"If you take them at their Facebook word, at least 223,609 people plan to attend the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" on the National Mall in Washington on Saturday. According to enthusiastic posters on the social network site, the rally is either a) "the start of a massive, powerful movement … to turn back the vehement, reactionary discourse in this country" or b) "very much like a music festival."
The Comedy Central satire twins don't have an agenda exactly, although Stewart has a motto: "Take it down a notch, for America." That's enough for left-leaning pundit and new-media guru Arianna Huffington to pay a reported $250,000 to bus at least 11,000 people from New York to D.C. for the festivities, while bosses at NPR have banned its off-duty journalists from attending because the rallies involve issues that NPR covers. (Apparently, NPR now reports on "sanity.")
But then, absurdity is certain to abound when thousands of Americans rally in the shadow of the Capitol dome — just four days before a hotly contested midterm election — to mostly make this grand political statement: In irony we trust.
...When King and his fellow marchers returned home from the Mall to the Deep South 47 years ago, they knew they faced nightsticks or worse on the rocky road toward the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Today, the challenge facing rallygoers is, as Stewart suggests, asking "the sitter if she can stay a few extra hours, just this once."
Ultimately, it will be those kids at home who learn the history of whether 2010 was just an autumn of harmless entertainment or the throes of a nation amusing itself to death."