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July 23, 2007

You Tube “Debate”: For A Moment, Forced To Look Up


I don’t think Jeff Jarvis was so far off in his critical takedown of last night’s first YouTube debate.

The videos were too distant and remote from the candidates on what was effectively an indoor billboard (over-)promoting CNN.  (That garish stage that CNN keeps insisting on using was particularly inappropriate, marginalizing the role of YouTube.)  The fact the videos played on monitors on each candidate’s podium, as well as the large screen, sometimes made it hard to assess their degree of attention.  The video selection, itself, clearly favored the quirky.  The candidate videos were uneven and out-of-place.  Also, the distribution of speaker time was again out of whack.

But given all that, with the chance to witness the Democratic candidates literally looking up to, and listening to everyday Americans — that involvement fueling a good deal of emotion and spontaneity within the group — it would be hard to call this a bad night.

More snaps after the jump…





(screen grabs: BAGnewsNotes via CNN)

  • Gahso

    I didn’t watch the debate [yet], but these images look very Orwellian to me. Digital neon glare. Electricity buzzing, watts burning, energy, energy, energy going down the tubes. There’s certainly no sense of conservation or moderation in the look of this thing. Between the TeeVee and the Internets, this kind of event is literally happening INSIDE of the media.

  • a–

    CNN’s deliberate choice of quirkiness was so that its high profile mediators would not be upstaged by ‘average Americans’- which it was anyway. I was glad to see the candidates be able to go off message, if ever so slightly, in answering the questions and felt it was an insight into how strong the Dem’s are this time.
    It will be interesting to see the Repugs and to compare the softball questions I anticipate they will receive in comparison to the weighty ones the Dem’s faced- Define liberal? Why a woman, an African American, an Latino are qualified/desired candidates?, Why Mr Edwards are you the strongest woman’s rights advocate? Would you send troops to Darfur?
    In the end I felt the same; It was to important for CNN to brand the event and marginalize the Youtuber’s by insisting they remain small and insignificant. But the emotional was involved. Am I wrong or was John Edwards almost brought to tears at one point? And the way all but Mr. Edwards looked away when confronted by a grieving mother of a soldier in Iraq was a telling moment for their and our shame of this unnecessary war

  • Ed Kohler

    The questions seemed more authentic than the answers to me.

  • arty

    Bear in mind that the show’s promoters received videos from 1/100,000 of the US population, from those with enough technical savvy, time and vanity to do the work and send it off. What we got was people pretending they were on TV.
    The candidates behaved exactly as the format demanded – they pretended they were interested and gave enough of the audience reassurance that they cared. There was just enough “gotcha” to, again, seem like “real” TV. Everyone went home telling each other how cool and modern they all were and how much it all meant.
    Unfortunately this is just the beginning. From here the hill slants downward, and “seeming” authentic is good enough.

  • james

    Is there some reason that the only candidate pictured smiling is Clinton?

  • Dunc

    The most interesting (and valuable) part of the debate was that it incited people like Jarvis to ask the types of questions he did. There should be the same types of challenges to the legitimacy of every one of the debates – concerning participation and whose voice is heard when. The mantle of YouTube makes it easier and more effective to raise those questions.
    I think Arty has it right in terms of the potential for authentic participation in a YouTube debate of any kind. The same process of ‘dumbing down’ occurred with the Town Hall debates: from unscreened audience questions, to screened audience questions, to pre-submitted mutually agreed upon questions.

  • readytoblowagasket

    I think we have become so jaded in this country we can’t even recognize how amazing and important this event was.
    It wasn’t about the candidates’ authenticity.
    It wasn’t about CNN’s logo.
    It wasn’t about journalists’ self-important spin.
    It wasn’t about anyone’s haircut.
    It was about the people.
    3,000 informed citizens stepped up to their responsibility as voters.
    3,000 people took the time to think about a question.
    3,000 people were motivated enough to make a video and brave enough to submit it.
    39 were chosen. Black and white, old and young, sick and healthy, atheist and Christian, female and male, human and snowperson, smart and funny and deadly serious.
    It was awesome.
    Two lesbians asking if any of the candidates will let them get married. To each other. A woman with breast cancer who removed her wig to ask if any of the candidates will let her get the treatment that she can’t currently afford. Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Darfur, Vietnam, health care, the minimum wage, taxes, gay rights, No Child Left Behind, selective service, Social Security, illegal immigrants, are you man enough to address women’s rights, are you black enough not to be just another white guy, are you woman enough to deal effectively with sexism, are you just another corrupt politician who is going to screw us after you get elected, and why should we believe you anyway?
    Look at me, each voter said. What are you going to do for us, each fed-up American asked. And they asked on our behalf.
    By the people and for the people.
    It wasn’t about the person who answered, it was about the people who asked.
    Now, I have to go think about my video question for the Republican debate.

  • Robert

    Once again Mrs Clinton was spaced in the Center flanked by her “boys”. Any shot of Edwards or Obama had a good chance of also picturing Clinton.
    There was also the cade of using EXTREME close-up on Gravel making him look even more intense and angry.
    Poor Kucinich was once again on the end having to shout down at “the Big 3″ when addressing them.

  • PTate in FR

    I’m in France and glad to be watching these events unfold from afar. I would like to believe it gives me perspective, but it may just be relief.
    It is an odd set of photos you have chosen, and I am curious about your choice. Why does John Edwards look so sad? Why is Obama so grainy and out of focus? It is a lovely shot of Mrs. Clinton. She looks great in pink.

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