Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: "The YouTube Presidency"

Thursday, May 05, 2011

"The YouTube Presidency"

When you type in “President Barack Obama” into YouTube, millions of videos come up; most of these videos have been uploaded by BarackObamadotcom, or whitehouse.  Obama has a team of people (called the White House new-media-operations team) that are in charge of uploading certain videos for the President as well as sending the links out to millions of people on their mailing list. A YouTube search for “Barack Obama would (for the most part) be videos approved and uploaded by his new-media team, whereas “President George Bush” would be parody, videos of TV news clips, and videos mocking him such as “George Bush Idiot”.

From the start, Obama and his team understood that going viral was the best way to campaign. He carefully designed videos that were great for his image by choreographing speeches and interviews infused with applause. 

“And while Obama’s campaign speeches weren’t delivered expressly for YouTube the way the Oval Office addresses are delivered for TV, the versions of those speeches millions of us saw were tailored to the site, with titles, omissions, crowd cutaways, highlight footage and a dozen other manipulations of sound and image that affected the impression they made.  When Obama delivered his speech on race a year ago, the campaign uploaded, for example, its own version of the speech; it was cleaner and more elegantly produced that the CNN version, and it has been played more than 1.5 million times” (Heffernan)

Some critics say that this new-media team takes away from the emotion that thrives at live events.  Something is “lost” when Presidents are always prepared with a speech and a team of experts rather than a more casual interview.  But would these critics rather a biased article written by a journalist, or a short sound bite followed by commentary from the press?  By uploading speeches onto YoutTube, the viewer can have their own opinion of the speech and are encouraged to express their views by commenting on the video.  Even though the shooting and spreading of the videos are very closely controlled by the new-media team, the public is free to have their own opinion and state them on the YouTube page.

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