The Medium is now the Message
I unexpectedly found myself in the middle of the recent “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” event in Washington, D.C. I was actually flying into the Nation’s Capitol for my own private fear– my first run in the 35th annual Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 31st (yes, I finished, and with a respectable time for someone who needs the occasional orthopedic tune-up). As I landed into Reagan National Airport, I was actually watching the beginning of the rally not just below my airplane window, but also on Comedy Central that was playing on my seat back LCD screen via the in-flight DirecTV satellite service. The irony of this later occurred to me when I saw co-host Jon Stewart’s closing rally rant, which was not only heart-felt, but also extremely poignant given the always-on, always-connected, life-on-the-grid existence we’re now forced to cope with on a daily basis.
Stewart’s diatribe against the media and Internet reporting, while biting the hand that feeds him and his political/satirical-driven comedy brethren, actually seemed like a plea that we all tone down the source material:
“The country's 24-hour, political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen. Or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the dangerous, unexpected flaming ant epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”
“If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”
Wow. What a great mantra not just for the media and electronic news gathering, but also for our modern age of public relations, marketing and for the Internet as a whole. Mr. Stewart and co-pal Stephen Colbert (who was brilliantly dressed like Evel Knieval – look him up if you were born after 1980) will probably continue to be lambasted for their motives for hosting the rally (and for showcasing Yusuf Islam aka Cat Stevens – look him up, too).
But you also had to love the musical pun of “train songs” with Yusuf singing "Peace Train," Ozzy Osbourne warbling "Crazy Train" and Philadelphia’s own The O'Jays belting out "Love Train." Yet, even with the great music, Colbert’s antics, and the overall cavalcade of whimsy that was the rally, there’s still the underlying theme of why the estimated crowd of over 200,000 decided to flood D.C. Given Mr. Stewart’s very public war of words with the likes of Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly, plus the daily flogging of Sarah Palin on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, and the overall lampooning of the tea party and other conservative movements, maybe we all need a time out. (Ed. Note: I’m not taking sides here as I consider myself an independent and sort of a political atheist.)
The modern age of amplified rhetoric, compounded by our vast, globally-meshed news and information network, continues to grow unfettered. Regardless of our political, social or religious leanings, perhaps Mr. Stewart may actually be quite accurate in his assessment. Just making noise and talking over everyone else is not a constructive way to fix what’s wrong with the world. There’s room for discourse, disagreement and debate. But let’s use our expansive global village network and media responsibly, not just for ratings, earnings or ramming political or other agendas down each other’s throats.