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Rally Signage


According to NPR, the “great debate” in the hours before the big luau on the National Mall was whether people were coming to the rally for politics or comedy:

When Jon Stewart announced his Washington, D.C., Rally to Restore Sanity, he inspired much joy among fans of his Daily Show.

But he has also sparked a fierce debate among pundits over whether Stewart really has comedy or politics in mind for the event. It is scheduled for Saturday afternoon on the National Mall.

“I have had the growing suspicion that the participants in this rally don’t entirely think of it as a comedy show,” Timothy Noah of the online magazine Slate says. “I think that they are mistaking … participation in this rally for some sort of political statement. That confusion troubles me.”

A cursory glance at the rally signs suggested Timothy Noah is missing an important point: to blend comedy and politics. And people clearly didn’t come all for the same reason or all with the same politics.

Not that this is in any respect a representative sample, but of the signs I was able to photograph during the early part of the rally on the edge near the National Museum of Art, many in the crowd were clearly on message, alternatively affirming Stewart’s call for tolerance and civility openly or doing so indirectly with satire:

Others were clearly on Team Fear; but this crowd struck me as a mix between two sets of folk:

1) people who just like Colbert better than Stewart,

2) those who argue that the rational response to the situation is fear

A third group of people struck me as on the fence about the trade-offs associated with actually implementing the message:

There were also a significant number of people who openly rejected Stewart’s message of moderation with vitriolic signs of various sorts:*

Then there were lots and lots of signs taking specific political positions. While this was not the point of the rally as articulated by Stewart, some protesters clearly interpreted it as a focusing event for whatever-your-agenda-might-be. For example, there was quite the anti-fracking contingent on the steps of the National Museum of Art (though I do not think that means what they think it means).

Also various other positions on social and political issues, often expressed with humor:

Conversely, there were those for whom “civility” appeared to be conflated with “political agnosticism”:

Finally, there were clearly many people who thought this was just a fun-fest. Camera crews at the rally consistently gravitated toward those in costume, but few of the costumes in my area had political symbolisms. Based on the interviews I overheard while trolling around, many of these folks tended to just be dressed up because it’s Halloween weekend. But there were some exceptions: these guys are running for President in 2012 and think we should be very, very afraid.

More rally signs and commentary are at TPM.

Estimates of the crowd size are still rolling in and speculation about the effects on the election next week is raging.

More than anything, I for one enjoyed getting out with my fellow Americans in the bright autumn sunshine. And overall, I was happy to see the number of people who seemed to be on message. This wasn’t a rally for a party or a platform; it was for a set of values that crosses the political spectrum and is at the foundation of our authentic political culture: deliberation. My favorite tweet today at #rallyforsanity read:

Whenever I get to feeling too proud, I remember that you, too, are an American.

*Donald Douglass expounds (shockingly) on this subset of protesters.

[cross-posted at Duck of Minerva]

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  • “I think that they are mistaking … participation in this rally for some sort of political statement. That confusion troubles me.”

    I bet he’s a blast at parties. Wow.

    Me, I had fun being surrounded by people who enjoy the comedy of Stewart & Colbert and by extension, have a sense of humor.

    I do hope that doesn’t upset Timmeh.

  • I don’t know, maybe you missed the death to right-wingers fatwas, and other “peace train” fatwas, and so forth.

    • Not at all; I posted a photo of this kind of anti-right-wing vitriol in my post (the small penis sign – look again). And I agree with you (I think) that this was not exactly in keeping with the spirit of the rally, but it was definitely out there.

      I will add that I saw far fewer of these signs where I was as a proportion of all signs in my neck of the crowd than you seem to have seen in yours. Possibly you were looking specifically for them, whereas I was trying to capture all the signs around me to do some kind of comparative analysis.

      So anyway, I’m glad you sent me the link to your post; now I can add some heft to that section in mine.


      • asdfsdf

        Confirmation bias can be a powerful thing.

    • Left_Wing_Fox

      Really? I followed the link, expecing to see some thing objectionable. THAT’S your “A” game? Really? Pretty dumb when the first comment is calling the crowd “Rottweiler chow”

      Seriously dude. Shit or get off the pot. This is just lame.

    • LoriK

      When you’re trying to practice the art of false equivalence you need to work a little harder at hiding the fact that it’s false. The fact that not everyone was sweet and polite doesn’t make today’s rally the same as the Tea Party gatherings. For example, where are the pics of the attendees with guns?

    • hv

      American Eocon, I think you’ve again missed the true meaning of someone else’s sign. The nice young lady holding up the “Death to Right Wing Extremists (but in a nice way)” seems to be a bit tongue-in-cheek. What do you think would be a nice way to be put to death? Are there any?

      At a rally mocking objectionable signs, you might need a bit more nuance in which signs you are going to assert are objectionable.

    • c u n d gulag

      Don’t mind AmericaneoCLOWN. He suffers from an irony-deficiency.
      He infests the best leftie websites with his stupid BS and hopes people will link to his insipid page. It’s best to just ignore him.
      I’ve heard he’s a mouse/human hybrid, with the appearance of the latter, and the brain of the former. And he proves that with every sentence he writes.
      Have a nice day, CLOWNIE!

    • SeanH

      Let’s begin compiling a list of words the definition of which Teh Donalde needs to learn. We’ve already got “PhD” and “demonology” – based on this comment, I think we should at “fatwa”.

  • Now that Stewart’s rally is over, can we stop pretending that everyone basically wants the same things, but just has different ways of expressing their goals? And get back to actually hammering out a future for our country?

    • +1 and other various supportive gestures

      • Uncle Kvetch

        Heartily seconded.

  • “there was quite the anti-fracking contingent on the steps of the National Museum of Art (though I do not think that means what they think it means).”

    Actually, it does. The first of the two “no fracking” signs are standardized signs made by a group against natural gas drilling. They’re all over Ithaca, NY and the surrounding region (where such drilling — fracking — is being proposed).

    • Oh, I understand it’s a real issue, which is why I linked to it. It’s just that “frack” has two meanings, and when I hear the word, I think of something else. That’s all.

      • Then it would seem to be you who has misunderstood the meaning of a volatile political issue; not the people protesting hydraulic fracturing.

        • Sorry, that was crass and needlessly hostile on my part. Delete the previous comment if you see fit.

  • Did anyone spot Wendtian with the sign: “Aliens are real. Our sovereignty is over” ?

  • a Wendtian*

  • I’m sure if you put up some cheesecake photos of some tweens that will make The Donalde happy.

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  • redrob

    Timothy Noah is missing an important point


    American Eocon, I think you’ve again missed the true meaning of [fill in the blank]

    and the sun rises in the east and water flows downhill. It’s nice to know that some things are entirely predictable.

  • Jonathan

    “I’ve had it up to here with these mother-fracking Cylons on this mother-fracking spaceship!”

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  • bobbo

    Jon Stewart has a rally: Tim Noah is “troubled.”
    Bush commutes Scooter Libby’s sentence: Tim Noah says “Bully for him.”
    Christ on a crutch, what a fracking douchebag.

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