Instapundit and Wonkette Discuss YouTube and Politics with Howard Kurtz

Two titans of the blogosphere were invited on CNN's "Reliable Sources" Sunday to discuss tomorrow's CNN/YouTube presidential debate.

On the left was former Wonkette blogger, and current Time.com editor Ana Marie Cox. On the right was Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds.

What ensued was a rather informative discussion about how the Internet continues to impact American politics.

Here were some of the key points made by Reynolds (video available here, h/t Hot Air):

  • The Kennedy-Nixon debates really emphasized the importance of polish and preparation. And I think this is going to emphasize the importance of spontaneity and maybe even, dare I say it, a degree of authenticity.
  • I think the YouTube stuff actually in the humor in it is kind of nice, because I think there is a tendency to get some serious pomposity going in these sorts of things. And I think it's kind of fun to realize that ordinary people don't necessarily take this stuff as seriously as a lot of the participants do.

Here were some of Cox's key points:

  • I remember four years ago, Howie, talking to you about whether or not bloggers were going to be an important factor in the election and whether or not they were going to be a continuing factor. And it was easy to make fun of them, but look, here Glenn and I are right here with you four years later and you seem to be taking us somewhat seriously.
  • Politics takes up the same amount of, you know, sort of space and energy on YouTube that it takes up in most people's heads. And to the extent that adding a little, you know, cleavage can make it more interesting, or at least more clicked on, well that's going to happen.

What follows is a full transcript of this segment.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: So, are YouTube and other video Web sites really changing politics or just grabbing a lot of media attention?

Joining us now, Ana Marie Cox, Washington editor of time.com. And from Knoxville, Tennessee, Glenn Reynolds, University of Tennessee law professor who blogs at instapundit.com.

Glenn Reynolds, media analyst Kathleen Hall Jamieson was quoted the other day as describing this YouTube debate that's coming up on CNN tomorrow as the equivalent of the networks broadcasting the Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960.

Really?

GLENN REYNOLDS, INSTAPUNDIT.COM: Well, in a very different sort of way, I think. The Kennedy-Nixon debates really emphasized the importance of polish and preparation. And I think this is going to emphasize the importance of spontaneity and maybe even, dare I say it, a degree of authenticity.

KURTZ: Authenticity. That is a word that is often tossed around in campaigns.

Ana Marie Cox, let me play a couple more of the questions that have come in and ask you a question on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIORN SVENSON, YOUTUBE: Greetings. I am Biorn Svenson.

AUTOMATED VOICE: Greeting CNN and YouTube viewers. My name is One Among Many.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. My name is George. My question involves a scenario.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: I'll look forward to seeing all of those being televised.

ANA MARIE COX, TIME.COM: Yes.

KURTZ: But is this an exciting development that opens up the process to anybody with a Web cam, or is it more of a gimmick?

COX: Well, it's hard to say that it's not a gimmick. It's definitely a gimmick.

I mean, I'm not sure how many times I've heard about this debate today on CNN, but it's been quite a few. I'm very aware of it. And I'm aware that it's a YouTube debate.

That said, and as much as I want to be cynical about it, I remember four years ago, Howie, talking to you about whether or not bloggers were going to be an important factor in the election and whether or not they were going to be a continuing factor. And it was easy to make fun of them, but look, here Glenn and I are right here with you four years later and you seem to be taking us somewhat seriously.

I mean, I don't know, maybe you'll joke about us afterwards. But -- and so maybe, who knows, as jokey and gimmicky as this event may seem, as easy as it is to make fun, as easy as it is to submit fake, you know, questions, maybe this is something that will open up the debate to more people.

I think time will tell more than anything else. And we'll also have to see how the debate itself turns out.

KURTZ: All right.

Glenn, Ana thinks I'm taking her seriously.

YouTube is an unbelievably popular site. And so -- and at the same time, we know that a lot of people find politics boring. So I went on the site and I found out the two most popular videos, and this is out of 100 million videos out of yesterday, where one, Jessica Biel strips and, two, Michael Vincent (ph) photographs hot babes.

So how much space is politics really going to occupy in a world where those are going to be the most clicked-on videos?

REYNOLDS: Well, about the same space politics occupies in most people's lives, I think. And believe me, it's well behind hot babes. But I think that's probably healthy, too. And I hope politicians won't pick up the cue and start stripping for us.

