We’ve come a long way since Arsenio Hall. Remember back in 1992, when Bill Clinton took the stage, saxophone in hand, and belted out “Heartbreak Hotel?” It was a highly scripted moment, but it impressed because it demonstrated how an older generation could appeal to a younger, more media-savvy cohort. Arsenio: “It’s good to see a Democrat blowing something other than the election.” Ironic foreshadowing, thy muse be named Monica.
Fast forward to ’07 and YouTube which, having already assumed the mantle of cultural arbiter, is now formalizing its role as the savvy politician’s medium of choice. Today the site rolled out its You Choose ’08 Spotlight, an addition to the You Choose ’08 channel, and which focuses on one politician’s video per week. No more saxophones, just video views and comment counts. Up first, Mitt Romney:
Wow, color me disenchanted already, Mitt. You’ve somehow managed to take the most interactive platform in the world and simply repeat bland politico-speak.
Thus, the comment from user Savit:
I suggest using less of those empty statements such as ‘I want to change Washington’ and ‘we live in critical’ times…Can you change that, instead of ‘Washington’?
On the face of it, campaigns “performed” via YouTube have the veneer of authenticity. After all, we get to comment on the videos, and the politicians can’t pull a Bush tactic and keep us from watching/attending/catcalling. But the Web privileges niche discussion, not generalizations. Or, as user PrazeDancer says:
The questions for these political YouTube videos need to be more specific. General topics leave no room for addressing specific problems in a specific way.
If you were smart about using the Web, Mitt, you’d create videos and forums for each issue in your platform. Not to harp on Clinton’s saxophone moment, but it worked because he adopted the language of the medium. You, too, must adopt the language of the medium, not the language of commercials.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m overjoyed that we can discuss the issues with politicians. But the challenge to YouTubers is not to be beguiled by phony attempts at embracing the polity, simply because they use the hip new medium of the moment. As Miranda once said in The Tempest:
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in’t!
To which Prospero condescendingly replied:
“Tis new to thee.”
Update: Romney is soliciting Yahoo! Answers for specific advice about tax reform.