Ed Driscoll

You Can't Always Come Back, Baby—Because YouTube Never Forgets

And now, a few words on the long-term dangers of deficit spending, from a rather unlikely source:

(Correct me if I’m wrong, but he wasn’t too crazy about President Bush’s foreign policy, either. Go figure.)

On his personal blog, after linking to the above clip, Moe Lane writes about a topic I’ve explored a few times myself over the years. Back in 2006, I dubbed it “The Internet Immortality Thesis,” a sort of corollary of Mickey Kaus’s beloved Feiler Faster Principle. Linking to the above clip, Moe notes that while we take YouTube and other video aggregation sites for granted today, YouTube itself was only founded in February of 2005.

This means that the 2004 presidential campaign was the last more or less fought under the old rules of battle, with strategies largely dictated by the MSM.  John Kerry’s campaign was the last to play under the old rules of the game, and he paid for it dearly. Even without YouTube, the Blogosphere devoured him, thanks to his Radical Chic past. As I wrote right around this time seven years ago (my how time flies on the Internet), Kerry’s campaign was very much “Built for a 1972 Media:”

Kerry’s massively invented narrative (“swashbuckling Swift Boat lieutenant”–as Steyn describes him–turned brave defender of soldiers’ rights) was built to survive the glancing scrutiny (if you can call it that) of a 1972-era media that consisted of three TV networks with half hour evening news shows, and a few liberal big city newspapers, all of which were staffed with journalists more or less largely sympathetic to Kerry’s leftist anti-American beliefs.

But between the Swift Boat Vets and the Blogosphere, there are far too many people examining Kerry’s story, and his “reporting for duty” edifice has crumbled.

Is that fair? We’ll, we’re deciding if we want the man to have the key to the most powerful arsenal ever assembled. If he can’t survive the scrutiny of the Blogosphere, who James Lileks recently described as an “obsessive sort with lots of time on their hands”, is he someone who should be trusted with this power?

The 1972-style media seems to think so.

When Joe Biden described Obama in early 2007 as “clean,” what he meant, once you translated the typically painful Biden-ese into English, was that Obama didn’t have the same sort of radical chic paper trail that could come back to bite him in the Barack as other previous black leftwing presidential candidates. (See also: Sharpton, Al.) The appearance of Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers began to complicate Obama’s narrative, but Obama’s handlers, the JournoList, the complicit MSM, and the financial meltdown all helped to clobber a sclerotic and supine McCain campaign that was terrified of being branded racist. (Well over four years of this slash and burn tactic by the left have greatly devalued the potency of the scarlet-R, but then, short-term tactics often blind the left to their more permanent implications.)

But to govern is to choose, and between his words before and during the 2008 campaign and once in office, Obama now has a substantial paper trail — several trillions of dollars worth, as the above clip tacitly highlights– and more importantly, as Moe writes, a video trail as well. If you’re a politician whose promises invariably come with expiration dates, YouTube and its competitors present a problem:

It never goes away.

This is a problem because politicians have been operating under the paradigm that you can make inconvenient things from your past go away, if you really, really need to.  And I’m not talking about the big things, like a dead girl in your bed or a federal conviction for racketeering; I’m talking about embarrassing statements from the past, flip-flops that you don’t want to dwell on, inconvenient votes, or just taking out your bad day on somebody who happened to be in range at the wrong moment.  In short, anything that looks bad in a campaign commercial; but before February of 2005 it was a lot harder to show that sort of thing to people without the assistance of a professional video editor.  And even then there were set media channels for that sort of thing, that typically cost money to get on, and you had to pick a time to air it, and…

Well, you see where this is going: we are now living in an universe where those assumptions are not only false, but they’re kind of naive.  This is, of course, a self-correcting ‘problem:’ in 2010 we saw how viral footage and instantly accessible records somewhat dramatically resulted in requiring a startlingly large number of politicians to seek a second career as lobbyists.  And that will happen in 2012 as well (2014, to a lesser extent); the easy targets will be hammered most powerfully.

The problem for the President?  He’s one of those easy targets, as the above video shows.  It was not a good idea to yell about the debt incurred by your predecessor when you’re going to end up beating his record in half the time; but Barack Obama is very much an old-style politician – and, at that, one not used to being called on his record (this is where a lack of re-election campaign experience hurts).  He’s thus got four to six years of potential gaffes to explain away… and the worst bit (for him)?  Everybody has access to those gaffes.


You can’t always come back, baby — because YouTube never forgets.

(And Download Helper, Replay Media Catcher, and similar applets help to ensure that it doesn’t.)

Update: No sooner did I drop the hammer on this post, than the following clip appeared at Hot Air to illustrate the above points, marred only by the horror — the horror — of Hobo Sans: