Thoughts on Yesterday's Video

For those who are not familiar with the back story on that video, let me fill you in. The original ad was created by Apple for the 1984 Super Bowl. The only thing that was changed from the original was removing Big Brother's video and audio from the telescreen and replacing it with black-and-white video from Hillary Clinton. I thought it was a powerful ad that had an element of truth to it, which is necessary to make a parody work. I think it's fair to say that Senator Clinton's o'erweening ambition is no secret, and that almost all Republicans and not a few Democrats feel a sense of unease at the thought of her as President of the United States.

So what does the ad say about the state of politics in America in 2007? Well, it says that the Internet has changed political campaigns forever, for good or ill. No longer does a campaign ad require a professional ad agency to create the material or a television advertising time buy in order to disseminate the message. Instead, any reasonably intelligent person with some skill in video editing can create a video ad, and anyone with access to a YouTube account can then upload that video to the Internet. The gatekeepers no longer have control over the content or the dissemination of information. The Internet has been as revolutionary in breaking the monopoly of the Mainstream Media as Gutenberg's printing press was in breaking the religious monopoly of the Catholic Church, and this kind of ad shows the maturation of the process.

When I was growing up, the Mainstream Media had a complete monopoly on the information that the American people received. You had your choice of three television networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, which were ideologically as alike as peas in a pod. You had your local daily newspaper, and while there most likely was a morning paper and an evening paper, the odds were that they were both put out by the same publisher and thus were in ideological lockstep. Only if you lived in a really large city like New York or Chicago or Los Angeles were you likely to have different competitive newspapers vying for your attention. You could subscribe to weekly news magazines like Time or Newsweek, and if you were of a political bent, you could get something like The Nation or The Weekly Standard. If you were a real wonk, you could go to your local public library and read several-days-old out-of-town newspapers. And you could also read whatever you might find in that library or in bookstores. And that was the sum total of the information that was available to you.

Contrast that with today: I can read today's newspapers from across the country and around the world with a few mouse clicks. I can access more information with a Google search than I could have by going through the card catalogs and the periodicals at my local library when I was a kid. The sum total of mankind's knowledge is available to me, most of it for free or at most a nominal charge. And I can view videos of music or political commentary for only the cost of the time it takes me to download them. It is an exhilarating time to be alive.