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September 3, 2015

Who Attended the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear?

by Nick Zaino, posted Nov 2nd 2010 2:40PM
Rally to Restore Sanity and/or FearThe reports have come in about the attendance for Saturday's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear led by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Comedy Central's estimate immediately following the event was 250,000. CBS used aerial photography to put the number at 215,000.

So who were these people?

It's impossible to get a complete sense of a crowd that large (for a little more perspective, see Brian Joyce's video interviews for AOL TV).

Walking around that morning before the Rally and throughout the proceedings, I got a rough picture. Judging from the signs and costumes, a large portion of the crowd were there to be silly and have fun with the "sanity" theme. I saw zombies, a lot of bears (sorry, Colbert), and even a Master Shake and Frylock looking for their lost Meatwad.

Not surprisingly, a lot of these people looked like college kids or slightly older. But there was a considerable demographic of over-40 people, a lot of couples. There were some more serious and pointed signs advocating issues, everything from statehood for Washington, D.C. to support for schools to anti-war messages. A sort of ad hoc parade developed on Madison Avenue, one of the closed streets alongside the main stage, where a procession of people dressed as characters from 'Alice in Wonderland' walked with a giant cloth sign that read, "Restore Sanity: End the Afghan War."

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or FearThere were anti-Tea Party, anti-Republican signs, and, more plentifully, anti-Fox News signs, mostly directed at Glenn Beck, whose own rally over the summer Stewart and Colbert were parodying. There was a smattering of signs with Glenn Beck's crying face on each side the size of a mask to hold up to your face. One that read, "Palin 4 Pres 2012 (The World's Gonna End Anyway)."

Still, silly signs outnumbered anything terribly pointed by a margin of about four to one, people advocating for more beer, or more cowbell, or even simply reading "Be Happy."

One couple, Tina and Gary Rosenbaum, carried a sign that said "Ruly Mob" on one side and "Decaf Party" on the other. They had come down from New York City, where Gary works in print design. They said the idea of a rally for sanity, and against extremists, appealed to them, and they made plans to come down as soon as the event was announced in September.

"We're big fans of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and their somewhat cynical view of the Tea Party and a lot of the movers and shakers," said Gary.

The "sanity" concept had a similar appeal to Larry and Caroline Varner, 68 and 66, respectively, from Akron, Ohio. They weren't entirely sure if the rally announcement had been a joke, but they made immediate plans to travel to Washington. "He said the word 'sanity.' I guess it just touched a nerve," said Caroline. "When he said 'sanity,' I thought, I'm just so overwhelmed with insanity that I don't care what happens, I'm coming."

They had never been to a political rally before. The closest either of them had come was when Larry was a student in Washington and attended JFK's inaugural parade. "I just wanted to be in a group of people that were not right wing extremists, left wing," Larry said of the Rally. "People that work together, like the majority in this country that would work together to make this country work and not beholden to politicians who are boRally to Restore Sanity and/or Fearught by big corporations or whatever. Just not extremists, just people. People like her and I who do our best every day to make this country work."

College students Grady and Kieran came down from Ottawa and hung around hours after the Rally was over, visiting the Smithsonian museums and the Capitol Building, visible behind the stage. They liked the idea of a gathering of moderates.

"Moderation is good," said Kieran. "Canadians are also watching what goes on here. It affects us, and we wanted to put our chips behind sanity."

"And fear," added Grady.

"And/or fear," said Kieran. "Fear is good, too. You need a little spice."

Stewart's closing speech, in which he noted that the country is in "hard times, not end times," resonated with them, as did the lack of specific references to politics throughout the program.
Reddit.com users at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
"It was also good that he didn't step too much into politics," said Grady. "If you get into politics, you start losing an edge, because you start getting an agenda. He didn't make any mention of politics, per se. He didn't even mention the fact that there's a vote on Tuesday. Almost all of his attacks were against the media."

Some used the rally as an excuse for a social gathering. Two fans of the web forum Reddit.com came out dressed in full American flag body suits and called themselves Sanity and Fear (aka Tyler and Joe). Reddit fans were wearing tags, and made a competition of who could collect photos of the most tags and meet more of their fellow Reddit compatriots.

Very little of the program was announced before the actual rally, but Tyler and Joe said they got information through the forum. "Everything was really vague," said Joe. "We're part of an online forum called Reddit.com, so we got a lot of the information just word of mouth."

A group of four Colbert fans, calling themselves "Colbert Crusaders," came out from Beloit, Wisconsin. They felt they shared something in common with the fake pundit, and mentioned they will also be at the live election night show.

Why Colbert Crusaders? "Because of our Catholic background and Stephen's Catholic background, and we have that spirit of the Crusaders from medieval times," said Mary Kricknelson. "We're carrying StephRally to Restore Sanity and/or Fearen's message in the same way."

Did they care that Colbert sometimes targets more politically motivated religious people? Not so much. "We have to see joy in our faith," said Kricknelson. "And we have joy and humor and love in our faith, so yeah, we can laugh at ourselves. That's why we're fans of Stephen."

If the crowd had anything in common, from what I could tell, it was a vague dissatisfaction, and a need for a comfortable environment to be around like-minded people, to be entertained and to entertain each other. They seemed to take the word "sanity" seriously - I've never been in a crowd nearly that size and heard so many people say "excuse me" or try to help people get around. The politics were mostly more hinted at than spoken outright. "Ruly Mob" seems about right.

Check out the rest of TV Squad's Rally to Restore Sanity Coverage:

Keeping Things Moderately Reasonable on the Ground at the Rally to Restore Sanity (VIDEO)

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Reflect on Rally: We Did It! Now What?

20 Reasonably Funny Signs from the Rally to Restore Sanity

The Best Moments From the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear (VIDEO)

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Look at all the white people at the rally. Where is the diversity?

November 03 2010 at 6:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jim's comment

It was all about divisive people like you, Jim, and us laughing at you.

November 03 2010 at 7:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I watched it on TV. The speech at the end was great!

November 02 2010 at 3:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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