Brian Slesinsky's Weblog

Friday, 23 Mar 2007

Here Comes More Video Spam

Apparently a recent anti-Hillary video on YouTube has gotten the professional political types worried about what's going to happen now that anyone can make a political commercial anonymously and for free. I'm thinking we went through this all before with text spam; the interest in this video shows that we're roughly at the Green Card lawyers phase of figuring out what this is all about. I don't have any answers but will speculate somewhat aimlessly about it anyway.

Since it worked once, I expect we'll see lots more anonymous political commercials on Internet sites. But maybe there's a silver lining: with so many commercials being produced, each one will get a decreasing amount of attention. When political commercials were expensive and campaigns had to own up to them, they were usually only highly misleading. When any hack can do it, then we'll see more outright lying. If we're lucky, this erodes the credibility of all political commercials so much that the end result is that most people send any video from an anonymous source direct to the spam bucket and they are only approximately as influential as unsolicited requests from Nigerian diplomats to give you money. The days of TV-driven politics come to an end, and campaigns spend their money on... what?

But then again, apparently people forwarded this one around because they thought it was entertaining, which suggests another strategy: be funny or interesting enough and you get free distribution. So I expect this will make boring or downbeat political commercials less influential, in favor of commercials that look like music videos, with digg-style sites to rate them, and a further merger of politics and entertainment. If the stereotypes about the politics of creative types are at all accurate, that probably favors the left.

It seems likely that most people will still be curious about what's really happening and put aside entertainment to look for real information from reliable sources, especially when something they care about is at stake. But is that enough to ground politics in reality? (Has it ever been grounded in reality?) What does it mean when knowledge has to be dressed up in a seamless blend of science, politics, and entertainment (like in An Inconvenient Truth) to be widely recognized?