TCS Daily


21st Century Politics as YouTube Politics

By Glenn Harlan Reynolds - August 21, 2006 12:00 AM

Politicians used to rely on press secretaries to persuade people in the media to print good news about them, and bad stuff about their opponents. They still have press secretaries, but increasingly they're bypassing the middlemen and going directly to the public with their own stories, and with hit pieces about the other guy.

Is this good, or bad? It's both, of course, depending.

In what seems to me to be a clean "guerrilla politics" hit, the James Webb Senate campaign sent a staffer to follow Sen. George Allen (R-VA) around with a video camera. This led to Allen making some dubious remarks, which wound up on video and on the web, which wound up getting a good deal of attention. Web video made the difference, as it let people see the action themselves, rather than rely on secondhand reports. And I suspect that the popularity of the Allen video on the web convinced media folks that the story was worth covering, much as the popularity of music on sites like MySpace or Garageband.com is a tipoff to record companies that there might be something there with mass appeal.

The story had its silly bits -- such as an argument over whether the Webb staffer wore his hair in a Mohawk or a mullet -- and there's no doubt that media types who didn't like Allen used it as an excuse to jump on him. But it was fundamentally fair: Allen said what he said, the Webb campaign presented it openly, it wasn't out of context, and as a candidate for U.S. Senate with strong Presidential aspirations Allen is fair game for people who want to see how he does under pressure.

Somewhat more dubious is the case of Tramm Hudson, whose remarks about black people's swimming ability were sampled, shorn of any context, in a 27-second web clip whose provenance is unclear. Hudson found some defenders in the black community, but there was no accountability on the part of the video's providers, and whether or not this particular piece of web video is a cheap shot, it provides a clear illustration of how such things might be unfair. What if Hudson hadn't made those remarks at all, or if the presentation was entirely unfair? Who would believe him with the video right in front of them?

We've already seen dirty Web tricks in the non-video world. Journalist-blogger Ed Cone reported:

Two comments at this blog were signed with the names of real people who comment here, but were not written by them. Both originated from the IP address used by Connie Mack Berry of the Rachel Hunter campaign, and both contain other information that links back to the campaign site.

There seems to be a lot of sockpuppetry going around these days. Of course, as Andrew Young learned last week, you don't need the Web to get yourself in trouble with idiotic remarks. Young's racist remarks about inner-city shopkeepers were made to a group of reporters. But that's an old way to get into trouble.

The danger for political campaigns -- and the rest of us -- is that the Web, and digital photography and video, make phony or unfair charges easier. So far, video-photoshopping isn't as common as fakery with still photos, but as the tools for that improve, we'll see that, too. What are we to make of seemingly damning videos of uncertain provenance?

It would be nice if we could rely on the traditional media to sort these things out, but as last week's column noted, it's kind of hard to trust them, either. In fact, the term "Reuterized" is now being used to refer to photoshop fakery in news photos, and some experts are saying that photojournalism itself is in danger of dying for lack of trust. And not entirely without reason.

So what's a politician to do? In the short term, I think that this advice to Allen -- "get a blog" -- was pretty good. Rapid response, in the same setting where charges appear, is the best solution, and tools like Technorati mean that people who link the original charge are likely to find the reply.

Over the longer term, though, I think the solution is trust, and people who are worthy of it. The Big Media used to play the role of trusted intermediaries. They didn't do it very well. But there's a real demand for trusted debunkers (going beyond the helpful role played by sites like Snopes) and I hope they appear soon. The more technology empowers fakery and cheap shots, the more we need human beings we can trust to police the boundaries, a point anticipated by the institution of "Fair Witness," a sort of Notary Public on steroids, in Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.

In the book, people trusted Fair Witnesses to accurately report what they saw. But that was science fiction, and seems more fictional every day. The question is, whom do we trust?

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a TCS Daily contributing editor.

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24 Comments

The "most important race in America, SD 50th District"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5DmDtWr0WE

Democrat Francine Busby telling illegal aliens that you don't need papers to vote.

And there's even another article on TCS about illegal aliens.

Frankly, Busby lost 3 previous consecutive races. We do not want her. In a debate with Billbray, she came across as a fool because all she did was parrot a bunch of democratic talking points, instead of being the "independant, bipartisan thinker" she claimed to be. Her campaign statements were, "I'm going to clean house!" I'm sure she is running a vacuum somewhere right now.

by the way...
Phony charges? HARDER by far.

Unfair? What's unfair? True charges that make the canidate look bad? Everyone bitches about smear campaigns. Nothing is done about it. It's political campaigning... get over it.

Does SD mean South Dakota or San Diego?
They way you wrote it, it usually means South Dakota.

San Diego
Eh, that's how we do it here, too. But then, 50th District...

