Pharyngula

The Rally for Tone

I had the Stewart/Colbert rally on in the background most of today. There were funny bits, there were entertaining bits, I’m sure everyone there had a good time. It was a pleasant afternoon of entertainment on the mall.

But in the end, I was disappointed. It was also an afternoon of false equivalence, of civility fetishism, of nothing but a cry about the national tone, of a plea for moderation. And you can guess what I think of moderation.

A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.

Tom Paine

I don’t want moderation, especially when the only people who will listen to Stewart and Colbert are the people on our shared side of the political aisle. I can understand where they’re coming from; people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and Andrew Breitbart are poison, Fox News is a propaganda organ without bounds working for the far right-wing, we’ve got evangelical Christians demanding the installation of a theocracy, and on and on and on. But who, exactly, do Stewart and Colbert regard as the equivalent of Beck and Limbaugh on the left? Is it Rachel Maddow? Amy Goodman? Keith Olbermann?

Once again, we have someone bravely standing up and telling the people on their own side to stop being dicks, while being vague on the names and specifics.

So I’m at a loss about what we’re supposed to do in the world according to Jon Stewart. Hey, all you people working for gay and lesbian equality, all you women asking for equal pay, all you workers trying to unionize, all you peaceniks trying to end the war in Afghanistan, all you nurses and doctors and clinic workers trying to maintain reproductive freedom and keep women alive, all you teachers trying to teach science and history without censorship, all you citizens trying to build a rational health care policy, all you scientists and doctors who want our country to progress in medical research, all you damned secularists who want to keep religion out of our schools and government, hey, hey, HEY, you! Tone it down. Quit making such a fuss. You’re too loud. Shush. You’re as crazy as the teabaggers if you think your principles are worth fighting for.

I was left cold by the fuzziness of the event. It could have been great; instead of embracing an apolitical perspective and saying nothing at all about values, it could have been a rally for moderation that emphasized the actual values that moderates hold: we believe in tolerance for people of different ethnicities and religious views and sexual preferences, we believe in building an egalitarian social and economic infrastructure, we believe in privacy and personal freedoms, etc., etc., etc., and they could have held to the theme of the rally by advocating rational argument and unified, organized activism within the system to advance those goals…but they didn’t. There was no purpose given other than a generic insistence that we all get along nicely. And to what end, I ask?

The question wasn’t answered. All we need is the right tone, apparently.