Author Archive

February 20, 2012

Political Internet Activism

by Kyle Denhoff

Political Internet Activism

Political Statements on YouTube

Kyle Denhoff

Picture yourself a Senator Obama activist early 2008. Senator Obama and his team are looking for a way to persuade society to “vote different.” His campaign is built around change and not following the societal norm. How can you persuade the public to buy into his political image? You decide to use a piece of American nostalgia to persuade the masses.

Philip de Vellis, former employee of Blue State Digital, did just that by creating a mashup of the famous 1984 Apple commercial. By harnessing a piece of American nostalgia and a common societal belief, Vellis was able to use Internet activism to persuade the public. Therefore, showing that Internet activism positively affects political campaigns. Internet activism refers to the use of various forms of electronic media to communicate faster and deliver a statement to the masses.

The 1984 mashup uses the power of the Apple advertisement and changes the context to make a political statement. The mashup shows the same blonde female athlete running with a hammer towards a large screen depicting a ‘big brother’ figure speaking to a mass of followers. Only this time, the female has an Obama logo on her chest, and the big brother figure is his opponent Hillary Clinton. Hillary is giving the followers cliché political statements as the woman smashes the screen with the hammer. The tagline for the political ad reads, “”On Jan. 14, the Democratic primary will begin. And you’ll see why 2008 won’t be like 1984.”

The political advertisement persuades the viewer that Senator Obama is different and that his opponent is following the political norm. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, will not provide a different leadership philosophy for an already struggling nation. Therefore, persuasively convincing the viewer that the political norm is no longer acceptable and that their nation needs change.

The powerful message behind the ad sparked an instant reaction from society and positively boosted the Obama campaign. With the introduction of the Internet, the gap between campaigns and supporters has become slim. Individuals are now participants in the fight. Individuals with a computer and a creative program can create powerful emotional messages to support their beliefs.

Some may argue that Internet activism can be detrimental to a campaign. While activists create viral content it many times can be entertaining but more negative towards the opponent. The unauthorized ads can portray a political image or statement a campaign does not support. Therefore, campaigns need to put efforts toward apologies for certain Internet content. While this is one issue with Internet activism, there is a positive affect from thought provoking creative political statements that reach the masses.

The mashup was the most influential video to go viral during the campaign. With over 6 million views the political video used YouTube to communicate a statement. While YouTube is only one form of communication media, it uses the most powerful form of communication, video. Video allows for imagery and audio to work together to communicate a message. It is the only form of media that can show action. By utilizing YouTube and other forms of Internet video, campaigns can share ideas through a powerful form of media. Political activists have a variety of communication media outlets at their disposal and are able to promote through: text, video, audio, graphics, pictures, and interaction. The Internet provides campaigns with a new form of media that will become the standard in political activism.

Senator Obama eventually won the Democratic primary and eventually the presidency. His use of Internet activism helped push his campaign toward the younger demographic. He was able to reach a mass audience with his political views. By embracing Internet activism the Obama campaign was able to prove the power of the Internet and the various forms of communication media.