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Rally to Restore Sanity Comes to Austin

Austin's Rally will take place at the Capitol.
Photo Courtesy of the Austin Rally to Restore Sanity
While Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" is making a big media splash, some question the political motivation for the event.

The Rally to Restore Sanity will is not only happening in the nation’s capital this Saturday, but it's also going down in Austin. The uncharacteristic move to rally behind political moderatism will happen at the State Capitol.

The Austin get-together will feature a live broadcast of the Washington event on a JumboTron, as well as speeches by Mayor Lee Leffingwell and a few other city political figures. Musial performances by Natomi Austin, The Longhorn Singers, and other local artists are also scheduled. According to the Austin chapter’s Facebook page, over 5,750 people plan on attending.    

The national event, which will take place on the National Mall in Washington, was organized by Jon Stewart and producers of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central. The rally was created as a comedic response to commentator Glenn Beck’s “Rally to Restore Honor.” Stephen Colbert, host of the satirical punditry program “The Colbert Report” will also be hosting his own “March to Keep Fear Alive” at the same time.

Stewart has been using “The Daily Show” as a forum to promote the event and emphasize that it is not politically motivated, but that it is merely attempting to bring some sort of civility to political discourse. The site’s featured quote: “I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore,” comes from the Academy Award-winning film Network’s Howard Beal. Beal, a commentator whose rants were based on knee-jerk opinion and populist emotion, seems civil by today's standards of screaming Hannitys and smug Olbermanns. His stated goal is to get away from such terse discourse.  

Stewart, who rose to fame as a stand-up comedian and actor in such cult works as “Half Baked” and “The Larry Sanders Show,” seems to have his tongue firmly in cheek with the rally, as the tone of the event’s page demonstrates:

Join us in the shadow of the Washington Monument. And bring your indoor voice. Or don’t. If you’d rather stay home, go to work, or drive your kids to soccer practice… Actually, please come anyway. Ask the sitter if she can stay a few extra hours, just this once. We’ll make it worth your while.

But while Stewart and runners of the rally are framing it as a satirical event with moderate political undertones, the demonstration is quickly gathering the perception as a left-wing event. Musical acts such as Jeff Tweedy, Sheryl Crow, and The Roots are scheduled to perform, all vocally left-wing artists. (Tweedy is the lead singer of Obama-lauding alterna-Gods Wilco, Crow an active environmentalist, and the Roots’ drummer ?uestlove recently tweeted an approving message to an airline passenger wearing a “F*ck Juan” shirt, a reference to recently fired NPR reporter Juan Williams). President Obama gave his endorsement of the rally when recently interviewed on the “Daily Show.”

Left-leaning “Huffington Post” founder Arianna Huffington is even buying bus tickets for New Yorkers trying to attend the national event.

Stewart seems committed to shaking the liberal perception as Time reports:

Certainly Democrats are trying to ride the billowing publicity wave, but Stewart presented his event (coupled with Stephen Colbert's more ironic “March to Keep Fear Alive”) as a non-partisan meet-up for “the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat.”  

Judging by the schedule, the event’s focus seems to be on entertainment over political zealotry. Whatever the focus or intention, over 200,000 are signed up to attend the rally.