Fear Frenzy vs. The Safe and Sane

Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert held a conference call with students explaining the importance of fear.

Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert held a conference call with students explaining the importance of fear.

At noon on Saturday, Oct. 30, fear and sanity will have a showdown at the National Mall in Washington D.C. to see which can save the United States from its political and economic shortcomings. Comedy Central icons Stephen Colbert and “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart will lead the two competing rationales.

Colbert, the host of Comedy Central conservative talk-show satire “The Colbert Report,” plans to use fear as nonhateful motivation to resolve the U.S. problems with the economy and the government at his “March to Keep Fear Alive” rally.

In a conference call that included more than 20 college and university newspapers, including The Temple News, Colbert said his participants should attend his rally over Stewart’s because “fear is ubiquitous, and I don’t even know what ubiquitous means.”

He added that he was rivaling Stewart on Oct. 30 to make sure no one’s vote in the Nov. 2 midterm election is based on rational thinking.

“Rationality gets you things like the atomic bomb,” he said. “Whereas fearing the atomic bomb is the thing that kept us safe during the Cold War.”

Fearing destruction, Colbert said, will protect U.S. citizens.

The satirical dueling rallies in D.C. will take place about two months after Fox News talk-show host Glenn Beck and the Rev. Al Sharpton held a strikingly similar event and counter-event. Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally to raise funds for the nonprofit Special Operations Warrior Foundation, as well as emphasize stronger faith in God, met Sharpton’s “Reclaim the Dream”  opposition rally on Aug. 28. Beck’s rally, which took place at the Lincoln Memorial, offended many civil rights activists, such as Sharpton, who felt the conservative rally distorted the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Colbert said that this wouldn’t be a religious event like Beck’s.

“I find God to be too soothing and calming,” Colbert said.

Colbert said students in particular should attend his rally because they have plenty to fear.

“[College students] should be the ones who are afraid, having to graduate in this economic climate,” he said. “That should terrify them.”

When Colbert was in college, the state of fear was “the fear of annihilation from the Russians – that and AIDS,” he said.

“AIDS started when I was in college, so those are the two biggies – fear of communists and gay people. So I guess in some ways, they are the same as they are now because we’re still instructed to be afraid of gay people for different reasons,” he added. “Now we might be gay, and our marriages might be broken up by gay people, and communists are secretly controlling our government.”

The biggest fear Colbert himself has is that more people will come to Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” than to his.

“I fear that people like him more than me,” Colbert said. But a low turnout for his rally wasn’t his only fear.

“Bears – gay, immigrant bears,” which, he said during the conference call, translate to “Canadian bears.”

Colbert certainly has reason to fear Stewart’s rally. The Facebook event page for the “Rally to Restore Sanity” lists more than 200,000 users who are attending the event, and more than 112,000 “maybes.” The “March to Keep Fear Alive” has garnered more than 88,000 attendees, with more than 35,000 users who may attend, according to the RSVPs.

Colbert has a Plan B in the event that Stewart’s rally tops the “March to Keep Fear Alive.”

“Well obviously, bursting into tears and going into the fetal position is high in my back-up plans,” said Colbert, who later added that the “fight or flight” response is what kept our ancestors alive.

“We knew to be afraid of snakes,” Colbert said. “The people who didn’t know to be afraid of snakes didn’t get to have children.”

The Comedy Central talk-show host said there could be plans to keep fear alive in 2012 and hinted at another run for U.S. president.

“It’s possible. Obviously I ran for president in 2008, and a lot of people will be looking to see if I answer the call again in 2012,” Colbert said. “And that’s something I have to discuss with my family.”

Josh Fernandez can be reached at josh@temple.edu.

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