The YouTube ballot box

John Edwards and Mitt Romney have been making fascinating use of YouTube in the presidential campaign. Bob LeDrew makes a couple of equally fascinating observations about what will surely follow:

* War rooms will become expert at finding inconsistencies and getting them YouTubed;
* Inconsistencies will be torqued and played with by selective clipping;
* So many inconsistencies will be found and so many will be torqued that voters will become confused by them, immunized against them, and possibly more apathetic than before (if that’s possible)
* Services like the excellent Annenberg Political Factcheck will become even more indispensable for media and voters alike.

I do like that verb: torqued. Yes, there’ll be a lot of video torquing going on. But I don’t think video will serve only one spin or another. There will also be people just taping what candidates do and say and that will be valuable: life as C-SPAN.

  • Hasan Jafri

    You might add to the above that the United States presidential campaign will become truly globalized.

    One of the outcomes of the French presidential campaign’s YouTubing is that people from all over the Francophone world are participating in it. Expect them same to happen here.

    The ability of people in relatively closed access societies to participate in the election campaigns of relatively democratic ones is an unexpected dividend of globalization.

  • Hasan makes an interesting point — and given that some nations have much more influence over what happens outside of their own borders than others, he’s spot on.

    I also wonder just what effect being able to see the freewheeling — and sometimes venomous — cut and thrust of electoral politics will have on societies that are not as democratic as Canada or the US.

    And Jeff — having something I wrote called fascinating by you was a great way to start my day. Thanks.

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  • Peter Hoh

    This is a transition similar to the silent movies giving way to the talkies. Some stars could make the switch to the new medium, while others couldn’t. Some politicians will be able to make convincing shows of clarity, while others will look silly. Some will handle the spotlight of being caught in a contradictory clip with aplumb, while others will flounder. John Kerry comes to mind.

    The change may yield positive results, in that it could force politicians to issue clear statements to address the confusion created by competing clips. “Let me make this perfectly clear. . .” may be the new catch phrase. Of course, once a clarifying statement is made, there will be less wiggle room. Politics without wiggle room? Not in this lifetime.

    I’m not so naive as to believe that this will clean up politics, but it will change the rules of engagement somewhat.The ability to appear clear and direct will still matter more than being clear and direct.

    And maybe, just maybe, we’ll see leaders who articulate governing philosophies rather than talking points.

    Or perhaps politics will devolve further. We will elect politicians who appeal to us, on a primal level, no matter what they say. Or we may find that the new system punishes experience, forcing parties to nominate “blank slate” candidates.

  • At one time people read the Lincoln-Douglas debates in the newspaper. Then came TV and we had the Kennedy-Nixon debates. Discussions of demeanor replaced discussions of policy positions.

    Along came the blogosphere and the readers had some place to go (and this time they could talk back). It seems that history will repeat and we will now transition to the videosphere. Why should be expect an improvement in the level of discourse compared to what happened during the last transition?

    The only thing that may be different is that (as the macacca incident showed) candidates will have to assume that they are always “on”. This may make it even more difficult to get them to say anything substantive even in smaller settings.

  • duneview

    “There will also be people just taping what candidates do and say and that will be valuable: life as C-SPAN.”

    Taping has always been going on. YouTube provides instant access – more “life as a searchable database” than “life as C-SPAN.” Nexis for the masses.

    Indeed, there will be torquing – a noisy stew of Jib-Jab, Swift Boat and Jon Stewart clips. I hope we can make sense of it all.

  • duneview

    Yeah – yeah. I know. Mixed metaphor.

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  • Hey Jeff-

    I blogged five “we-better-prepare-now-for-this” points regarding Presidential campaigns + YouTube that I think you’ll find interesting:

    1. Which YouTube videos will we respond to?
    2. Will the candidate respond directly every time? Will we use a spokesblogger? Will we take the original video and edit it with “fact check” type frames to discredit the video?
    3. How can we develop our own team of tech-savvy supporters who are probably better at this stuff than we are?
    4. Will we embrace our modern task-force of volunteers and ask them to create a video responding to the clip?
    5. Who is monitoring and helping “bury” unsavory digg, reddit, and links which would draw attention to the attack?

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