Fear and Loathing in the Holland Tunnel: One More Take on Jon Stewart’s Serious Speech


Have you heard enough about this rally that happened in D.C. this weekend? Maybe. We’ve already told you what it was like and what the best signs looked like. But what about what it looked like from TV, far away from the uncontested idealism and cheer? Village Voice film editor Allison Benedikt reports from a different elevation: down-to-earth and grounded in reality. Allison?

As you may have heard, Jon Stewart held a fabulously successful Rally to Restore Sanity in DC on Saturday. A lot of presumably sane people and most definitely liberal people showed up, and there was a surprisingly half-assed lineup of musical guests and some funny comedy bits that reminded us of the issue-skits we used to perform at Jewish summer camp. And at the end of it all, Stewart put on his serious face and gave a heartfelt speech about how the 24-hour Cable News Complex is to blame for why it feels like this country is going insane, and about how, actually, we all get along pretty well and we should stop buying this distorted image of ourselves the pundits are selling. We are basically good, Stewart said, and then Tony Bennett sang “America the Beautiful.”

But what are people on Twitter saying? Some takeaways so far:

  • Stewart was very moving in his closing speech.
  • Stewart was too hard on the media in his closing speech.
  • Stewart was hard on the wrong segment of the media in his closing speech.
  • Arianna Huffington’s busses were all late.

Our turn!

Jon Stewart is disappointingly naïve. He blamed 24-hour-cable news for the crap place we all find ourselves in–not false!–but then proceeded to not only say that we should get along, but that we actually do get along, demonstrating how we “get things done every damn day” by showing a video feed from the Holland Tunnel entrance, where cars of all different makes and varieties merge harmoniously to get from New York to New Jersey in relatively orderly fashion. This is a really touching analogy, and succeeds in the way that most analogies do:

Not at all.

Stewart seems to be making a fine and eloquent point until you realize that we don’t live our lives encased in giant steel machines on wheels, alone with cup holders, gum, and our favorite music. This is an incredibly dumbed down, simplified version of how the world works–so dumbed down and simplified that a clip of the speech could easily make it onto the Daily Show, where normal Stewart would make fun of bizarro Stewart for being so lame. The Holland Tunnel might as well have been a hologram.

Let’s be honest: Every single person in every single one of those cars–the soccer mom in the blue Honda, the finance guy in the white Prius, the Tea Partier in the red Hummer–is shouting FUCK YOU! at the next car over. The Holland Tunnel is not some glorious, idealized microcosm of our melting pot. It’s a shitshow.

Let’s start mic’ing the cars and see how well we all merge.

Or, better yet, let’s start hanging out with the random guy in the car behind us with the “Somewhere in Kenya, a Village Is Missing Its Idiot” bumper sticker and see how that goes.

Sure, it feels really awesome not to have to blame ourselves for the current insanity. It feels good to blame cable news, or to blame the no-good Congress, or to blame David Gergen (?). But if we weren’t the problem, than the PBS News Hour would be the highest rated show on television, neither Sharron Angle nor Harry Reid would be on the ballot, and I wouldn’t hate you so much. One thing’s for sure, though: Tony Bennett’s still got it.

Allison Benedikt is the film editor at The Village Voice.