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.