All three frontrunners in the US presidential election have found ingenious ways of using the new media to their advantage. This is the first time YouTube and social networking sites like Facebook are being extensively used to woo potential voters.
On Facebook, each one of the three has more than 500 groups devoted to him (or her) one way or the other. But Obama has clearly the largest following. The biggest group for “John McCain as President” has a measly 15,554 members. Against this 514, 897 have already joined “One Million Strong for Barack”, a group that got 100 members in its first hour and became 200,000 strong within three weeks.
Unfortunately for the former first lady, the “Stop Hillary Clinton” group is ahead of the “Hillary Clinton for President” group by a whopping 958, 892 members!
Among videos, the principal pop pellet launched from the Hillary arsenal is the ad featuring a collection of actor Jack Nicholson’s film lines, beginning with: “And now folks, it’s time for who do you trust? Hubba hubba, money money. Who do you trust?” Clearly this commercial echoes the Hillary biggie that went: “It’s 3am, and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?”
On YouTube, as on Facebook, it is the Obama supporters who have gone truly viral.
First there was the young woman breathlessly crooning about a crush on Obama. Then his Iowa victory speech was turned into a red-hot video featuring young and hot celebrities ranging from Scarlett Johansson to John Legend. The next installment starred an even more dynamic Hollywood line-up including Ryan Phillippe and Jessica Alba. An Academy Award nominees’ collaboration also yielded the catchy Something About The Man.
And in one of the latest developments, an ingenious YouTuber has fixed up images of Obama to the soundtrack of a John F. Kennedy campaign classic, whose catchy refrain goes: “Do you want a man for president who’s seasoned through and through? But not so doggoned seasoned that he won’t try something new. A man who’s old enough to know and young enough to do. It’s up to you, it’s up to you. It’s simply up to you.”
Dr Sangeeta Mediratta, who teaches at Stanford University, says the “fun song about one young woman liking Obama humanises him, but the racially diverse videos give his speech the resonance of an anthem”.
Most would agree with Janhavi Agashe, a PhD student at the University of Florida, that the number of “regular people reaching out with their cellphones and digicams to post a lot of stuff” is pumping new energy into American democracy.