'Civility Is Cool' at the Stewart-Colbert 'Rally to Restore Sanity'

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Stewart-Colbert RallyLooking out at an estimated audience of more than 150,000 people, wrestler Mick Foley held the "Medal of Reasonableness" that he had just received from Jon Stewart and yelled "Civility is cool!"

As a rallying cry, Foley's cheer was bizarrely soft-spoken. Not as divisive as "Four more years!" or "Four more wars!" Less stirring than "Remember the Maine!" or "Give me liberty or give me death!" Still, it perfectly captured the mood of the day. The audience echoed the call for moderation, carrying signs that declared the need for more courtesy in the national debate.

Aggressive moderation is a tough sell, but the crowd did its best to echo the message. Carrying banners that read "Turn It Up to 11 (on a scale of 100)," "Moderation or Death," "Yes We Can...Disagree Without Demonizing," and other similarly evenhanded sentiments, the audience was quiet, well-mannered and surprisingly respectful.

Courtesy is a tough commodity on the mall, where the flat topography can make visibility a problem. Yet when a protester's sign blocked the view of a giant video screen, dozens of voices called out "Could you put down your sign. Please?" And when the sign dropped, a chorus rose: "Thank you!"

The mood of the audience made a big impact. Asked what he enjoyed best about the day, participant Duncan Stroup said "I loved the crowd. Everybody was nice." Jorie Wilson, another audience member echoed "The thousands and thousands of people put off good vibes. There was a positive, fun, real sense of community."

Stewart-Colbert rallyOn the stage, the mood was more conflicted. The official title of the event was "A Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear," and the battle between the two was embodied by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. For the duration of the event, Stewart and Colbert used a variety of media to drive home the difference between collegiality and conflict. For example, while Stewart passed out medals for reasonableness, Colbert gave awards for those who have kept fear alive.

Some of the musical guests also echoed the theme. Stewart brought out Yusuf Islam (ne Cat Stevens), to sing Peace Train, and Colbert welcomed Ozzy Osborne, who played Crazy Train. Ultimately, the two Comedy Central hosts agreed to listen to Love Train, noting that, while love is beautiful, it can also be terrifying.

As the rally drew to its conclusion, Colbert and Stewart moved into open conflict. To show the power of fear, Colbert -- joined by a giant Colbert puppet -- unleashed videos of extremest conservative and liberal commentators. Stewart responded by wielding a remote control, noting that it can silence extremist, polarizing perspectives. . .by turning them off. A surreal battle followed, with Colbert symbolically slaying Stewart, who was revived by a Peter Pan-costumed John Oliver.

"More Reasonable News Coverage"

Summing up the theme of the day, Stewart told the audience "We live in hard times, not end times. We can have animus and not be enemies. But unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country's 24-hour [news cycle] did not create our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder."

Wilson reiterated Stewart's point: "If today has any effect, I would like to see it lead to more reasonable news coverage, without the ridiculous sound bites and scare tactics. I would like to see less focus on the fringe."

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ldmerriam

Every bit as white, every bit as intransigent politically, every bit as polite as Glenn Beck Rally. Here's what participants at the event had to say: http://bit.ly/cMvGim

October 31 2010 at 10:30 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Linda

WHO WOULD EVER GO SEE THOSE TWO LOSERS?? THANK GOD FOR 24 HOUR FOX NEWS OR WE WOULD NEVER KNOW WHAT THOSE BUMS IN WASHINGTON ARE DOING!!! CBS, NBC AND ESPECIALLY MSNBC ARE ALL IN THE POCKET OF THELIBERAL ESTABLISHMENT...THE REASON FOX IS SO WIDELY WATCHED IS BECAUSE IT PRESENTS BOTH SIDES...NOT JUST KISSING OBAMA'S BUTT!!

October 31 2010 at 9:08 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Jen

Follow these two idiots...nice. Want to answer a question. Since Obama has extended the olive branch to muslims and " our friends around the world, unlike bush", I can see the terroists are not attacking us as much? You liberasses are clueless!!

October 31 2010 at 8:09 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
cow1129

This publicity stunt was just plain dumb. What were they trying to prove? How silly... grow up Stewart and Colbert. I will never watch your stupid shows again.

October 31 2010 at 5:54 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
BUFFALO

Anything but sanity !! It was really just a big party everyone having fuu there was not one serious moment. It was just a really nice day and a lot of comedy because thats what these guys do not saying it was funny but they played to the crowd. But there where a lot of self intrested people there looking for a camera to get in front of and get some possible face time.But no one came away inspired it just was not that kind of event??

October 31 2010 at 4:57 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
del gage

A free ride is an incentive to get people to attend. No such thing as a free lunch. Someone picks up the tab. Regardless of that if it is a good message and will get people involved in trying to solve the mess we are in, regardless of who or what caused it, lets all contribute in any way we can by electing people who will put the best interest of our country and what it has stood for for over 200 years first on the list of things to get done so that those who have given their lives will not have died in vain. Semper Fi

October 31 2010 at 2:25 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Your Grace

Every media I've seen recently pegs it at 500,000. We have crowds every year for the 4th here in Boston - with tallies - so we get good at this, and the larger estimates are correct. Everyone was surprised - Stewart as well as me as well as the overwhelmed transportation systems. My cousin was there ... as a Marine Captain in the last idiotic war that so resembles the Iraq/Afghan black hole of casualty and coast, he was blown to bits on his last patrol, leaving a widow and two kids ... he bears witness from a slab of black marble, this name engraved to remind us that there's so many ways to solve problems before we kill a few more Marines like cousin Eric Barnes, US Marines, dead as a doornail to save us from Hoi Chi Minh. We're energized - the folks with functioning brains are going to make it to the polls this year.

October 31 2010 at 12:58 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Your Grace's comment
Linda

BECAUSE OF THOSE MARINES WE HAVE A POLL TO GO TO...DEARIE...BY THE WAY THERE IS NO DRAFT..YOUR COUSIN VOLUNTEERED TO FIGHT FOR HIS COUNTRY..AND WE ARE PROUD OF HIM!

October 31 2010 at 9:14 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
marine1942

They paid people to come and only got 150,000 !!!

October 31 2010 at 11:47 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to marine1942's comment
Maureen

Paid people? The certainly didn't pay me or my husband. We drove 4 hours from PA to be there, only to end up spending most of the rally stuck at the train station in VA where we left our car because there were still tens of thousands of people trying to GET to the rally. Every train left it's first stop full to beyond capacity, and every platform along its route was lined with thousands waiting for one train with room so they could get there. I don't know where AOL is getting it's estimate, but it's the lowest I've heard. CBS said they thought about 215,000 showed up - and that also wasn't counting those like me who waited hours for trains before finally getting one that wasn't totally filled, only to arrive at the rally 15 minutes before it ended. And no one paid anybody to be there. Huff Post was offering free buses from NYC for those who wanted to attend, and a few other groups may have done that too - but there were also hundreds of thosands who came on their own dime. Please get your facts straight.

October 31 2010 at 12:24 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
jancf

The same people who estimated Beck's rally at 89,000 estimated this at 215,000. People paid to get there, not the other way around. It's one of the more inane claims..that 'they' would have to pay anyone to attend.

November 01 2010 at 3:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply