Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dance Card

The official website of Democratic vice presidential candidate Senator Joe Biden has some oddities in its interface design. The video that displays his life plays without an audio track and the explanatory captions for the still images only shows if the user leaves the cursor hovering over the video player's navigation bar. And the alphabetized list of "issues" on the drop-down menu is likely longer than most visitors' computer screens, so that headings like "War in Afghanistan" or "War in Iraq" could be easily missed. The "multimedia" section includes a list of audio and video clips of the senator involved in his legislative duties, where they could be re-mixed for editorial purposes by critics and commentators. He also has a Google maps locater for his office.

A search of the site does not show references to the controversial C-SPAN clip in which Biden said "you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent" or to his later public rationalization that the excerpt did not reflect his full comments, which included praise of Indian professionals. After the incident, some bloggers and commentators drew parallels with the famed "macaca moment" that sunk Republican hopes for a Virginia senate seat and noted that candidates seem to have trouble dealing with South Asian Americans on the campaign trail.

(A search of YouTube with the term "Indian accent" delivers a depressing number of examples of racist online video, particularly in the genre of prank phone call videos.)

Thanks to Siva Vaidhyanathan for reminding online political observers about the incident.

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