TCSDaily Operator
Where did that video spoofing Gore's film come from?
The Wall Street Journal, August 3, 2006

Everyone knows Al Gore stars in the global warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." But who created "Al Gore's Penguin Army," a two-minute video now playing on YouTube.com? The video's maker is listed as "Toutsmith," a 29-year-old who identifies himself as being from Beverly Hills in an Internet profile.

In an email exchange with The Wall Street Journal, Toutsmith didn't answer when asked who he was or why he made the video, which has just over 59,000 views on YouTube. However, computer routing information contained in an email sent from Toutsmith's Yahoo account indicate it didn't come from an amateur working out of his basement.Instead, the EMAIL ORIGINATED FROM A COMPUTER REGISTERED TO DCI GROUP, a Washington, D.C., public relations and lobbying firm whose clients include oil company Exxon Mobil Corp.

A DCI Group spokesman declines to say whether or not DCI made the anti-Gore penguin video, or to explain why Toutsmith appeared to be sending email from DCI's computers. "DCI Group does not disclose the names of its clients, nor do we discuss the work that we do on our clients' behalf," says Matt Triaca, who heads DCI's media relations shop.

...DCI is no stranger to the debate over global warming. Partly through TECH CENTRAL STATION [TCSDaily.com], AN OPINION WEB SITE IT OPERATES. The DCI Group has sought to raise doubts about the science of global warming and about Mr. Gore's film, placing skeptical scientists on talk-radio shows and paying them to write editorials.

...Traffic to the penguin video, first posted on YouTube.com in May, got a boost from prominently placed sponsored links that appeared on the Google search engine when users typed in "Al Gore" or "Global Warming." The ads, which didn't indicate who had paid for them, WERE REMOVED SHORTYL AFTER THE WALL STREET JOURNAL CONTACTED THE DCI GROUP on Tuesday.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06215/710851-115.stm

strange thing is, rhampton actually thinks he's making a noteworthy point
...

Pointless.
Just stop randomly capitalizing phrases.

Like I said, it's politics. Get over it.

TSD Daily
Paris Hilton ditches Nicole Richie from TV show after a joke goes wrong



Paris Hilton has ditched Nicole Richie from the fourth series of their Simple Life TV show - AFTER A JOKE WENT WRONG.

The blonde heiress HAD INVITED FRIENDS ROUND to watch a video of her Saturday Night Live performance - but prankster Nicole reportedly put on Paris' infamous sex tape instead.

After a massive row, the former best friends are said to be COMPETELY IGNORING each other.

Paris said: "It's no big secret that Nicole and I are no longer friends. Nicole knows what she did."

The 24-year-old hotel millionaire is now drawing up a short-list of possible pals for the programme - WHICH IS SAID to include Lindsay Lohan, Mary-Kate Olsen and Kimberley Stewart.

A spokesperson said NO DECISION had been made on the new MTV series. Paris and Nicole, the adopted daughter of singing legend Lionel Richie, were best known for their mischievous antics on the show.

Uncertain Provenance
"The danger for political campaigns -- and the rest of us -- is that the Web, and digital photography and video, make phony or unfair charges easier. So far, video-photoshopping isn't as common as fakery with still photos, but as the tools for that improve, we'll see that, too. What are we to make of seemingly damning videos of uncertain provenance?"

. . . .

"A DCI Group spokesman DECLINED TO SAY WHETHER OR NOT DIC MADE THE ANTI-GORE PENGUIN VIDEO, or to explain why Toutsmith appeared to be sending email from DCI's computers. "DCI Group does not disclose the names of its clients, nor do we discuss the work that we do on our clients' behalf," says Matt Triaca, who heads DCI's media relations shop."

If you can show that anything in the anti-Gore video is false, please do so
you seem to feel that pointing out that it was made by someone you don't like is all the rebuttal you need to make.

False Foundation
Until the Wall Street Journal published its investigation, the YouTube vewier did not know the video was produced by a for-profit business that is paid to disseminate editorials skeptical of global warming.

"In an email exchange with The Wall Street Journal, Toutsmith didn't answer when asked who he was or why he made the video, which has just over 59,000 views on YouTube. However, computer routing information contained in an email sent from Toutsmith's Yahoo account indicate it didn't come from an amateur working out of his basement.Instead, the EMAIL ORIGINATED FROM A COMPUTER REGISTERED TO DCI GROUP, a Washington, D.C., public relations and lobbying firm whose clients include oil company Exxon Mobil Corp."

And you still have no point.
What happened to you, Hammy?

Pointed Questions
Q: Why did the DCI Group want to give a false impression that a lone amateur created the video?

Q; Why did the Wall Street Journal think the story important enough to print?

