Politics 2.0
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The Attack Ad's Second Life

Despite "macaca" and "Hillary 1984," the 30-second TV campaign spot ain't going anywhere—yet.

| Wed Jun. 20, 2007 3:00 AM EDT

henry jenkins
The video is becoming the modern equivalent of the campaign button—something you wear, you display on your blog to spread the message to your friends and neighbors.

david weinberger
Every embarrassing moment is going to be shown on the Internet, whether the candidate likes it or not. The ones that can't deal with that are going to fail.

Bob Garfield
If I've got a cell phone, and a little bit of patience, I can catch somebody doing something that proves he's a liar or a hypocrite or just a bad guy. We'll see a rise in people getting totally caught being politicians, which will be fun, and probably pretty enlightening.

bill wasik
When people ask me "What do you think the political potential of flash mobs to be?" I say, "I don't really think that there is one." Flash mobs were an absurdist blip in a universe of social-networking phenomena that do have the power to be very revolutionary. That said, using cell phones to coordinate protests has allowed for decentralization, for people to organize. I wouldn't call those flash mobs, because I hope they stay longer than 10 minutes; I hope they stay long enough to get the point.

Julie Barko Germany
Think about how easy it is to spread rumors online. You have your supporters spread them so that it looks like a very organic movement. But the blogosphere is a great group of detectives.

henry jenkins
The downside is that checks on negative campaigning break down completely, and that's what we saw the last time with the Swift Boat Veterans: They went lower faster than any campaign would have been able to do on their own.

Jimmy Wales
In the past, when you'd see a vicious attack ad, you might find it distasteful, but you might also wonder if that person did that horrible thing. Online, you begin to see some of those things start to unravel, and people responding and saying, "Yeah, this is an attack ad, and this is what really happened."

Howard Dean
YouTube is an extraordinary innovation that basically turned the U.S. Senate over to the Democrats. Would I have remixed the Dean Scream? Absolutely. If YouTube existed at the time, we would have had something out the next day, saying, "This is what really happened."

michael turk
Very aggressive, over-the-top webmercials haven't gotten a lot of traction. People watch negative ads on TV because they are watching TV—they don't seek them out.

Joe Trippi
Look at the "Hillary 1984" spot—4 million Americans have already watched it. I guarantee you 4 million Americans have not watched any of the paid ads yet.


Stupid Tech Tricks

Stealing your rival's campaign signs is so old school. As politics moves online, so have the tricks of the trade:

Straight Talk?
The Trick: In March, John McCain's MySpace page announced that he now supported gay marriage, especially "between passionate females."
Whodunit: McCain's MySpace page used a template and images hosted on Mike Davidson's server without permission. Peeved, he doctored the image, which caused the gay-friendly message to appear on the senator's page.
Last Laugh: "I didn't hear anything from McCain," says Davidson, ceo of Newsvine, "but I added him as a friend and he added me back."

SkullDiggery
The Trick: Recently, 4 of the top 10 election stories on the news aggregator Digg were about perennial Libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul.
Whodunit: Stories on Digg rise to prominence based on users' votes (see "In Digg Nation"). An obsessed cadre "Diggs" almost anything Paul-related.
Last Laugh: A story noting the skewed selection disappeared from Digg, likely buried by Paulites steering the marketplace of ideas.

How to Make Friends
The Trick: This spring, more than 2.7 million people had viewed Barack Obama's YouTube page. Hillary Clinton's page had less than 79,000 views.
Whodunit: Popularity stats are easily gamed by setting a web browser to visit a site repeatedly, jacking up visitor counts.
Last Laugh: Beware page views as a reliable gauge of popularity.

Know Your Voter
The Trick: Last year, Minnesota voters were mailed a cd-rom that surveyed their views on gay marriage and other hot-button issues.
Whodunit: Spyware on the disc sent users' answers to a gop contractor.
Last Laugh: The gop said it had warned users that the CD was "interactive."

MySpace Invaders
The Trick: In May, Barack Obama's MySpace friends fell by 93 percent.
Whodunit: Volunteer Joe Anthony, who had built Obama's page two years ago, asked the Obama team to pay him $39,000. A turf battle ensued, with MySpace siding with Obama and taking the page away from Anthony. But the campaign was required to rebuild its friends list from scratch.
Last Laugh: Anthony cried foul, and the blogosphere drubbed Obama for mistreating the netroots.

—Josh Harkinson


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