The flip-flop show

I’m appearing on CNN Sunday at 7:30 to talk about the YouTube campaign with, I believe, Robert Greenwald, co-creator of The Real McCain, an internet video show and site that aims to show John McCain’s inconsistencies. I made a little video about it and the trend we are sure to see this season with the inconsistency police nabbing politicians on their flip-flops, namby-pambying, pandering, and lies. This is all the more powerful when seen on video and all the more possible because everything a candidate does will end up on video. As I say at the start of my video, in 2001, grandpappy blogger Ken Layne famously warned media that “we can fact-check your ass.” And now, with The Real McCain, YouTubers warn politicians that their asses are getting fact-checked, too. Here’s my piece:

Here’s the devastating video by Greenwald and Cliff Schechter:

There’s tremendous power here. With Outfoxed, his movie about Fox News, and his latest film about Wal-Mart, Greenwald learned the power of viral distribution — and that was before YouTube. Now he can get his story spread far and wide by sympathetic voters on the internet. As of today, the McCain video has had 155,000 views on YouTube — that’s the size of the audience for an MSBNC show — not to mention coverage in papers and on TV. This is a powerful, demonstrative, visible tool. Cliff Schecter — who blogs at CliffSchecter.comwrites on Huffington Post:

We don’t have FoxNews. We don’t have Rush Limbaugh (which at least means less progressive cash spent on buckets of honey-glazed wings and Schedule IV narcotics). But we have something almost as powerful, if recent events tell an accurate story. We have synergy. Coordination. Call it what you will.

I found it curious that Greenwald and Schecter as Democrats were going after a Republican already. So I emailed them to ask why. Is it to show that McCain isn’t the moderate the press paints him to be? Is it to get rid of the moderate and force the Republicans farther to the unelectable right? Schecter — who, it turns out, is writing a book about McCain — responded:

I chose McCain . . . very simply, because his level of hypocrisy rises above that of all the others, whether Democrat or Republican. He runs on the fact that he is a “maverick” a “straight talker” a “principled independent.” It is simply not true.

He has switched positions on Bush’s tax cuts, the number of troops needed in Iraq, evolution, ethanol subsidies, Jerry Falwell as an “agent of intolerance,” lobbying reform, even recently on campaign finance reform (presidential matching funds). . . .

I decided it was incumbent upon me to do this, because he is handled with such kid gloves by the media–see Joe Klein’s most recent blog at Swampland, where he says nobody can argue that McCain has not been consistent on the war, something that could not be more false. In fact Chris Matthews has joked that the media is “McCain’s base.” Anybody who watches and reads the fawning coverage, knows this to be true.

I asked Greenwald what it took to do this. He said they did a lot of print research and then went looking for the video; most was not on YouTube. That will change through the campaign, I’ll bet. Greenwald says he’s getting tips from the public and he promises to do more.

Candidates, be warned: You will choke on your forked tongues.

: By the way, I’m going to be following the YouTube campaign in greater depth on a new blog and vlog. More on that later.

: I’m now told I’m appearing without Greenwald. Too bad.

: LATER: Greenwald emails that he’s not a Democrat but independent. Corrected. But as the bete noir of Fox News and Wal-Mart, I’ll just bet he’s not in the GOP inner circle.

: LATER STILL: Greenwald says that he has had 220k views on YouTube and on the RealMcCain site.

: Corrected: Yes, it’s “fact-check” not “check.” Thanks, correctors, for checking my checking.

  • Jarvis–

    Your contrast between the likes of YouTube and the likes of MSNBC ignores the fact that almost all of the clips that are edited together in Greenwald’s piece were initially aired on CNN/ABC/MSNBC/NBC and so on.

    So this development is not either/or: distributed viral networks vs top-down MSM journalism.

    Rather, it shows how MSM journalistic product can function more dynamically than it has in the past, by giving a second life in the hands of its viewer-activists, those Formerly Known As The Audience, as the good professor has it.

