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Summary:

Last election cycle, a politician’s own ill-chosen words became a viral video that cost him his candidacy. This November, will a politician get undermined by an ill-conceived viral video made by his own supporters? That’s the thought I had after watching “Yes We Can“, a new […]

Last election cycle, a politician’s own ill-chosen words became a viral video that cost him his candidacy. This November, will a politician get undermined by an ill-conceived viral video made by his own supporters? That’s the thought I had after watching “Yes We Can“, a new YouTube video currently storming The Viral Video chart. It’s a putative tribute to Senator Barack Obama’s stirring words after the New Hampshire primary, directed by Jesse Dylan with music by will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas. (Who’s better known for his stirring words, “Whatcha gonna do with all that junk … inside your trunk?”)

The video was made without the Obama campaign’s participation or permission, according to ABC News, which is a good thing, because it’s an appalling exercise in celebrity self-congratulation, reducing the Senator’s soaring plea for optimistic unity into an opportunity for some popstars to preen in front of the camera. (While Obama’s image is shunted aside, an unidentified brunette hottie actually flips her hair; Scarlett Johansson giggles. It’s like Obama Girl without irony.)

Here at NewTeeVee, we like to keep things non-partisan, but whatever your personal inclinations this election, it’s easy to see how this clip’s growing popularity can’t be good for the Obama campaign: after spending months fighting the criticism that their candidate has great rhetoric but little experience, here comes a viral video that seems specifically designed to derail their efforts. And unlike Obama Girl, “Yes We Can” is so highly polished, any protests that it’s not actually part of their campaign will fall on deaf ears. I can already picture Fox News commentators deceptively using it to dismiss the Senator as “an MTV candidate”. (“Nice beat,” as blog star and Clinton supporter Jeff Jarvis puts it. “But can you lead to it?”)

Memo to politically active celebrities: if you actually want your candidate to win, how about coming up with viral videos that actually serve his campaign, and not yourselves? And always remember: when it comes to choosing the person who gives the 101st Airborne their marching orders, few care what the star of The Nanny Diaries has to contribute.

  1. I say…it’s just a video that people made to show their support for a candidate they like. Why do you have to get your panties in a knot? Every voter should vote based on their own research of the candidates and should take this video for what it is, a video. If people base their decisions solely on this, whether they are turned on or turned off by it…then our country really is in a sad state of affairs. It’s just a video. That makes some people feel good. It’s not what the candidate is all about and people should be able to discern that. Get over it. Obama 08.

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  2. p.s. you’ll feel better if you do. peace.

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  3. While I usually agree with what NewTeeVee comments on new media, I am astonished by the shortsightedness of Wagner James Au’s last comments about Obama’s ‘Yes we can’ viral video. Politics aside, the piece is not about the celebrities endorsing obama for personal gain. They are mere a medium through which his message is conveyed. To imply otherwise would be akin to finding fault with Hillary Clinton as a candidate because she was endorsed by the New York Times or with John McCain because he uses the web (another popular medium) to deliver his political platform.

    If my point is unclear, let me explain further. The beauty of ‘yes we can’ is in its use of popular culture to covey a message of hope and change. The idea here is to let voters know that we are all in this together, and we can make a difference; that the 2008 election is the starting point of a revolution to return America to its former glory as a superpower of generosity, intellectual curiosity, innovation, freedom, and equality. 
    
    If you remove Obama from video, the message remains the same – “Now is the time to make things better for everyone.” Prognosticating Obama’s downfall simply because his medium of delivery is popular art not only shows a lack of understanding of the political process in the United States, but also of how to start conversations in the new mediascape.  
    
    Please comment if you feel strongly about an opposing viewpoint.
    
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  4. While I usually agree with what NewTeeVee comments on new media, I am astonished by the shortsightedness of Wagner James Au’s last comments about Obama’s ‘Yes we can’ viral video. Politics aside, the piece is not about the celebrities endorsing Obama for personal gain. They are mere a medium through which his message is conveyed. To imply otherwise would be akin to finding fault with Hillary Clinton as a candidate because she was endorsed by the New York Times or with John McCain because he uses the web (another popular medium) to deliver his political platform.

    If my point is unclear, let me explain further. The beauty of ‘yes we can’ is in its use of popular culture to covey a message of hope and change. The idea here is to let voters know that we are all in this together, and we can make a difference; that the 2008 election is the starting point of a revolution to return America to its former glory as a superpower of generosity, intellectual curiosity, innovation, freedom, and equality.

    If you remove Obama from video, the message remains the same – “Now is the time to make things better for everyone.” Prognosticating Obama’s downfall simply because his medium of delivery is popular art not only shows a lack of understanding of the political process in the United States, but also of how to start conversations in the new mediascape.

    Please comment if you feel strongly about an opposing viewpoint.

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  5. This is a primary. the video is being e-mailed en-mass to move-on supporters and being forwarded to their friends.

    The masses are not going to do the mental acrobatics you just did required to turn this into a negative. The ones who would won’t see it because it’s not on T.V.

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  6. Sorry, but you never actually made your point about why this would be bad for Obama.

    It’s music, for christ’s sake.

    It’s powerful, it’s moving, it’s the voice of millions of young people.

    Music IS rhetoric… it’s tuned to the needs of those who need it. And Obama IS needed in this country… simply a pure voice who can ingite hope again, and vision for what we can be as a nation.

    I can’t remember when’s the last time I heard a music video drone on about the administrative tasks of making policy.

    But it’s rare to listen to something so moving and inspiring as YES WE CAN by will.i.am. And, of course, Barack Obama.

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  7. YES WE CAN by will.i.am and others is absolutely FANTASTIC and totally spot on with what America needs… and Obama represents so eloquently.

    Don’t be a tone-deaf loser.

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  8. I agree. You have definitely got it wrong. YWC is a powerful video — youth, unity, and imagination work for me as political themes, and I’m an oldster. I cannot imagine such a project being undertaken for or on behalf of Obama’s competition.

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  9. James Obama knows about it

    Now its on the front page of his website so it does have and his campaigns blessing and support.

    http://www.barackobama.com/index.php

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  10. All style and booming rhetoric, no substance. It’s perfect! That’s what the Obama campaign is about. The kids want a messianic Leader they can rally behind.

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