Smoking kills… Your reputation

Those of you who do the readings for New Media will understand that this week’s reading discussed the effect of YouTube on political elections, in both the US and Canada. Strangelove mentions how YouTube and the internet opens up an entire new realm of political discussion. Political debates and discussions are no longer only reserved for television where they can be monitored and are forced to follow the proper political codes of conduct. With the internet, and now YouTube discussions can be as simplistic or complex as the producer chooses. Should a politician wish to make a simple video using very basic vernacular so as to connect with his/her less-educated audience, he/she has the ability to do so.  YouTube is the medium that allows him/her (from this point on let’s just assume I’m referring to both genders when I say “he” or “his” this whole “his/hers” and “he/she” thing is getting annoying… I have no issue with women in politics) to broadcast his message to his entire targeted audience. Personally I see this aspect of YouTube in politics as a good thing because generally politics is seen as reserved for the educated and the elite. And the problem with that is that the uneducated still are allowed to vote, and they make up a large percentage of the population. However, they are making uneducated decisions, and possibly not realizing who or what they’re voting for. YouTube makes it possible for candidates to speak with his or her audience face-to-face, in their language.

Some would argue with me (because that’s generally just what people do these days) that politicians have always gone out into the world and spoken face to face with their population. For example Barak Obama went to multiple small towns on his campaign tour and did small speeches in the town hall, or similar public places, and some would argue that that qualifies as face-to-face. I have a couple problems with that though. One being that those speeches or debates were still written in political language. A language that a large part of the population does not understand or comprehend. Therefore I would argue that these smaller scaled speeches are not face-to-face, or at least not as face-to-face as YouTube can allow. Also say one of the audience members at one of these speeches has a question, if he or she is not educated they are more than likely not going ask said question out of fear of embarrassment. YouTube however allows anyone to post a video, in an anonymous fashion, which takes care of the embarrassment factor, and let’s be honest talking to a computer monitor is much easier than talking to an entire crowd. YouTube also makes it possible for questioners to post their video in their own language, and by doing so will generally prompt responses with similar language, be it complex or laymen. Whereas a lot of people would find it rather embarrassing to use simple language or slang in front of a crowd that is generally considered to be educated and professional. Now, I’ll admit that obviously it is naive to think that every political candidate is going to have the ability to reply to every video post he or she receives asking questions. There simply is not enough time. But YouTube allows a politician to at least see what people are talking about, and then make one or two videos that attempt to reply to all of the questions. Plus even if the actual politician does not respond to your video post, chances are if it’s a good question, someone will reply to it. So this is how I feel YouTube is helping the political process. This is the positive effects I can potentially see in YouTube and politics. Unfortunately, as with everything, for every positive, there is always a negative.

The way I see it, YouTube has the potential to do terrible things to the political system as well. Watching YouTube lists a few examples of politicians in the US who lost their campaign because something they did, that was supposed to be “off the record” ended up on YouTube and dramatically changed their voters’ opinion of them. The book mentions how in today’s politics, just about everything a candidate does is seen by millions. Personally I feel this is wrong. In my opinion, politics is meant to be about what the public majority feels is the best way for their country/community to move forward. The masses decide how they want to live. However, I feel YouTube, and its’ ability to broadcast a politicians life during a campaign, is greatly clouding the decisions of the public. I feel this way because politics is essentially coming down to who gets caught making a mistake on camera, and who does not. This is not fair really because with amateur video it is very easy to hide a camera, and manipulate someone (even someone as bright as a politician) into making a mistake. For example, God knows how many pictures there are of Barak Obama smoking a cigarette, or of politicians saying outrageously dumb things, without realizing they were on camera. My point here is that whether Obama smokes or not has absolutely nothing to do with whether he will make a good president or not, but it certainly does hurt his image. And as for those politicians who get caught talking really stupidly, I feel that for the most part they are talking about something that has little to no relevance to politics. If everyone was constantly being watched or videotaped, the large majority of people would get caught making a mistake. It is part of being human, making mistakes is what we do. Voters minds and opinions are being clouded by these videos and pictures, and making decisions based on mistakes, rather than what each candidate is about. Certain politicians could have changed the world by making it a better place for all, but because there are images of them smoking or saying something stupid, they will never get the chance. For the most part this is YouTube and the amateur video’s fault.

So that’s how I feel about YouTube and politics. And this is the conclusion to my post. And you just read this sentence even though it is only here to make my concluding paragraph seem a little longer, and in the process made you waste a few seconds of your day; seconds that you will never get back. Sorry if I just ruined your day.

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