Something fundamental about the way we campaign changed this week.
Candidates no longer have a monopoly on campaigning. Citizens want in on the action too.
The raging controversy this week over the 1984 YouTube video: that jammed up Hillary Clinton is only the latest milestone in a growing trend. The apparent creator of this video -- Philip de Vellis, who worked for Sen. Obama's web consultants -- was anything but an ordinary citizen. In its provenance, the ad was tainted, but in its message, it rung true enough that it was viewed by more than 2 million people on YouTube, and was picked up by countless other media outlets. So, de Vellis was not just some political enthusiast hacking away in his basement. Rapid advances in video editing software make it a near-certainty that the next ParkRidge47 (de Vellis' YouTube handle) will be. Campaigns will have to be prepared for anything and everything these amateur content creators can throw at them.
And the thing here is this: None of this is fundamentally about the Internet. Sure, the technology makes it easier for citizens to act on ideas. But the blogosphere did not create a new market for political junkies. It just moved some of the political debates you had with your Uncle Sal to a more public online stage, where they are now part of a seamless conveyor belt of ideas that leads from the blogger's laptop to the evening news and back again.
There is nothing new or unnatural about this way of doing politics. The broadcast era was all about artificial limits imposed by imperfect, transitory technologies. Broadcast TV replaced door-to-door politics and civic involvement plummeted. Campaigns slashed budgets for canvassing and plowed their money into television.
Today, peer-to-peer politics is back with a vengeance. Except your local precinct is the entire country. It's politics as us junkies have always wanted it to be -- with no holds barred and no limits of geography or financial support.
It's scary to think about, but one kid can produce a YouTube video that changes the tenor of the campaign. And the only thing a candidate (and most importantly, their supporters) can do is to raise the volume. Make sure that the sheer scale of the activity on your behalf is louder and more compelling than the attacks against you.
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