tweet the juicy parts to their followers, who forward them on across the Interwebs.

Stewart was trying desperately to slap both sides evenly so the rally did not take on the appearance of a partisan event.  But based on which network was most heavily represented on the montage reels, the bulk of the arrows were aimed at Fox.  This was no surprise, as fans of The Daily Show are plainly aware the program disproportionately takes shots at the right.  In fact, both Olbermann and Stewart have to realize that their shows only exist as lightweight balances to Fox.  In a very real sense, each owe their fame and their fortune to having Fox to rail against.

In this respect, Stewart deserves some credit for advocating for something that would put him out of business if it came to pass.  Although he also knows there’s not even a remote chance his rally will achieve its goal.  It seems Olbermann can relax.

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