This past weekend John Stewart and Stephen Colbert held their joint Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear. Many commentators have been debating what if anything this rally signifies or accomplished. For an answer to that, I think we have to look at the level of culture. Over two hundred thousand people, whose views are to a large extent unrepresented in the mainstream American media (despite the ridiculous claims that there's a liberal left-wing media), got to come together and see each other, be with each other, talk to each other, feel each others presence in a real palpable way. And there was a real lively festival atmosphere, with a vibrant semiotics at play. A space for memetic transference was opened up with all the signs, shirts, costuming and other creative stunts and activities going on in the crowd. I saw footage of one group who were getting people to "Skip Rope with a Muslim", and people were having fun jumping in. One man had a sign that simply read, "We Should Do This More Often". Precisely.
The streets can build, create and strengthen the flesh of the multitude, the living social potential that can always be enacted anew between us. And these dynamic formations can of course arise from any point on the political spectrum. These new emergent social assemblages can then force goverments and other ruling instutions to take notice, to respond, to reckon with the strength of the new cultural force, as Habermas has shown in his analysis of the turn to modernity, and as the Tea Party has recently demonstrated in the American situation. From this perspective, I would say that the Rally to Restore Sanity/And or Fear was a solid success. As a collective identity forming solidarity creating venture it seems to have done it's job. What the political fruits of this will be, only the future will reveal. Here's clip of the final rally speech by John Stewart, where a lot of these themes are present, and where one can get a direct sense of the crowd that gathered on those Washington streets.
(1) Eagleton, Terry. The Function of Criticism: From the Spectator to Post-Structuralism. London: Verso Books, 1984. p.13-14.