'YouTube Moments' Hold Politicians Accountable

from the power-to-the-people dept

Virginia Postrel points out a great story on the way YouTube is changing the dynamics of political debate. It points out that when Bill Clinton was first running for president in 1992, the media landscape had relatively few mechanisms for holding politicians accountable for misstatements. There was only room for so many stories on the nightly news, and so when politicians told white lies, reporters tended to move on before anybody could check the claims for accuracy. But now that anyone can create a blog post or a YouTube video, politicians' fibs and gaffes can take on a life of their own, whether it's Hillary Clinton's sniper fire, Barack Obama's "bitter" Pennsylvanians, or John McCain's "100 years in Iraq." The nightly news doesn't always cover these kinds of comments when they happen, but someone in the blogosphere almost always catches them and they then get endlessly reported, debunked, and hashed out online. And once a clip has generated a lot of heat among bloggers, it can often become a big enough story that mainstream media outlets pick it up again. While some of these attacks can be nit-picky or taken out of context, on the whole it's a definite improvement in the quality of democratic debate. With video cameras everywhere and bloggers ready to pounce on any misstatement, politicians have a stronger incentive to tell the truth, and not to talk out of both sides of their mouth.

Meanwhile, USA Today reports that the presidential candidates are raising eye-popping sums of money in small increments via the Internet. In the first quarter of 2008, Barack Obama led the pack with $129 million in small donations, followed by Hillary Clinton at $65 million and John McCain at $37 million. Even John McCain's fundraising would have been considered a major accomplishment four years ago -- Howard Dean made headlines with $15 million in online donations in the third quarter of 2003, much of it from small donors. If the trend lasts -- and there are good reasons to think it will -- it will also have a democratizing effect on the political process. Presidential candidates will be more inclined to pay attention to the priorities of grassroots activists, and comparatively less worried about pleasing insiders capable of raising money in $2300 increments.

And of course, these developments are connected. The rise of blogs, YouTube, and other participatory media has gotten more people engaged and invested in the political debate, which in turn makes them more likely to open their wallets. Conversely, the fact that blog readers are often campaign contributors gives bloggers real leverage over candidates -- bloggers can punish candidates perceived as not playing fair by directing contributions to their opponents. All of which is producing a more engaged and accountable political process. Of course, things are far from perfect, but there are good reasons to think that 21st century politics will be better than politics was in the 20th century.

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  • identicon
    SailorRipley, 6 May 2008 @ 12:05pm

    1 remark...I don't think "Presidential candidates will be more inclined to pay attention to the priorities of grassroots activists, and comparatively less worried about pleasing insiders capable of raising money in $2300 increments."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    comboman, 6 May 2008 @ 12:07pm


    Of course, things are far from perfect, but there are good reasons to think that 21st century politics will be better than politics was in the 20th century.

    Riiiiight. Because having the media concentrate on every off-hand remark a candidate makes is so much more important than talking important issues like the economy or the war.

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  • identicon
    BlowURmindBowel, 6 May 2008 @ 12:32pm


    Send in the Trolls!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2008 @ 12:40pm

    Won't change anything for a good 10-20 years, I reckon

    Barely anyone bothers to look up political quotes on the net unless it's a "lol look how stupid bush is" thing, and of the few that do, only a small percentage will actually vote.

    So until the internet-minded generation gets to the "we actually care about voting" stage, none of this will make any difference.

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  • identicon
    Chris, 6 May 2008 @ 1:25pm

    Until the baby boom generation is dead it's kind of pointless to vote. They are the majority in this country and they decide the elections.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Freedomfighta, 6 May 2008 @ 3:23pm


    As Michael Moore demonstrates video can lie as well as any other medium. A little clip here, a cut there, and its easy to lie. Even in the above post the McCain reference is utterly decontextualized on YouTube because its clear when you watch the nonedited version thta McCain was referring to hundred in the reference of a base like we had in Germany or Japan- NOT ongoing military actions. Cameras lie just as much as anything else.

