Monday, August 21, 2006

Politicos beware: There Is A World Watching That You Can't Spin

Politicos beware: You live in YouTube's world. 
 | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
S.R. Sidarth never imagined his 15 minutes of fame would come from a sleepy campaign stop in the southwest Virginia town of Breaks.  Or that his handiwork with a camcorder would catapult to the list of most-watched videos on the Web's most-trafficked video site. Or that The Washington Post would devote an entire article to exploring exactly what to call the 20-year-old college student's hairstyle - a mohawk or a mullet?

But in the brave new world of YouTube politics, almost anything is possible.  And just 18 months after its launch, the website is already playing an integral role in campaigns.

Joseph Lieberman in the Connecticut primary Aug. 8, discovered that by capturing funny, embarrassing, and otherwise telling campaign moments on video and posting them on YouTube, they could reach voters in a way that's far more entertaining than over-the-top rants by bloggers.

For several years, political advisers have been instructing their clients to Google themselves and check their Wikipedia entries. "Now the third station of the cross is you've got to YouTube yourself," says Mr. Cornfield. "You have to know just what you look like and how many people are hitting on and redistributing your video."

Already, Web-savvy candidates across the globe are posting speeches, ads, and clips from community meetings on YouTube, though most are best viewed to combat insomnia.

Joe Biden (D) of Delaware appears on YouTube chatting with a young Indian American man about the explosive growth of the Indian population in his state, and elaborates with this: "You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent....

Senator Allen's exchange with Mr. Sidarth, a senior at the University of Virginia (UVA), Charlottesville, is more controversial. Last Friday, Allen was campaigning before a crowd in Breaks, Va., and then began addressing Sidarth, the only nonwhite person in the crowd, who Allen knew had been tracking his campaign all week for Democratic opponent Jim Webb. Allen called him "Macaca" at least twice, and then said, "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."


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