Remember the show about nothing? That was the tag for the popular 1990s comedy Seinfeld, which marked the rise of nihilism, the worship of the nothing, in American culture. This incessant sneering at values, any values, is rampant among what passes for today’s intellectuals: various leaders, artists, and politicians. Nihilism is everywhere, in cynical TV animated programs such as The Simpsons, South Park, and the defunct Beavis and Butthead and numerous live action examples in movies and television. From smart but cynical Seinfeld sprang smart but sniveling comedians, such as Bill Maher, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (with conservatives Denis Leary and Dennis Miller on the right), who routinely engage in and dominate what’s left of the nation’s political discourse. Appropriately, earlier this week, the nihilist-in-chief made an appearance (the first by a sitting president) on one of those shows, Stewart’s aptly nondescript Daily Show on Comedy Central. Just as appropriately, the twin nihilists, put-down artist paired with a put-down president, apparently talked for the duration of the program about nothing.
Now the nothing worshippers are having a rally about nothing, conveniently timed as a sort of counterstrike against those idealistic Tea Party activists who care deeply, passionately, and openly about America and have no shame in saying so. Messrs. Stewart and Colbert are planning a congregation in the nation’s capital to accomplish nothing. Presumably, their legions of fans, water cooler cynics from coast to coast, will follow like lemmings into the abyss. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, which tried desperately to make sense of the affair, the two jaded comedians are refusing to disclose details about Saturday’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear,” as they call it. According to an official description, it’s a rally near the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial “for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat.” Stewart told CNN’s Larry King last week: “This is not a political rally in any way, shape or form.”
Then what is it?
As indicated in the above quote, Stewart prefers to define the rally by what it is not, insisting that the rally for nothing is not intended as a response to Glenn Beck’s recent conservative rally in the same location or a rejection of the Tea Party movement. In an interview with NPR, Stewart said the rally is non-partisan and non-ideological. Last month, he told NPR: “I have no obligation to the Democrats or progressives or liberals or unions. We’re not warriors in their cause.” In fact, a Daily Show producer described the rally as a comedic call for calm, adding: “Right now we are banking a lot on the Great Pumpkin showing up.” A rally for nihilists in a city ruled, for now, by a nihilist Leonard Peikoff rightly calls America’s first New Left president? Whatever its outcome, Saturday’s rally represents the culmination of worshipping nothing, which is what millions if not most Americans have done for a long, long time. Unless Americans choose to go by reason instead of blanking out, many will be left with nothing at all. They can start by choosing to think, voting for gridlock and, for once, changing the channel.