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Cable television’s talking heads were the primary targets of Saturday’s Rally for Sanity which drew tens of thousands of people to Washington, D.C. From video montages of news programs’ doomsday prophecies to introducing citizens who remained “rational” under pressure, hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert repeatedly went after the media’s extremist positions.
Stewart said, “We live now in hard times, not end times.” He continued, “The country’s 24-hour [news cycle] did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”
The rally’s themes of unity, comedy and tolerance were reinforced with a slew of musical guests like Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens), Kid Rock and John Legend.
Backed by the Roots’ house band, Islam sang his 1971 hit “Peace Train” but was interrupted by Colbert, who introduced Ozzy Osbourne. The rocker launched into “Crazy Train,” and went back-and-forth with Islam until they were both sent off stage by the O’Jays and “Love Train.”
The proceedings began with introductions from Stewart and Colbert, followed by a benediction by Don Novello as his Saturday Night Live character Father Guido Sarducci, who when comparing Muslims and Jews said, “They don’t eat pork, you don’t eat pork, let’s build on that.”
Billed as “the most reasonable seeming man in America,” Law & Order star Sam Waterston read a tongue-in-cheek poem credited to Colbert that included lines like “Did you hear that? No? You’re probably going deaf. It’s your kids back home cooking up crystal meth.”
Musical guests included Mavis Staples and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy performing “You’re Not Alone,” and Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow singing an original song by Rock, which included a green screen appearance by T.I.
NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also made an appearance.
Stewart gave medals of reasonableness to Armando Galarraga, the Detroit Tigers pitcher who forgave the umpire who blew his perfect game this summer, wrestler Mick Foley, Velma Hart, for a civilized exchange with President Obama during a town hall meeting, and Jacob Isom, the Texas man who snatched a Koran from the hands of an evangelist preacher intending to burn it.
Colbert handed out “Fear” Awards to Anderson Cooper’s tight black t-shirt, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and news organizations like National Public Radio, ABC and the New York Times who banned employees from attending the rally.
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