A: Astrotruf

Al Gore YouTube Spoof Not So Amateurish
ABC News, August 2006

Republican PR Firm Said to Be Behind 'Inconvenient Truth' Spoof...

Ana Marie Cox, the Washington editor of Time.com, said Americans have come to distrust the mainstream media. "They're more likely to believe something that comes straight from the horse's mouth," Cox said.

Public relations firms have long used computer technology to create bogus grassroots campaigns, which are called "Astroturf."

Now these firms are being hired to push illusions on the Internet to create the false impression of real people blogging, e-mailing and making films.

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=2273111&page=1

Re: Pointed Questions
The DCI Group/Al Gore video scandal is the most obvious example of a group, paid for by goodness knows who, attempting to influence debate by deception. It may not be illegal, but it certainly is immoral. If the people behind DCI Group and their shadowy backers want to take part in debate environmental or other issues, then they should do so - and we should all be able to see where they are coming from.

The reason DCI Group and its backers prefer to pretend that some lone 29yo in his bedsit created the Al Gore Dances with Penguins video is to give the impression that there is a grass-roots anti-green, anti-Al Gore movement happening which isn't there.

And what's a PR group doing producing a web site like this if it isn't to influence debate in an underhand manner? Giving the illusion of independence to an exercise actually intended to promote the interests of its commercial backers, some of which are named, and its political backers, which aren't - and who remain in the shadows.....

rhampton dodges the question.
I asked if you can show that anything in the video is false.

You insist on pretending that just because you don't like the person/group that made the video, that you can ignore it.

The Wall Street Journal Answered
The video itself is satire. It doesn't make scientific claims, rather it attempts to belittle the global warming controversy with "humor" -- supposedly created by a lone video producer to express "his" feelings.

Again, it's the DCI Group's hiding behind a false-front that is the scandal -- THE REASON WHY THE WALL STREET JOURNAL REPORTED IT!

If it's satire, then it really doesn't matter who produced it.
All that matters is how badly the satire bites.

And from your reaction to it, it must be biting very, very hard.

It must suck to be so wrong, so frequently.

Wall Street Journal's coverage
"If it's satire, then it really doesn't matter who produced it."

Tell that to the Wall Street Journal who investigated and reported on the scandal.

And tell that to the DCI Group, because they no longer need to hide behind a false-front.

It's only a scandal in your mind.
Do you believe for some reason, that the Wall Street Journal only covers scandals?

You really believe that you have uncovered the next Watergate, don't you?

WSJ Reports on "False Pretenses"
"Do you believe for some reason, that the Wall Street Journal only covers scandals?"

Nope.

But the story isn't about 1st quarter profit returns or inflationary pressures or foreign investment opportunities.

Where Did That Video Spoofing Gore's Film Come From?
by Antonio Regaldo & Dionne Searcey
The Wall Street Journal, August 3, 2006

...The anti-Gore video represents a less well-known side of YouTube. As its popularity has exploded, the public video-sharing site has drawn marketers looking to build buzz for new music releases and summer blockbusters. Now, IT'S BEING TAPPED BY POLITICAL OPERATIVES, PR EXPERTS AND AD AGENCIES TO SWAY OPINIONS...

...Mr. Wertheimer thinks videos like the Gore spoof, whose sponsorship is vague, can be disingenuous. "They're coming in under false pretenses -- under the guise of being a clever video you might be interested in," he says. For its part, AT&T says its affiliation with the group is clearly listed on netcompetition.org, just a few clicks away...

http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB115457177198425388-
0TpYE6bU6EGvfSqtP8_hHjJJ77I_20060810.html?mod=blogs

The question is, whom do we trust?
WHOM DO WE TRUST?

Probably the best question put out in the media for a very, very long time!

But! is there an answer? - um - one which we can TRUST?

Very Interesting- "morality"
Observation about "morality" have no place in discussions about public policy, until the left finds something it dislikes, usually for inchoate, illogical visceral reasons and then it applies the tag "immoral"

Wetheimer? Hmm I've heard that before...
Oh yeah, there's somebody on PBS Linda Wertheimer.. don't know or don't care if they are related, just the name reminds me.. hmm PBS, the land where people claim to be objective, but are really hard left partisans living off the taxpayers.. no moral turpitude in that charade, though.

Hispanic Immigrants & Moral Politics
Patrick Buchanan Sounds Alarm in 'State of Emergency'
by Phyllis Schlafly
Human Events, August 28, 2006

...Closer to home, Los Angeles may be a model of what America is to become. Sixty-one percent in the City of Angels speak a language other than English at home, which means they don't listen to English-language radio and TV programs, don't get their news from English-language newspapers and magazines, and don't share our heroes, history or holidays.

Those millions of migrants are putting on the chopping block our culture, including its morality, language, history, health, education, economic practices, and rule of law...

http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=16717

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