Why Did Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Ignore the Internet?

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Illustration by Nancy Stahl for TIME

The media (NewsFeed included) has analyzed every last shred of Saturday’s Rally to Resore Sanity and/or Fear. But now that it’s over, one question still remains: Who deserves credit for coming up with the idea?

Before Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert announced they would be holding a rally, social news site Reddit held a massive campaign to get Colbert to start one. When Alexis Ohanian, one of the site’s cofounders, was called to ask a question at a post-rally press conference, he asked Stewart and Colbert to comment on the Internet’s involvement with the rally. Their response was mixed; they both lit up when he first mentioned Reddit, and Colbert thanked Reddit users for raising $500,000 for DonorsChoose.org to encourage the rally. But they plainly said that the rally was not just Reddit’s idea — they thought of it first. Ohanian had told them not to pander to web fans, and they certainly didn’t.

(See pictures from the rally.)

Drew Curtis, founder of another popular social site, Fark, didn’t take their comments lying down. In a blog post, Curtis accuses Stewart and Colbert of completely dismissing Reddit and its efforts for the rally.

“Did you hear that Reddit? All that work you put into getting the word out, organizing meetups, and convincing people to go “didn’t hurt”. All that initial support in getting the ball rolling on this rally a few months back was great, but it wasn’t a factor. Thanks for your meaningless and futile support that Comedy Central really didn’t need at the end of the day to get a surprise crowd of 250,000 people to the rally. Did you hear that Internet? You had no role in this either, it was all Comedy Central all the way.”

And the rage isn’t just about the rally. It’s deep-seated. Curtis accuses the writers of both shows of finding funny stories linked on Fark and Reddit, then using those stories for the night’s shows, without ever crediting the two sites. Reddit itself isn’t that fired up by the comments, responding that they don’t care who gets the credit — they still encouraged the rally, raised lots of money for charity and boosted attendance numbers. For them, that’s enough.

(See Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s best moments.)

To be fair, it’s not like Stewart and Colbert completely shunned a major portion of their fan base. Urlesque points out that Reddit received more press passes to the event than the New York Times did, and Colbert has publicly thanked Reddit, both in the press conference and in public letters. In the press conference, Colbert certainly seems like more of a champion of the web. Maybe it’s because Reddit never included Stewart in its original rally push.

When it comes down to it, Saturday’s rally couldn’t have happened without the Internet. No matter who came up with the idea first, it took a grassroots effort to encourage it. Online clips of the show went viral, which helped the show’s attendance balloon beyond expectations. An Internet-only news source, The Huffington Post, took thousands of people to the rally by bus (even though the buses themselves ran late). Friends organized trips through Twitter and Facebook. And once they were all there, the smartphone traffic from all the Foursquare check-ins killed any chance at cell reception. So even though it’s understandable that Stewart and Colbert had planned the idea before Reddit started its campaign, the fact that they can shrug their shoulders and say “it didn’t hurt” seems a little insensitive towards a massive chunk of Daily Show and Colbert Report fans. Maybe Comedy Central should show a little more sanity. (via Urlesque)

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