SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - There were many lessons learned on last weekend's wild ride to Washington, D.C. to cover the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.
Perhaps the most important is that I should never attempt to write a story on a laptop computer when sitting in the middle seat in the coach section of an Airbus 320. My shoulders still hurt, 48 hours later. ?Donde esta el Motrin?
But the experience of attending the rally, and hearing Jon Stewart's wrap-up - and rap-on - the cable TV conflictinator machine is something I'll carry with me for a longtime.
A student who watched the rally on television from the comfort of his home, here in Sacramento, told me that it seemed, well, not very organized. Perhaps. And that view, from the receiving end of the television, actually says a lot about our TV/media culture.
If it doesn't play well on the tube, well, how effective could it have been?
As the expression goes, you just had to be there.
I came away with a feeling that I had been standing in the shadow of the nation's capitol with 200,000 people who understand that the intense fear and hatred that pervades so much of what we read and see and hear in the media is just dead-ass wrong. And that same media machine has helped create a national sickness among extremists at both ends of the political spectrum. Cable TV has made the situation worse, but print journalism doesn't get off easy here either. When the hate, lies and misstatements of cable television's commentators and talk radio 'hosts' spills into newspapers and magazines, it validates it.
That a big admission for someone who has spent the last 37 years as a journalist (and teaching journalism). Starting today, I supposed I should add media critic to my resume.
Of course, within hours of the end of Saturday's rally, the conflictinator machine was already hard at work, trying its best to minimize what I had observed. At one point, after reading a half-dozen generally inaccurate news reports online, I shifted to the television and watched pseudo-journalist Geraldo Rivera dissecting the rally with three conservative commentators.
About the only thing they got right was that the rally was held on Saturday at the National Mall.
My sanity - a little shaky before I left for Washington, D.C. - came back not only intact, but refreshed. Was it an historic event? It might prove to be. Already, Keith Olbermann of MSNBC announced that he was dumping a regular segment called Worst Persons in the World in response to what Jon Stewart had said.
Are you listening out there Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck? (There are plenty of others, but waaaaay too numerous to list here...)
You can watch the entire Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear at this CNN LINK:
Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
The last 13 minutes or so is Jon Stewart's wrap-up speech. If you haven't already listened to it, take the few moments to do so. It's refreshing, and it might help restore your sanity, too. And if you have heard it, maybe listen again, especially before turning on any television news.