A real paradigm shift: comics become political leaders
Think we’ve got a new paradigm? Get this: two comedians are positioning themselves as the voices of reason in American politics.
Jon Stewart of The Daily Show and his Comedy Central colleague Stephen Colbert have just announced they will hold rallies at the end of October in Washington D.C. calling for a return to common sense in debate in the US.
This is in response to last month’s rally led by conservative commentator Glenn Beck calling for a restoration of “traditional values” to American life. That rally, held on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, was well-attended by members of the Tea Party movement, a loose anti-taxation, anti-establishment grassroots movement which has just managed to get some of its members installed as Republican candidates for the US Senate.
The shift of the Tea Party movement from a fringe group to a movement that can build giant rallies and then get their preferred candidates to stand as Republicans has US conservatives, including former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove, increasingly uneasy about the direction of the party, and its electability.
But on the other side of the ledger it should be equally thought-provoking for America’s small-l liberals and progressives that a couple of comedians are now at the vanguard of a fightback movement against the continuing political purchase of the Tea Party.
If you’ve been paying even cursory attention to what’s been going on in the US lately this might not all come a huge surprise, but take a step back and think about how this situation would be replicated here. The Australian equivalent would be, say, broadcaster Alan Jones leading a march to Parliament House, and then Hamish & Andy staging a sit-in in response.
Here is an excerpt from Stewart’s announcement:
We’re looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn’t be the only ones that get heard; and who believe that the only time it’s appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler. Or Charlie Chaplin in certain roles.
Are you one of those people? Excellent. Then we’d like you to join us in Washington, DC on October 30—a date of no significance whatsoever—at the Daily Show’s “Rally to Restore Sanity.” Ours is a rally 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.
You can see Colbert’s announcement here.
But if it feels like the political tectonic plates have been shifting a bit in Australia, take a minute to think about what’s happening for our friends in the US. As the Atlantic online just reported, their decision is “breaking the fourth wall and inserting themselves directly into the political debate in a way that might effect the cast of the November elections”.
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