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  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 6 May 2008 @ 6:30pm


    "So if crime fighters fight crime and firefighters fight fires, what does a "FreedomFighta" fight?"


    Next question?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 6 May 2008 @ 6:57pm

    Read The Post

    Some of you seem to be reading the post, and mixing two separate arguments by Tim:

    #1 A publicly accessible log of video clips will hold politicians more accountable.

    #2 As the Internet changes the nature of fundraising from a few rich donors to numerous smaller donors, Politicians will continue to pander to their contributors, but that group will look more and more like 'every citizen'.

    Many of you (like comment 2) do a very nice job of refuting his conclusions in #2 based on the downside of #1.

    I think the #2 point by Tim is a great observation, and is one of the few optimistic elements I have heard regarding politics in the 21st century.

    Tim's point #1 is more ambiguous, as it's true that "clipping" politicians' videos, and catching them out of context has led to guarded politicians who stick to party lines, and are afraid to ad lib. It has also fueled lots of "out-of-context" propaganda on every side of every debate. But the "clipping" would occur if there were an Internet record or not. Plenty of "News" (and I use the term loosely) shows don't need the net to edit video out of context.

    But there is a more important trend at play than clipping, and that is the Internet's memory. Now, average Joe's can find politicians who change what they say as a matter of convenience, or who are particularly inconsistent. Accountability might be a bit of a surprise, since the only show that seems to hold politicians responsible for things they have said in the past is a f@#$# comedy show. Why isn't this part of the newsmedia's regular day job?

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  • identicon
    AdminJen, 21 Jul 2008 @ 10:36am


    Along these lines, I got tired of being insulted by politicians when I would write them about some issue that I was concerned about. Some pols don't seem to have a problem dismissing people or calling them "insane" via email because they don't think their words are going to get any further than the recipient. So I've started a message board called http://www.rudepoliticians.com where anyone can post their correspondence with politicians. Pols should be held more accountable for their actions. I, for one, wouldn't vote for a politician if I knew he/she was abusing his/her power and acting like a total jerk. Politicians should be open-minded and responsive to citizens. The Internet gives us a great way to expose the bad apples.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David Marshall, 5 Mar 2012 @ 11:43am

    Congress protects U.S. Service Personnel?

    The U.S. Constitution makes it the responsibility of the U.S. Congress, "To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces"; Article I, Section 8, Clause 14.

    "Non-consensual experimentation is illegal" [5] on U.S. convicted Rapists and Murderers vs. "experiments that were designed to harm" [3 & 4] conducted on U.S. SERVICE PERSONNEL encouraged by the Feres "incident to service" Doctrine [2 & 7] ?

    In 2012 still not prohibited are the U.S. Senate's 1994 reported 50 years of Department of Defense (DOD) "military research" "experiments that were designed to harm" conducted on "hundreds of thousands"![3] The to-date continuation of experiments on U.S. Service Personal is illustrated by the withheld needed for treatment but "experiments that were designed to harm" [3] identifying evidence, e.g., the U.S. Congress's 8 times from 1999 to-date rejection of the "Veterans Right to Know Act" [1]. Underlying this is the still currently ignored 1994 U.S. Senate Report, "Is Military Research Hazardous to Veterans' Health?", "III. Findings and conclusions", "K. DOD and DVA have repeatedly failed to provide information and medical followup to those who participate in military research..." plus "N. Participation in military research is rarely included in military medical records, making it impossible to support a veteranís claim for service-connected disabilities from military research."[3]

    U.S. convicted rapists and murderers are protected from human experiments by the U.S. Constitutionís Bill of Rights, Amendment 8. This is demonstrated by the 1992 U.S. Senate signed United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) "...Article 7 - Freedom from Torture, or Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment."[5] Under the Article 7's "Basic Rights of Prisoners." is, "Written policy and practice prohibit the use of inmates for medical...experiments." and "Non-consensual experimentation is illegal"! Nineteen (19) times cited is the U.S. Constitution plus its 8th Amendmentís no cruel and unusual punishment.[5] On May 23, 2011 the U.S. Supreme Court decided that crowded prisons are in violation of the U.S. Constitutionís, Bill of Rights, Eighth Amendment no cruel and unusual punishments, i.e., Brown v. Plata (09-1233).