I think the YouTube stuff actually in the humor in it is kind of nice, because I think there is a tendency to get some serious pomposity going in these sorts of things. And I think it's kind of fun to realize that ordinary people don't necessarily take this stuff as seriously as a lot of the participants do.

KURTZ: Want to weigh in on the hot babe question?

 

COX: I'm for hot babes, what can I say? But I also want to say there's another aspect of this which I think is interesting, which is the degree to which opening up this process can allow people who have not gotten their issues addressed -- addressed.

Right now I think it's 300 -- like a quarter of the videos that have been submitted are about education, because of -- a group called Strong American Schools went out and actively solicited children to submit videos. And I think that you can say, well, this is an unfair, you know, taking over of the debate by a group that we haven't heard of before that is an illegitimate group, or you can say, well, this is a chance for people who feel like their issues haven't been addressed to get -- actually get some air time.

I mean, who knows if you'll actually use any of those videos, but they've definitely made a point.

KURTZ: But, you know, it also is -- the Web has opened up everything, really, in terms of media and politics to the point where some actress can make a funny singing video, "Obama Girl," for example, and it can get clicked on a zillion times, and then there was "Obama Girl Versus Giuliani Girl," for people who haven't been watching this stuff.

Let's play a little bit of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (SINGING): From the GOP...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (SINGING): Obama...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (SINGING): (INAUDIBLE). Take it to the street.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (SINGING): Obama...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (SINGING): ... shake it to the beat

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COX: I thought you were taking us seriously, Howie.

KURTZ: OK. But so here's the thing -- you have candidates from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, to John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, putting up their own sort of speeches and -- but what gets clicked on the most? It's "Obama Girl".

COX: Are you shocked? I mean...

KURTZ: No, I'm not shocked at all.

COX: I'm not shocked either. And I think that it -- I think Glenn put it exactly right. Politics takes up the same amount of, you know, sort of space and energy on YouTube that it takes up in most people's heads. And to the extent that adding a little, you know, cleavage can make it more interesting, or at least more clicked on, well that's going to happen.

I think that -- I also think that Glenn is right in that it's also an indicator that we need -- all of us that take this very seriously, that's wonderful. But there are a lot of people that don't. And we need to remember that.

And we need to remember that there are ways to involve people -- those people in this process as well. I'm not sure if "Obama Girl" is the exact, you know, method I would go with. Maybe "Obama Boy".

KURTZ: Glenn Reynolds, is it potentially revolutionary, if you take the broad view of the cyber landscape here, that we now have a situation where anybody can bypass the mainstream media -- you don't need a printing press, you don't need a TV station -- and put up something like, for example, that Hillary 1984 video which kind of mocked Hillary Clinton and have an impact to the point where people like me then need to write about it and television shows it?

REYNOLDS: Oh, absolutely. And it really is often not what you expect.

I put a short video on my site which was about a car. And I got over half a million views on it because, you know, people are more interested in cars than they are in politics, I think.

KURTZ: What was so interesting about your car video?

REYNOLDS: Oh, it was a -- I happened on it in a mall. It was a Saturn Aura and it had an attractive interior. And I did about a 90- second video that said, look, a GM car with an attractive interior. It's a miracle.

And, you know, a lot of people watched it because -- well, that actually is news, right?

KURTZ: All right.

REYNOLDS: But I think that, you know, you'll see some focusing on what people want to see and what people care about, as opposed to what they think they ought to.

KURTZ: Ana Marie Cox, I've got about half a minute. But the candidates are also turning this into a tool.

When Hillary Clinton uses YouTube for a contest to pick her theme song, or she makes "The Sopranos" spoof with Bill Clinton, isn't that a way of successfully softening her image?

COX: I don't know if it's successful, but it definitely got us talking about whether or not her image had been softened. And that definitely works for her.

I think that she's using this medium, however, in a very top-down way. And kind of the opposite way that Glenn is talking about.

I mean, this is a candidate who is using the ability to bypass, you know, mainstream media and taking her message directly to the voters in a exact way she wants to. Which is sort of the opposite of what these YouTube videos are all about.

KURTZ: All right.

Glenn Reynolds in Tennessee, Ana Marie Cox, thanks very much for joining us.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.