'Propaganda 101'

I couldn't help but smile when I read the following Wall Street Journal article that's making its way around lefty blogland. In it, reporters Antonio Regalado and Dionne Searcey look into the mystery of a fun little parody video of Al Gore and his global warming movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," posted at YouTube.

But all is not as it seems, however. According to our dynamic duo, the video was uploaded from a person using the computer owned by the DCI Group, a political lobbying firm that (wait for it) has connections with the nefarious ExxonMobil.

That may or may not be the case. The funny part of the article is how suspicious Regalado and Searcey seem to be that non-liberals may be finally starting to use films to carry political messages:

The anti-Gore video represents a less well-known side of YouTube. As its popularity has exploded, the public video-sharing site has drawn marketers looking to build buzz for new music releases and summer blockbusters. Now, it's being tapped by political operatives, public relations experts and ad agencies to sway opinions. Ogilvy & Mather, for example, says it plans to post amatuer-looking videos on Web sites to spark word-of-mouth buzz about Foster's beer.

For marketers and pranksters of all sorts, online video is the latest venue for tactics "they've been doing for years," says Fred Wertheimer, president of the watchdog group Democracy 21. "What we don't know is will this have any impact. In the political arena it's the great experiment right now."

Politicians and marketers already make wide use of email lists and blogs, and it has long been possible to distribute information over the Internet while disguising its origins. But Web video operates on a different level, stimulating viewers' emotions powerfully and directly. And because amusing animations with a homespun feel can be created just as easily by highly paid professionals to promote agendas as by talented amateurs, caveat emptor is more relevant than ever. [...]

Of course, Mr. Gore and his allies have also used the Internet to great advantage. To stoke interest in his film, the distributor of "An Inconvenient Truth," Paramount Classics, created its own YouTube video by cartoonist Matt Groening, creator of "The Simpsons." Called "Al Gore's Terrifying Message," the video, which features a cartoon version of Mr. Gore arguing with a robot, has had more than a million views. Paramount is identified as the source next to the video.

Meanwhile, critics of Mr. Gore have frequently sought to get their message out through conservative bloggers, talk radio and Internet news services. Marc Morano, communications chief for Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who has led opposition to climate legislation on Capitol Hill, says an Internet strategy is both effective and necessary because mainstream news organizations are "promoting the message of Gore uncritically."

Internet videos could prove particularly potent, because they may influence watchers in ways they don't realize. Nancy Snow, a communications professor at California State University, Fullerton, viewed the penguin video and calls it a lesson in "Propaganda 101." It contains no factual information, but presents a highly negative image of the former vice president, she says. The purpose of such images is to harden the views of those who already view Mr. Gore negatively, Dr. Snow says.

Call me crazy, but isn't the entire point of "Inconvenient" to score political points and to "harden" people who have casually bought into the idea of human-caused global warming? (Oh, and make people think Al Gore is cool.) Doesn't our fearless reportorial duo feel even a little bit weird about comparing, at "worst," a viral video produced for under 3k with a "documentary" film costing far more, promoted by Paramount, the creator of the "Simpsons," and basically every MSM outlet?

I, for one, am outraged that those dastardly neocons would even try to get their message out. Why don't they just roll over play fair like the true conservatives did back in the day?

Useless fact: The penguins in the video are made from an image of Tux, the official mascot of the Linux computer operating system.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013