Thursday, August 7, 2008

McCain's YouTube dominance

Montana Headlines was recently taken gently to task over at Billings Blog for having acquired a taste for some of the more recent McCain ads mocking Obama's greatness and celebrity.

While Montana Headlines very often disagrees with David Crisp's opinions, they are always worthy of consideration and response.

To be sure, these recent McCain ads aren't on the artistic level of a Fassbinder trilogy, but then, they aren't supposed to be. Nor are they intended to be wonkish pieces with voices droning on about serious policy proposals.

John McCain is running against an opponent who has been basking in an aura that a very astute Obama campaign has assiduously worked to create. A big part of this has been the way that this aura is passed virally to susceptible hosts, as it were.

The job of a good political campaign faced with battling an opponent who floats in the clouds is to turn on a very strong fan an point it at said nebulous construction. And that is what the recent spate of McCain ads were intended to do. Hillary Clinton tried to pierce the Obama bubble, but unsuccessfully -- mainly because it was impossible for the Clintons to deal with such an upstart with a sense of humor. And it does take a sense of humor to deflate hubris of the Obama magnitude.

These niche videos were never to be broadcast on television to a broad audience -- they were intended to go viral, and that is exactly what they have done.

Mr. Crisp says that the McCain videos aren't particularly funny and are an "acquired taste," but it is apparently a taste increasingly shared by many:

Writing in the Washington Times, Stephan Dinan notes that McCain has solidly taken the lead in the YouTube wars.

Mr. McCain has pumped out a series of brutal yet entertaining attack ads and Web videos mocking the press and Mr. Obama, and the combination of wit and insult has pushed his YouTube channel to the sixth most watched on the site this week.

Mr. McCain has beat Mr. Obama's channel for seven straight days and 11 of the past 14 days, in a signal he intends to compete for the YouTube vote.

That is a giant reversal. Mr. Obama had been quadrupling Mr. McCain's YouTube views and beat him every day since February, according to TubeMogul, which tracks online video viewing.

Do we political types want to sit around and debate the finer points of policy? Absolutely. Has McCain sunk to a low level, as Mr. Crisp contends? Perhaps. But it is in the soothingly warm sunken jacuzzi of nebulous feel-good imagery that Sen. Obama has been basking during this campaign -- casually putting away a field of quite distinguished Democratic contenders, most of whom were superior to him in political and governmental experience.

Since then, he has been just patiently waiting, it seems, for the boring routine of having the people vote to annoint him President.

Willie Sutton famously answered the question of why he robbed banks with a simple answer: "because that's where the money is."

And in any war -- real or metaphorical -- at some point you have to chase down the opposition where it is living and destroy it. That's all that McCain is doing with ads like "Celebrity" and "The One."

The world of the internet video is not the only front in this campaign, but it is an essential one in 2008, one where until now Sen. Obama has had the field largely to himself, reaping huge benefits in the process. As a result, we now face the improbable situation of putting a man who only 4 years ago was an undistinguished Illinois state senator (and who has done little during 4 years in the U.S. Senate but run for President) into the most powerful elected position on the planet.

Oh yes, not only is it allowable for John McCain to enter this particular fray -- it is his duty.


Anonymous said...

Rule for John McCain to remember: don't mock someone who can out funny you. Paris Hilton, of all people, made McCain look like the geezer he is.

Montana Headlines said...

A couple of problems with that theory: one, Paris Hilton video only drew more attention to the McCain ad -- and for what it is worth she basically endorsed the "all of the above" approach to energy independence that McCain supports. All in all, Paris Hilton helped McCain.

Two, Obama is utterly incapable of "out-funnying" McCain, or nearly anyone else for that matter. He and his campaign are too busy looking for slights and complaining about minor scrapes and bumps to have any sense of humor whatsoever.