The importance of Rick Mercer's "rant"
Last night's Rick Mercer Report had an audience of 1,062,000 viewers; his Friday re-run of the same show usually picks up another 700,000 viewers. That's 1.8 million sets of eyeballs -- or about ten percent of adults in English Canada. That's comparable to the raw number of people who watch CNN or Fox News Channel across the entire U.S. -- proportionately, of course, it's ten times as many.
More people saw his "rant" about human rights commissions and free speech than, say, read the editorial about the subject in the Globe and Mail, as important as that landmark was. And the emotional impact of a 2-minute video clip, delivered with Mercer's combination of humour, indignation and earnestness, exceeds most anything that the medium of print can deliver.
Mercer's audience is demographically different than Globe or Post readers, or blog readers. His viewers are interested in public affairs, but they're not politically obsessed. Though the blogosphere has been discussing the human rights commissions' war against free speech for months, last night was likely the first time many of Mercer's viewers encountered the subject. As with the monologues on the various U.S. late night shows, Mercer is likely the primary source of political opinion for many "severely normal" Canadians. And he probably has more influence with them -- he is better trusted -- than any purely political pundit.
The more I think about it, the more I believe that Mercer's soliloquy was an important political landmark. When human rights commissions are mocked on the CBC's leading prime time show, you know the political environment has changed.
P.S. Here's a transcript of his "rant" -- replete with a terrifying photo of me.