Viral attack ads - coming soon to a computer screen near you Posted by: McQ
on Monday, January 29, 2007
As those of us who monitor such things have noticed, something can go viral on the internet fairly quickly. I think back to the Jesse MacBeth video. As soon as it was clear that there were some real questions out there about his bona fides, Iraqi Veterans Against the War, who'd featured his video making outrageous claims of being a ranger and killing on orders was pulled.
But it survived in many other forms and is, in fact, available today (and interestingly, still finding people who have not heard he's a fraud and are thus duped by it) at various places on the 'net.
George Allen's "macaca" moment, captured on video, is another example of viral video. Of course, YouTube now just makes it easier than ever.
Of course that's what those who do attack ads are counting on and they plan on opening a whole new front in the dirty tricks department. Michael Finnegan, in today's LA Times tells us how that calculation about viral video and the 'net is about to be ruthlessly exploited for the upcoming '08 election:
For candidates, one of the troublesome aspects of Web video is also one of its most appealing: the ability of viewers to send it to untold numbers of like-minded voters on an e-mail list.
"A lot of what strategists rely on is the viral impact of sending something to your existing list, and have them push it out to friends and family — make them evangelists and messengers," said Brent Blackaby, the founder of Blackrock Associates, an online political strategy consulting firm.
But the impact of a negative video can be devastating — and undetectable. For candidates trying to appeal to a distinct demographic group, for example, video that shows them taking stands that the group opposes can spread fast without the campaign's knowledge. And the words pack a more profound emotional punch when they come from the candidate's own mouth.
"Voters understand that everybody's shading the truth, but this stuff, they can look at it and say, 'Jeez, that's what he said,' " said David Doak, a veteran Democratic ad maker.
Now, given that, there are various steps politicians can take. One is to be even less spontaneous than they are now and to, essentially become smiling, script reading automatons who never drift off script and never take a chance. Another is to limit or ban all recording devices from their appearances except those approved prior to the appearance (not likely but an option). And a third is to continue as they are today, take extra care not to do anything which is or appears foolish and, if per chance something does happen, be prepared to spin it ruthlessly to their favor (and not in the clumsy manner in which Allen's campaign tried to shrug off 'macaca').
However, what they're not going to be able to avoid any more are opposition researchers how dive deep into the video vaults and find things like this:
In a dim Culver City editing room, two video snippets of Republican presidential hopeful John McCain fill the monitors. In the first, he says same-sex marriage should be allowed. In the second, he says it should be illegal.
The clips are part of the payoff of a weeks-long hunt by filmmaker Robert Greenwald and his production team for damaging Internet video of the Arizona senator.
Greenwald, the producerdirector of scathing documentaries about Fox News and Wal-Mart, hopes to shatter McCain's image as a straight-talking maverick. But instead of creating a full-length film, he is assembling clips of McCain for a series of two-minute Web videos. The idea is to turn McCain's own words against him, spreading the videos through e-mail, blogs and websites.
"The effectiveness is hearing and seeing him say stuff," Greenwald said in the editing bay. The videos "go right to the character issue — who he is."
Now, agree with Greenwald (wonder if he's any kin to GG) or not, what he says is absolutely true. You can read about him saying stuff which is contradictory, you can hear other people claim he's said contradictory things, but when you see it for yourself, well, it makes a much bigger impact. That is what these folks are counting on.
And obviously, the politician in question is going to have to respond. That is what they're trying to force. On the one hand, it may actually force the pol into some clarification which will make him actually take a stand on an issue in which he might have been trying to have it both ways. OTOH, that really isn't the function of the ads and so you have to expect many of them to be on subjects which may have little relevance at all to politics and are more personal in nature. Unfortunately, it is that which I believe will be the majority of the ads we'll see on the 'net. Ads that the broadcast media would never take for a variety of reasons don't have to get past anyone to appear on the 'net.
So instead of political debate rising from the gutter, you can count on at least a portion the gutter actually getting deeper instead.
Greenwald, the producerdirector of scathing documentaries about Fox News and Wal-Mart, hopes to shatter McCain’s image as a straight-talking maverick. But instead of creating a full-length film, he is assembling clips of McCain for a series of two-minute Web videos. The idea is to turn McCain’s own words against him, spreading the videos through e-mail, blogs and websites.
EH. You’re already peddling to the true believers though, and unless you catch a Macacca moment that the MSM can run with, all it’s going to do is be so much noise (and fund-raising fodder)
For example, all these anti-war loudmouths....produce a video of all their comments pre-war *(or pre-Bush)* regarding Iraq and WMDs etc etc etc. In fact, it already HAS been done.
Did anyone care?
Nope. Find ANYONE- Hillary, McCain, etc- who has been in politics for more than 5 minutes and you can find plenty of video of them saying contradictory things.
Now if you can get video of Obama molesting a cub scout....
There are many ways to lie, perhaps the cleverest is to tell only selected parts of the truth. It’s not new. Granted the medium is relatively new,but it is available to all involved. Why should anyone believe that this is not simply another double edged sword that can and will be used by all sides. Uninformed voters will seek out opinions that are within their comfort level, alway have always will. There is really nothing new here, except perhaps potency. Misinformation has been a way of life in politics for too long for this phenomena to have any effect on outcomes.
Would not a person who truly valued Free People and Free Markets find a large market of political expression to be just the sort of mechanism by which we should judge our candidates?
A lot of what is put out there may be bunk, but some of us have the faith in the normal folks to make the correct decisions, to buy the correct products in this market, as it were.
You seem simply upset that lots of questionable folk will be using the internet to hatchet candidates. I would think that this sot of process is self-correcting, as many of these folks will have no credibility outside of their own fringes.
Thus the marketplace of ideas, even if populated by many bad ones, will eventually lead the more relevant themes to rise to the top.
Expanding that marketplace is always good, even if the expansion does no more then show us what we are happy to dismiss.