Thursday, March 22, 2007

Who needs Republicans when Democrats are perfectly capable of swiftboating each other?

Color me (somewhat) surprised. I really had thought that the Hillary 1984 mashup of the old Apple commercial benefited Republicans the most and probably was one of those Karl Rove "leave no fingerprints" dirty tricks. The image of Hillary as a totalitarian Big Sister is one of the oldest Republican hot button talking points. At the same time, the You Tube hit suggested that Obama was more than willing to stoop to sleazy tactics. In other words, both of the leading Democratic contenders were at least briefly tarnished. What Democrat would want that?

Apparently, Democrat Phil De Vellis -- who worked for Blue State Digital, which designed the Obama campaign's Web site (Obama, however, disclaimed any involvement in this exercise in creativity). And De Vellis actually seemed quite proud of himself, as he wrote in the Huffington Post:
Hi. I'm Phil. I did it. And I'm proud of it.

I made the "Vote Different" ad because I wanted to express my feelings about the Democratic primary, and because I wanted to show that an individual citizen can affect the process. There are thousands of other people who could have made this ad, and I guarantee that more ads like it--by people of all political persuasions--will follow.

This shows that the future of American politics rests in the hands of ordinary citizens.
For smarmy disingenuousness, this is hard to beat. Leaving aside the fact that, Web 2.0 rhetoric to the contrary, most ordinary citizens are probably not capable of sitting down and whipping up their own video mashups -- with nearly a year to go until the primaries, what is a Democrat doing attacking a fellow Democrat with rightwing Republican talking points. Saying the mashup was funny doesn't get him off the hook. Steve at No More Mister Nice Blog seems to agree.
Look, I have problems with Hillary Clinton, but just as David Geffen should have known he was repeating (and reinforcing) right-wing memes when he talked to Maureen Dowd, Phil De Vellis should have known that with this ad he was reinforcing the right-wing message that Hillary is a monster who seeks to accrue excessive amounts of power, which she craves because she has totalitarian impulses and can't wait to crush America under her jackboot.
He goes on to point out that this is not the first time De Vellis has played footsie with the right to attack a fellow Democrat.

Yes, the ad is fun to watch. But the humor -- and the fact that De Vellis seems more naive than malicious -- masks another issue we need to look at before it comes back and bites us. This time, the anonymity of YouTube helped facilitate what was essentially a clever prank. What if it had been a Rovian dirty trick? How would we know the difference? And how will we keep real dirty tricksters from using YouTube as a conduit in the closing moments of a close race in the future, now that it's been conclusively demonstrated how quickly a striking pseudo-ad can go viral?

No comments: