Proving yet again that 2008 is much different than previous elections years.1
But in the 2008 race, the first in which campaigns are feeling the full force of the changes wrought by the Web, the most attention-grabbing attacks are increasingly coming from people outside the political world. In some cases they are amateurs operating with nothing but passion, a computer and a YouTube account, in other cases sophisticated media types with more elaborate resources but no campaign experience.
So it was with the Parsley video, which was the work of a 64-year-old film director, Robert Greenwald, and his small band of 20-something assistants. Once best known for films like “Xanadu” (with Olivia Newton-John) and the television movie “The Burning Bed” (with Farrah Fawcett), Mr. Greenwald shows how technology has dispersed the power to shape campaign narratives, potentially upending the way American presidential campaigns are fought.
Mr. Greenwald’s McCain videos, most of which portray the senator as contradicting himself in different settings, have been viewed more than five million times — more than Mr. McCain’s own campaign videos have been downloaded on YouTube.
Just as the blog/webzine phenomena has changed the way we absorb news, so to is the YouTube era changing how we consume politics, especially in the compressed atmosphere of the presidential campaigns.
Mr. Greenwald said he had a political awakening after Sept. 11 and dedicated himself to making liberal films, an endeavor he said he could afford having been “lucky enough to have been majorly overpaid in commercial film and television relative to any rational measure.”
His highest impact has been with his video about Mr. Parsley. The montage was created with help from David Corn, Washington Bureau chief for Mother Jones, who unearthed video of Mr. Parsley inveighing against Islam and saying, “America was founded in part with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed.”
Mr. Greenwald’s team combined it with video of Mr. McCain calling Mr. Parsley, “one of the truly great leaders in America, a moral compass, a spiritual guide.” The montage spread quickly across liberal Web sites, and made its way onto ABC News. Mr. McCain released a statement rejecting Mr. Parsley’s endorsement shortly thereafter.
“For years I sat in conversations with people who said the only way we can be effective is we have to raise $1 billion and buy CBS,” Mr. Greenwald said. “Well, Google raised a couple of billion and bought YouTube, and it’s here for us, and it’s a huge, huge difference.”
Like this hilarious Joe Cocker mashup, but with politics…
- and that a lot of the conventional wisdom about elections is bull since according to CW, 2008 is no different than 1932 [↩]