While Jon Stewart does it nightly with razor wit and Steven Colbert does it with truthiness, James Kotecki does political media revue with pencil puppets and a webcam. The Economist cites Kotecki, who posts as “EmergencyCheese” on YouTube, as “probably the world’s foremost expert on YouTube videos posted by presidential candidates.”
Mr. Kotecki, a 2007 Georgetown University graduate and former Congressional page, started posting at the start of this year. “The first few videos were just me parroting what the mainstream media was saying and it was pretty terrible in content, delivery, everything,” Kotecki admitted in a phone interview. “Then I realized that some of the candidates had their own [YouTube] channels and I saw a wide disparity in the content. I didn’t see anyone talking about this, so I thought I’d post a video response.”
Artfully positioning himself as a political media analyst, Kotecki, an international politics major, offers advice to candidates attempting to navigate the politically uncharted viral video waters. Commenting on everything from camera angels and backdrop decisions to conversational cadence and discussion point poignancy, Kotecki mixes Stephanopoulos topicality with Ze Frank delivery.
The citizen broadcaster has appeared on a variety of news outlets as a YouTube expert giving his opinion on the use of online video in the ’08 election as well as discussing more generally the changing mediascape in American politics.
The enfranchising power of digital participatory democracy is what excites Kotecki and has given him the greatest boost to his views. Encouraging candidates to use YouTube for a dialog as opposed to another stump speech, Kotecki has made himself part of the conversation, directly addressing candidates and (finally) getting direct video responses back from the likes of Dennis Kucinich, Mitt Romney, and Tom Tancredo.
However, it was when Texas Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul graced Kotecki’s dorm room-cum-sound stage that fringe-political relevancy was assured. “I thought having a candidate in a dorm room would be pretty funny,” Kotecki excitedly explained. “I reached out to all of the candidates who had YouTube channels. Ron Paul was the first to get back to me and set a date. And he’s got the netroots thing and his supporters blasted that video all over the place.” Since then, Democratic presidential hopeful Mike Gravel also joined Kotecki in his dorm room for some political banter.
In an effort to get candidates to use the disintermediating powers of the internet, Kotecki and other YouTube media hounds — many of whom are involved in YouTube’s own CitizenTube — are working to promote Community Counts, “a mashup of YouTube’s You Choose Spotlight, a netroots campaign to have the presidential candidates answer our questions, not theirs.” Or, as Kotecki emphatically puts it in their promotional video, “It’s democracy in the internet age, baby!”
Mr. Kotecki is approaching the thousand-subscriber mark. He says that when he hits that milestone he’ll “doing something special” for his fans. So go and subscribe. You’ll get a personal thank-you message from him. “I like to send everyone a thank you note to all of my subscribers,” he said. “I figure if I reach out to people when they subscribe they are less likely to unsubscribe later. They feel like they have some stake in this community.” I’m hoping that his one thousand subscriber spectacular will be a follow up to his Jermaine Dupri v. Nancy Pelosi rap mashup video post.