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Thousands Rallied for Sanity and/or Fear Online and Off

CBSNews.com worked with AirPhotosLive.com to estimate the size of the crowd. Photo: AirPhotosLive.com

PRNewser attended the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” this weekend, so we can speak to the tremendous crowd on the ground, which CBSNews.com estimates at 215,000. Besides those who were simply seeking a restoration of sanity and/or fear, there were about 400 credentialed members of the media and possibly hundreds more who applied but weren’t able to get a pass. (Ahem.)

According to Forbes.com, the Web played a critical role in making the rally a reality, although both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert said they’d been thinking of doing a rally for some time before online chatter began. Footage of the post-rally press conference with Stewart and Colbert via CNN after the jump. They discuss the impact of social media and the proper way to engage. (Use your inside voice.)

“It was a nice validation of what we were thinking,” Colbert said about the online activity. “Our fans see this as a natural extension of the work we’re already doing.”

For those who couldn’t make it to D.C. but wanted to take part offline, there were also small parties that were organized with help from Meetup.com and Rallymao.com and rallies took place in other cities.

Prior to Saturday, rally organizers were using social media to maximum effect. According to Mashable, the rally website offered updates and charitable opportunities, as well as social media features,  such as Twitter handles and a presence on Facebook, that continued straight through the broadcast of the event on Saturday. During the event, many on the ground couldn’t log on to Twitter or Facebook, but the activity around the event continued.

“Social media is too often an afterthought — a detail stapled onto traditional media,” the post reads. “The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear has taken the most traditional form there is — speaking to a large group of people in person — and made it a social media vehicle.”

While it’s too soon to tell if we’re going to collectively lower the decibel level of our political discourse, some believe it can have a positive effect.

“The impact is a broader cultural one, impacting ideas of what it means to be political,” Ethan Thomas, an associate professor of media studies told USA Today. “It doesn’t have to mean you have to be liberal or conservative. It means you can be engaged in what is happening around you.” Although he does go on to say that there could be an impact at tomorrow’s polls as well.

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