    In the 2002 U.S. Senate Feres Doctrine Hearing [2] the rejection of the underlying experimentation issue is verified by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) ignoring testimony. In 1987 the U.S. Supreme Court Stanley DOD non-consensual, experiment was decided.[7] Stanley's injuring "to harm" drug experiment was classified as a 1950 U. S. Supreme Court Feres Doctrine "incident to service"![8] This 1958 experiment on Stanley was in direct disobedience of the Secretary of the DOD's 1953 NO non-consensual experiments order![9] The 1994 U.S. Senate Report stated, "The Feres Doctrine should not be applied for military personnel who are harmed by inappropriate human experimentation when informed consent has not been given." Stanley is one of the U.S. Senate's, "hundreds of thousands" of human "experiments that were designed to harm" documented by the Senate [3] and Government Accountability Office (GAO).[4] Millions of service records were destroyed in a 1973 National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) fire, followed by Congressís 1974 Privacy Act that censored experiment verifying witnesses from any surviving and future records. All consistent with the still U.S. Congress and DOJ overlooked CIA, Inspector Generals 1957 "it was necessary to conceal these activities from the american public in general, because public knowledge of the unethical and illicit activities would have serious repercussions in political and diplomatic circles...."; Stanley Case, PDF version, Section IV, Page 16 of 21, Footnote 4.[7] All of this misplaced evidence underlies the Court of Veterans Appeals Chief Judge stated, "The court may not review the schedule of ratings for disabilities or the policies underlying the schedule."[6], i.e., a "Non-consensual experimentation is" NOT "illegal" policy!

    In 2012 shouldn't U.S. Service Personnel have the same U.S. Constitutional Rights that convicted rapists and murderers keep?[5] PLEASE HELP by requiring your members in the U.S. Congress to provide U.S. Military Personnel with the same protection and getting others to do the same!

    REFERENCES:>>>[1] The "Veterans Right to Know Act" was proposed by H.R. 3256, 1999; S. 2953, 2000; H.R. 511, 2001; S. 405, 2001; H.R. 5060, 2002; S. 2704, 2002; H.R. 4259, 2005 and H.R. 2434, 2007.>>>[2] "THE FERES DOCTRINE: AN EXAMINATION....." www.access.gpo.gov/congress/senate/pdf/107hrg/88833.pdf >>>[3] December 8, 1994 REPORT 103-97 "Is Military Research Hazardous to Veterans' Health?...." Hearings Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, 103rd Congress 2ND Session.>>>[4] GAO September 28, 1994 "Human Experimentation Overview...." T-NSIAD-94-266 archive.gao.gov/t2pbat2/152601.pdf >>>[5] U.S. State Dept., "U.S. Report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights July 1994, Article 7 - Freedom from Torture, or Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment." "1994 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights" Index of "Treaties and Legal Issues" || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage>>>[6] "STATE OF COURT, CHIEF JUDGE FRANK Q. NEBEKER, STATE OF THE COURT,...TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF VETERANS APPEALS THIRD JUDICIAL CONFERENCE, OCTOBER 17-18, 1994>>>[7] U.S. SUPREME COURT, JUNE 25, 1987, U.S. V. STANLEY , 107 S. CT.. 3054 (VOLUME 483 U.S., SECTION 669, PAGES 699 TO 710). http://supreme.justia.com/us/483/669/ case.html>>>[8] Feres v. United States, 340 U.S. 135, 146 (1950).>>>[9] Pages. 343-345: "The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code; Human Rights in Human Experimentation" George J. Annas and Michael A. Grodin (N. Y.: Oxford University Press, 1992).

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