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  • Very interesting idea. I think the 2008 presidential campaign should prove Youtube, blogs, and the rest of online media’s strength to filter out all the BS we used to be bombarded with in the past from the MSM. And I’m glad someone is already doing that with this new initiative. I definitely agree with Greenwald and Schecter’s use of online media to rat out guys like McCain, who have been bullshitting us for a long time and the complacency of MSM.

    BWT, I’ve been looking forward to hear you on “Media Talk” since you haven’t been on for a long time. That Podcast feed should probably be available by now.

  • duneview

    “…MSM journalistic product can function more dynamically than it has in the past, by giving a second life in the hands of its viewer-activists…”

    I doubt a better description of the forthcoming ’08 array of political mash-ups can be found. Grab a sound bite, throw in an ominous minor key musical sting, make sure the footage is grainy and away we go.

    This is going to be the Mother of all campaigns and Jeff’s gonna guide us through the YouTubosphere. Caaaaan’t wait.

    BTW, Ken Layne’s famous quote is, I believe, “We can fact-check your ass.” – a distinction with a difference.

  • Carson Fire

    I think the right wing must watch the news with a more critical eye these days. That McCain’s “straight talk” is an empty slogan is not a startling insight, no moreso than “water is somewhat wet”. Conservatives have been critical of his opportunistic politics for some time.

    Only the left has been blinded and bedazzled by him, and has made noises about liking him better than other Republicans. Don’t you recall the once-upon-a-time hopeful Democratic buzz about Kerry’s devastating move, choosing the “maverick” Republican as VP? This masterstroke that never was supposedly would have satisfied Democrats while grabbing lots of moderate Republican votes.

    These Democrats who believed Kerry might do that, and that it would be a good idea, were the people who were gullible enough to simply believe McCain at his word, because he was critical of other Republicans (the enemy of my enemy), while remaining completely oblivious to the realities of McCain that were never hidden or difficult to see. So this documentary, stitched together with news ignored the first time around, can do nothing more than educate those who, at certain times, remain purposefully ignorant in deference to their political passions of the moment. In short, this would seem to be a lot of time, effort, and “synergy” to arrive at the bleedin’ obvious.

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  • I dislike so much emphasis placed on flipflopping or gotcha interviewing. It’s Tim Russert’s specialty; I think he must even ask questions designed to set up politicians for future gotchas. Sure it’s a good thing in principle not to waffle or change with the wind, but when it comes to things like a given congressperson’s vote for the Iraq war, how important is a misinformed vote in a climate of deception?

  • Andrew, my only point is that it got impressive audience. Not everything is a fight between MSM and the world….

  • After the macaca incident I wonder if all pols will just realize that they are always “on” and what little candor might still exist in political discussions will evaporate.

    If you listen to someone like Clinton she never says anything spontaneous anymore. So this may all end up having the unintended consequence that we will be able to find out even less about what a candidate really thinks than at present.

  • greg0658

    My body clock got me up at 6:37am CST this morning. I didn’t set an alarm clock. Did I miss you Jeff or are you on at pm tonight? Nearly up against the Grammies?

    I did see a buzz worthy hook this morning (remember the SatNightLive skit “Coming up – Washington State is advancing a newly weds must bear children inititive”) the story didn’t air for about an hour and a half, and I caught it during commercials of my must see Sunday Morning on CBS.

    The “Must Bear Children” is a syc-out by a gay collation to advance their civil union hopes in the Supreme Court.

    My mind was spinning many other thoughts during that 90 minutes. Like the systems need for laborers and soldiers of a certain persuasion.

    The story reported 200 petition signatures of 200,000 needed for legal advancement.

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  • anne

    As Omar Abdi noted above: Layne’s quote was “we can fact-check your ass” not “check”

  • Jeff,

    …force the Republicans farther to the unelectable right?

    I am no political scientist, but isn’t George Bush farther right than McCain?

    Did he, or did he not win two presidential elections? The second, amidst a “quagmire” of a war no less.

    “unelectable”? You sound like a NYT writer.

    Y’all need to digest what Carson Fire wrote. It hit the nail on the head.

  • J Smalls

    The “check your ass” is a paraphrasing, methinks. The actual quote was a bit different. I just can’t recall what it actually is.

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