06 August, 2008

This could be a horrible idea. But...

I think it sounds fun. Andy Sullivan (whom, despite Spence's arguments, I still read) has come up with an idea to take the wind out of the sails of ridiculous negative campaign ads on both sides. He wants to host a competition for the best/worst amateur attack ad against either John McCain or Barack Obama (or Bob Barr or Ralph Nader, I suppose...). In his words:

Couldn't we take some of that power away from the pros - especially with negative advertizing - by pre-empting and defusing them? What I'm thinking of is a Dish Youtube contest to come up with the least fair, most effective negative ads for both sides. The technology is widely available for making your own 30-second negative spots, and it's good therapy. So let's flood the zone.

The hope is by flooding the nets with silly attack ads, it will diminish some of the ability of real attack ads to be taken as seriously as they are. I think this dynamic has already begun to happen to some extent with gaffes/embarrassing moments -- since every moment of every candidate's life are recorded and put on YouTube, none are free from widely available public scrutiny of their mistakes. That, in turn, diminishes the impact of any one misstep - a sort of law of diminishing returns from scandal.

Will this exercise change anything? Probably not -- but I agree with Sullivan that during the primaries there was a sense of the campaign being more participatory, with the news cycle as often as not being driven by viral videos (Obama girl!) or the decentralized energy of grassroots supporters. Now there is a sense of sitting back and waiting for the next ad to come out, and then arguing about what that ad means and how it will affect things, which is probably the single least illuminating way of carrying on a political debate. Maybe, in one more great moment of irony, the inanity of the internet can restore some semblance of sanity to the political discourse by satirizing the much greater inanity of the mainstream political process.

It's quick and easy to cut and paste a 30 second video...anyone else going to join me in seeing if I can't take Barry down a peg or two?

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