Thursday, November 29, 2007

My Gun is Bigger than Your Gun

In honor on the YouTube/CNN debates, the giant video-sharing site turned over editorial duties to Facebook friend and digital rhetoric class guest James Kotecki yesterday, who chose his favorite recent political videos to spotlight. (Click to enlarge this screenshot of the site's home page at the time.) Among Kotecki's featured videos, there was yet another "Mac vs. PC" parody, the Latino Comedy Project produced Mex vs. BC.

Last night's Republican debate ended up attracting all the top candidates, despite their initial reluctance to participate in a public forum in which the user-generated content might undermine the decorum and dignity associated with a national political event and where distributed media might change the rules of traditional broadcast media. Certainly party officials seemed well in control of stage-managing the beginning of the televised coverage by putting forward an explicit pitch for their political brand from the Florida governor's office. The cameras showed conventional celebrities like Chuck Norris, in the audience, although there were a few YouTube celebrities in the chosen videos, such as ConservativeVoiceUSA and frequent Kotecki-foil David McMillan of News in Color. Right now, the video responses posted on the site generally don't actually respond to the televised discussion and instead publicize older videos made by members of a disgruntled electorate. However, this video response from McMillan does engage with the actual talking points of the candidates on stage, including former New York mayor Guiliani's equation of "black" and "welfare."

I would agree with Kotecki's after-debate analysis (see below) that Giuliani's campaign video was the only one that indicated awareness of YouTube conventions and appeals to viral marketing in which the plucky mayor takes on King Kong and record snowfall rather than crime and terrorists. (The script and "campaign facts" are here.) The other candidates presented miniaturized versions of traditional television spots that generally mimicked old-school attack ads. However, Giuliani's most watched video continues to be footage of him in drag with Donald Trump.

Certainly there was plenty of gender politics to go around in the evening's entertainment, with the comparison of the relative size and firepower of the candidates' gun collections being the most obviously phallic example. The debate ended with a baseball question, which -- as Siva Vaidhyanathan points out -- could be considered a moral fiber test to Yankees fans.

Of course, the big story of the evening was the unintended selection of a video from a member of Hillary Clinton's campaign, a retired Brigadier General who has come out of the closet to become an activist against the military's don't ask/don't tell policy. YouTube is already full of coverage of planted questions at Clinton's own campaign stops, such as this interview with a female college student put up to the job.

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