OK, I went.

One of my favorite signs at the rally

I was in Baltimore already for a conference, and decided I just has to go and be part of the event.  I wanted to see what it was like, but I’ll also admit to wanting to identify with the sentiment behind it. So much of the political rhetoric this year is about anger, and rejection, and complaint, and whining, and not understanding….

I wanted to identify with  a movement that was about the opposite of those things. The U.S. is a mature democracy now, right?  Shouldn’t we be able to be democratic in mature ways?

As a media scholar, the thing that has intrigued me the most about the rally was how thoroughly the mainstream and cable media simply did not “get it.”  For starters, there was a lot of irony, and today’s pundit-rich, self important and risk-averse media can be excused for not really understanding that.  but when they also couldn’t understand Jon Stewart’s point in criticizing cable news for its sins, that is evidence of a failure of intellect and imagination.  We should be able to expect more of our media.

An example.  In today’s New York Times, media commentator David Carr delivered a particularly disappointing critique of Stewart’s cable-news critique.  Under the title “Rally to Shift the Blame,” Carr criticizes Stewart for missing the point that most Americans don’t watch cable news.

Noting (for the first time I can recall in the MSM) that only about 2% of the American population watches cable news, Carr suggests that Stewart should have addressed the real issues of politics.

This is so typical of media myopia about their own position, framing practice, and the specific issue of the role of cable news in setting the news agenda.  Sure the cable news audience is small.  I’ve blogged on that point in the past.  But that’s beside the point.  The point is that Carr’s colleagues in the punditocracy echo chamber treat cable news as the place that sets the political talking points agenda.  It has influence well beyond its small audience because the rest of the media grant it that influence.  Jon Stewart didn’t make that up.