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Molly Birch
Molly Birch

My name is Molly, and I am in my second year at NMU. I come from Midland, MI, probably one of the most boring places on earth. However, we do have the only Tridge in the world, so that’s pretty nifty...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Stewart, Colbert cross a line by holding rallies

On the heels of Glenn Beck’s rally in Washington, D.C., comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have planned their own rallies in the Washington Mall for Saturday, Oct, 30. The two are apparently parodying the Beck rally.

When Glenn Beck first announced his “Restoring Honor” rally, he ushered in a hail of controversy. The rally, intended as a patriotic battle cry for conservatives across the country, happened to be on the 47th anniversary of the “I Have A Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. and in the same location. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III had already planned a rally in the Washington Mall, called “Reclaim the Dream,” intended to celebrate the progress of the Civil Rights Movement. Both parties went ahead as scheduled, causing a large number of people to gather in Washington, D.C. for two very different purposes.

Melissa Pinskey/NW

By parodying Beck’s rally, the two comedians are also incidentally parodying the “Reclaim the Dream” rally. And while it’s true Glenn Beck’s rally may have been misguided –– I’m not sure political commentators should be holding political demonstrations any more than comedians should be –– Sharpton and King’s purpose are nothing less than admirable.

According to the website for Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity,” his rally is for “the people who’ve been too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs) — not so much the Silent Majority as the Busy Majority. If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence … we couldn’t. That’s sort of the point.”

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Which makes me wonder: what’s the point again? This is a rally to get together the people who don’t particularly care about anything, in order to parody Glenn Beck and also, incidentally, Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III.

When did Stewart and Colbert become politicians? By parodying rallies like these, the two comedians are, in essence, parodying democratic demonstration itself. The day that political rallies become a joke is the day democracy –– true, democratic statements –– goes out the window.

What about all the famous speeches and rallies in that very Washington Mall? Martin Luther King Jr. is but one example. What of Cox’s Army in 1932, when 25,000 unemployed workers from Pennsylvania marched for a Public Works Program? What about the April 24, 1971 Vietnam War Out Now march, when 500,000 people gathered to end the war? Or the National Equity March of last year, when 200,000 people came together in support of gay rights?

Colbert referenced an article by Zak Kinnaird on his show, published in The Daily Athenaeum, in which Kinnaird argues that these speeches may be “defining events of our generation.” Colbert seemed pleased with the claim, but for our generation’s sake, I hope this is not true.

The generation of seventy years ago had World War II and the Beats. The generation after  that had Vietnam and Woodstock. Then it was hair metal and John Houghes movies.

For our generation, apparently, it’s a movie about the creators of Facebook and a speech by two comedians who seem to not aspire to any great agenda other than to have a gathering of left-leaning people who aren’t represented by demonstrators seen in the mainstream press. That and parodying people who actually have things to celebrate and protest.

There is a time and a place for comedians telling news jokes. Twenty years ago, it was at the beginning of the Tonight Show. Ten years ago, it was under the white and blue logo of the Daily Show. Now, it seems, the line between jokes and news has blurred. In this case, the jokes and the news have blended to form a hybrid that seems to be spitting in the face of political demonstration itself.

Stewart may be intending to restore sanity to the hodgepodge of madness in the news, but, really, he’s becoming a part of the madness he so arrogantly makes fun of on his show. Colbert has kept the fear alive by allowing his fake conservative persona to come from behind the desk and out into the grasses of D.C., where he will present a speech as if he were an actual politician, rather than just a comedian. The comedy must’ve gotten lost in the shuffle, because while many others may be entertained, I’m not laughing.

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