March 21, 2007


Watching Big Sister: '1984' Takeoff on YouTube Is a Sign Of Why 2008 Won't Be Like 2004 (Jose Antonio Vargas and Howard Kurtz, 3/21/07, Washington Post)

The video's creator -- who claims on YouTube to be 59 years old and goes by the name ParkRidge47 -- isn't talking.

The clip, titled "Vote Different" and posted on YouTube on March 5, is one of the most watched on the video-sharing site. On Monday it had more than 500,000 views. By yesterday, after a day of mainstream media attention, it had passed a million, with text comments and video responses pouring in. Online pundits agree that it's a brilliant piece of agitprop, expertly produced.

Said Mike Krempasky of the Edelman public relations firm, who blogs on the conservative site "One of the reasons it's so good is that it's really creative and entertaining. People look at it and say, 'Wow, that's really cool.' If we find out that this was some college kid who lives in the Bronx, it's going to teach people a lesson: Anybody can be a producer here."

And that fact, said Micah Sifry of, which tracks the candidates online, "shows that voter-generated content is going to be the wild card of 2008. It should strike fear in the hearts of traditional political consultants because it shows that you don't need lots of money to make a viral message spread."

Jeff Jarvis, the veteran journalist who examines online video through his site, said the YouTube clip is analogous to the television ad paid for by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who parlayed a modest television buy into a media firestorm for Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004. The difference is, Jarvis pointed out, the group of Vietnam veterans were upfront about their identity.

"There are a lot of things happening here, and it's all about identity and trust and anonymity. So was this attack made by Obama's campaign? They say it's not. But then who?" Jarvis said. "Anonymity is a part of the Internet. But the problem now is attacks could come from anywhere, and I fear that we're going to have more and more Swift Boating. With the help of the Web, it's low-cost and easily spreadable."

For David Weinberger, former senior Internet adviser to Howard Dean and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, the video is a "meta-comment" of the Clinton campaign.

"It's expressing frustration and unhappiness with the level of control that her campaign is exerting. It's no more controlled than any other traditional campaign. It's not especially controlled by previous standards. But it's tightly controlled by the standards of the Web. And for a big part of the population, the standards are the Web standards," Weinberger said.

To regain her footing online, the New York senator "should go off-message and her talking points" and post videos and blogs that show "that she doesn't have the answer to everything, that she's made mistakes, that she can talk like another human being." As such the video, Weinberger added, "is particularly effective because it draws the parallel that's apparent to so many people -- that Hillary is to the campaign as PCs are to computing."

Obama, for his part, made no attempt to distance himself from the video that uses his name. Clinton is similarly taking a hands-off approach.

On "Larry King Live" Monday night, Obama said: "One of the things about the Internet is that people generate all kinds of stuff. In some ways, it's the democratization of the campaign process."

Nothing terrifies Democratic politicians like the prospect of democratic political campaigns.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 21, 2007 12:00 AM

I'm not quite sure why the ad is drawing the attention it is. It bombed as an Apple ad way back when, and, truth is, the only thing scary about Hillary that it shows is how she can flap her lips and say absolutely nothing. But we already knew that.

Posted by: Dreadnought at March 21, 2007 12:18 PM

The thing that terrifies Dem. politicos is that their standard tactic -- attacking the messenger when they have no response to the message -- won't work when the messenger is Anon.

Posted by: curt at March 21, 2007 1:24 PM