Tuesday, March 18, 2008
The New York Times ran an interesting piece yesterday discussing a recent utube video in which a young person discusses the reason that he will vote for Barack Obama. Much of his discussion concerns some pretty detailed thoughts about our health care system and ways to provide reform. I was pretty impressed. You can watch for yourself here. The article discusses how this interview happened and how it has become a popular view for people. The article states,
On Jan. 31, Derrick Ashong, a 32-year-old musician, dropped off his pal, Shaunelle Curry, at the Democratic primary debate taking place at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. After shrugging off her suggestion that he join her in carrying a sign for Barack Obama outside the theater — his band was leaving on tour the next day — he reconsidered and walked back to join her.
Carrying a sign saying “¡Sí, se puede!” (Yes, we can!), he joined a throng that was milling around in the background of the live CNN shot focused on the anchor Wolf Blitzer. Then a guy named Mike carrying a video camera came walking by and began peppering Mr. Ashong with a series of skeptical and very pointed questions.
“So why are you for Obama?” he asked. It was clear from his approach that he expected a dimwitted answer, an expectation that he was about to talk to another acolyte smitten by Senator Obama’s rock star persona.
But, as it turned out, Mr. Ashong, who was raised in Ghana and elsewhere, was glad to be asked. For almost six minutes — about a century in broadcast television years — Mr. Ashong, who has an immigrant’s love of democracy and the furrowed brow of a Brookings fellow, held forth on universal health care, single-payer approaches and public-private partnerships.
“A lot of these H.M.O.’s are publicly traded companies anyway, but I don’t think we want to create a market for health care per se, like we don’t want to create a futures market in health care,” he said. And so on.
Cute stuff. Highly informative. But not the kind of political discourse that generally captures a wider audience.
But here’s the weird part. On Feb. 2, the interview of Mr. Ashong was posted on a YouTube channel called “The Latest Controversy,” where supporters of both Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Obama are asked very aggressively to justify their choice of candidates. The video blew up, drawing more than 850,000 views. And after that huge response to his policy analysis, Mr. Ashong decided to double down and explain the emotional component of his support for Obama in a follow-up video that was posted Feb. 11 and received 300,000 views.
Taken together, that means a guy who was looking to (anonymously) show a little love for a candidate was able to look into the camera for more than 13 minutes combined and draw in more than a million clicks with an impassioned but reasoned pitch.
At a time when politics and popular culture are still in an awkward mating ritual, Mr. Ashong inadvertently tapped into the youthquake that is shaking up the campaign. While the clip could have been lost among some of the popular rubble at YouTube (“Let me see, do I watch a tutorial on health care or Tori Spelling on ‘Jimmy Kimmel’?”), Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic blogged about it, as did Think on These Things, a political blog. Then The Economist chimed in, which led to an editor at The New York Times hearing about it and — well, you get the idea. . . .
I think I might ask my class to watch and discuss when we review different ways to organize and reform our health care system. It is interesting to see young people discussing this topic with such enthusiasm.