« Synergy | Main | Who's To Blame For Inequality? »

August 20, 2006

YouTube and Spontaneity

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

Ryan Lizza in the NYT lets a few Beltway insiders gripe about how YouTube has changed the Rules of Politics (which is strange, because I thought there were no rules in a knife fight). This level of hype is ridiculous; a review of the evidence counts Conrad Burns, Tramm Hudson, and George Allen as the only "casualties" of YouTube, despite the fact that none of these candidates have lost an election due to YouTube. Plus, Burns's re-election prospects were in dire straits before he got caught napping through a farm bill hearing. Meanwhile Patty Murray survived her "gaffe" where she pointed out why, exactly, Osama bin Laden had become a popular figure in poor Muslim countries, and what the US could do to change the situation. So let's not freak out about the power of recorded video just yet.

The article also features overwrought concerns that the YouTube era will inhibit candidate's ability to "road-test some ideas". At the national level this is just silly; politics has been a poll-tested venture since at least 1984, if not substantially earlier. As for fears that  "politicans have to be perfect from Day 1", I'd like to think Americans are a pretty forgiving bunch, so until there's a pattern of total lack of judgement, getting caught with a slip-up or two probably isn't the end of a candidate's career. Unless it's racist/communist/pro-terrorist.

That said, here's a quick list of things no politician should do in public:

  • Don't be a racist.
  • Don't pick your nose.
  • Avoid gay-bashing, since twenty years from now that won't be a political winner
  • Never use sarcasm. Use self-deprecating facetiousness with extreme caution.
  • Never use the rhetorical technique of reductio ad absurdum, i.e. never pull a William Bennett.

As best I can tell, all of those were on every politician's "donts" list before YouTube arrived.

August 20, 2006 | Permalink

Comments

Avoid gay-bashing, since twenty years from now that won't be a political winner

This is a joke, right? Can you name a campaign that looked ahead past the next upcoming election?

Posted by: Allen K. | Aug 20, 2006 11:37:58 PM

Ryan Lizza is one of the good'uns, to the best of my knowledge, but how the fuck does anyone from TNR get outside work anymore? Or at least work outside the Murdoch empire? And especially work from a paper/institution that famously got rolled by the neocons?

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Aug 20, 2006 11:38:12 PM

I think youtube hurts, on the whole, conservative leaders more than liberal leaders. Honestly, when one thinks about it, who is more likely to have public views that are vastly at variance with personal views. Modern conservatism depends on lying to various people to thrive. take away the illusion, and one has the old man tinkering with the gizmos behind the curtain like the wizzard in the the Wizzard of OZ.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 20, 2006 11:55:32 PM

oh- and william bennet is a prime example of this with his whole admitting Jon Stewart was right about gay marriage being inevitable when Bennet visited the Daly Show.

Posted by: akaison | Aug 20, 2006 11:57:05 PM

I can't think of an example where a politician has used abductio ad absurdum and been hurt for it. Can you give examples?

Posted by: apantomimehorse | Aug 21, 2006 1:06:49 AM

Oh duh, the link. Hmm, I'm not sure that's a warning about abductio ad absurdum in general. More like, "don't make racist abductio ad absurdum arguments".

Posted by: apantomimehorse | Aug 21, 2006 1:08:43 AM

I know what reductio ad absurdum is, but what's abductio ad absurdum? Is that when the aliens take you away to an absurd place?

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Aug 21, 2006 1:12:47 AM

I know what reductio ad absurdum is, but what's abductio ad absurdum?

Ya know, Neil, if space aliens abducted all the African American babies, the crime rate would go down.

Posted by: Vladi G | Aug 21, 2006 1:20:20 AM

Another thing politicians need to worry about: Dissuading their volunteers from getting in brawls. Al "I occupy space" Wynn's goons have certainly given his challenger, Donna Edwards, a lot more favorable media attention than she would have received just by being a superior candidate -- which she is.

Posted by: sglover | Aug 21, 2006 1:20:52 AM

I find it hard to believe YouTube will change the political realities largely because I find it hard to believe YouTube will continue to exist for very long. It takes an enormous amount of bandwidth, which it does not seem to be anywhere near paying for yet. And it will be a while before a company does figure out how to make that pay enough.

Posted by: Tony v | Aug 21, 2006 9:30:44 AM

tony- what's your day job?

Posted by: akaison | Aug 21, 2006 10:57:38 AM

apantomimehorse: I can't think of an example where a politician has used [re]ductio ad absurdum and been hurt for it. Can you give examples?

Rick Santorum: Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that's what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality.
--AP Interview; April 20, 2003

Posted by: Chris | Aug 21, 2006 1:39:28 PM

Ronald Reagan was pretty notorious for making bizarre, unsupported, bellicose statements. So was Barry Goldwater. One got hurt by them, the other didn't.

The end results don't seem to have been determined by the gaffes, but much more by the personalities of the two candidates, and the context of the times they were living in.

Posted by: Chris | Aug 21, 2006 1:42:47 PM

Oh duh, the link. Hmm, I'm not sure that's a warning about abductio ad absurdum in general. More like, "don't make racist abductio ad absurdum arguments".

Actually, in as much as the crime rate in the African Americans group is higher than that of the general population - isn't he factually correct? Given the way he couched the comment, I don't see him as being particularly racist in this statement.

Posted by: Phoenician in a time of Romans | Aug 21, 2006 9:06:49 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.