Yes We Can… Hurt Obama’s Campaign!

65 Comments

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.

65 Comments

SufferingBruin

Congratulations. Your insipid article made it into the New York Times.

Sad.

bryan s.

This is possibly the most insipid article i’ve ever read on this site. Unsubscribed.

Ross Brown

Yep, you’re probably right. Music well packaged can certainly hurt a cause. Someone should tell Handel he’s hurting Christianity. Someone also should let Arlo Guthrie and Joan Baez know how much they hurt populism.

You get the point.

RB

buster

@james au

there are tons of videos showcasing obama’s volunteers. check his flickr and youtube site. it’s curious that you have singled out this video, and attempted to posit it as a definite negative (“hurt obama’s campaign”), with no real argument as to why it might be negative other than the fact that it is user generated. haven’t we been discussing this since 2004? this article is 4 years to late, and poorly hypothesized.

W. James Au

Drew gets the larger point I’m trying to make. Many other respondent didn’t read carefully enough, so let me restate: this post is absolutely not a criticism of Obama’s campaign, it’s an appraisal of this non-official video, which seems to be counterproductive to it. Note that I say video— the music itself is fine, I just question the montage of mostly B and C list celebrities who showed up in a studio to posture for a few hours. It seems like an unserious glomming on that demeans Obama’s message. What if, instead, the video featured a diverse montage of Obama’s volunteers who’ve been tirelessly working without much recognition for the Senator for months?

JON

This video will not hurt Obama’s campaign.

Its just a music video! It features singers and celebrities who support Obama.

Let me guess Wagner…you are not an Obama supporter.

I think before anyone writes any kind of article in the media they claim up front…who they are supporting!

buster

what a lame article. you are comparing this to “mukaka”?

while i agree it may give fodder to folks who have already chosen another candidate and have overlooked the fact that Obama has a longer legislative record than Hill. These people will, as the comments above prove, claim that Obama lacks substance. This claim is utterly false and proves how unwilling some folks are to accept candidates that are not gift wrapped from the establishment. Being first lady has never helped make a president before, so i’m not sure why people think it creates an advantage now.

we know that barack can inspire. if that leads you to claim he has no real substance, how about you back up your claim with some substance of it’s own.

Jab

I think the video is highly effective, and will reach a mass appeal. In other words, I think the opposite about every single thing you said about it.

Angela Wilson Gyetvan

Oooh, Wagner James, I think you hit a nerve. I often question the source of all the defensiveness when that happens . . . are you too close to the truth? However, I think how that video is viewed will depend on your perspective. I freely admit to being no big fan of Obama’s, and the video merely confirms how I feel: lots of rhetoric, not a lot of substance. Reminds me a little of “Do They Know it’s Christmas?” However, if you’re a fan of the Big O., well, then, I guess it makes you feel good when ScarJo giggles. To each his own.

Marc

We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics…they will only grow louder and more dissonant ……….. We’ve been asked to pause for a reality check. We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

roz harris

you’re right. it’s truly harming his campaign. one of the most watched, most commented on, most loved viral videos of recent times. now everybody knows how inspiring his words can be. look out the window, people are protesting, chanting ‘we want more robotic speeches from candidates only willing to tell us what they think we want to hear’. which i’m sure you’ll agree is very difficult to shout in chant form.

t brow

totally spurious bunk.

this post is poorly reasoned at best.

as mentioned above, its author must be a heartless and tone deaf cynic (with an extremel case of political tin-ear)

David

Wagner, you are an idiot which is probably why you used a cartoon for your face so we wouldn’t know what the idiot behind this article looks like. I can’t belive they let you post this. It’s a music video and nothing more. If Bill Clinton’s White House brothel didnt hurt Hillary then this video will do no harm.

I believe you wrote this article so that you can “get in front of the camera”. Congratulations, you have successfully succeeded in letting everyone know how far this country has to go.

Drew Robertson

OK. I think the criticism of this video is over the top. Yes it was a self-congratulatory piece of fluff as is most non-negative political advertising. But I think it works for Obama. Go O’08!

But that said Au makes a good observation about out-of-control UG campaign videos. Sometime during this campaign either a McCain supporter or an Obama supporter is going to put out a highly controversial but highly effective video that’s going to set off Fox News or Keith Olbermann. No matter what the candidates say they’ll get tagged with responsibility for the message in the video.

Candidates are losing control of their political messaging. That’s a very big deal.

marco

Holy crap, how did you manage to find a connection between this video and the “macaca incident”?

You need help.

marco

Man, I would hate to be a cynic like you.

Hope you find happiness in your life.

Peter Verkooijen

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.

LDW

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.

anonymous

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.

anon

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.

Neil

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.

Jeevan Padiyar

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.

Jeevan Padiyar

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.
Kerri

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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