Friday, May 30, 2008

CitizenTube's Friday Five

What do anti-Obama vets, a young Hillary Clinton, and two unorthodox investigative journalists have in common? They each make an appearance in this week’s Friday Five.

Young Hillary Clinton (60Frames)

Satirical portrait of Hillary Clinton as a young (and very competitive) girl.

Podemos Con Obama (illwilly)

Latest pro-Obama music video from illwilly, featuring several major figures from the Latin music and film communities.

Senator Obama: Talk to Commanders or Meet with Dictators? (VetsForFreedomVideo)

Vets For Freedom campaign ad targeted against Barack Obama.

TV ad: Bush-McCain Challenge (karinmoveon)

Latest MoveOn.Org ad against John McCain.

Checkmate (InternetsCelebrities)

Engaging investigative report on check cashing and the cycle of poverty.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Young Hillary Clinton

As the fierce primary battle between Senators Clinton and Obama winds to a conclusion, at least some people are still able to find humor in the situation. This video, produced by 60Frames and featuring actor Jerry O’Connell, presents us with a satirical portrait of Hillary Clinton as a young girl. According to the video, this isn’t the first battle of wills between Hillary and Barack…nor the first time Hillary’s refused to drop of a race.

UpTake to Stream the Minnesota State Democratic Party Convention

The Uptake, an organization dedicated to "advancing democracy through citizen journalism," unveiled its plans yesterday to dispatch its team of citizen reporters to Rochester, MN to cover the Minnesota State Democratic Party Convention. Kicking off with Democratic Party Chair Howard Dean's opening address on Friday June 6, the Uptake will offer the first ever live video streaming coverage of the state's Democratic Party Convention -- in its entirety. They also promise to deliver lots of behind-the-scenes interviews and special reports from the convention hall. Check out their official announcement on YouTube here:

The Minnesota Democratic Senate race between the two dynamic candidates, Al Franken and Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, has drawn a great deal of media attention, and the Uptake plans to provide political junkies uninterrupted coverage of the convention on their website. Users will also have multiple ways to engage and participate in their live coverage at

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

So Long, Mike

This week, former Senator Mike Gravel, longtime Democrat turned Libertarian, abandoned his hopes for the White House. After losing the Libertarian nomination to former Congressman Bob Barr, Gravel conceded that he’s out of the presidential race--and as the video below seems to suggests, out of politics for good.

For nearly a year, Gravel has been a forceful (and sometimes outrageous) presence on YouTube, pushing the limits of internet video and political campaigning in ways we’ve never seen. No doubt his YouTube celebrity started with The Rock (see below), a slightly avant-garde, but effective video that won Gravel attention both from YouTubers and the mainstream media alike.

But Gravel was just getting warmed up. Among the presidential candidates, Gravel proved to be one of the most active and savvy YouTube users. In addition to launching his own YouTube channel, Gravel continued to collaborate with other YouTube users, leveraging the power of the community to get his message across. Whether granting an interview to then college student James Kotecki, or appearing as Santa Claus with Red State Update, or serenading Obama Girl so that she might switch her allegiances, Gravel showed that when it came to embracing YouTube as a tool for social and political change, he was always willing to go the extra mile.

Gravel’s most consistent collaborator on YouTube has been rx2008, with whom he made a series of edgy political music videos. Complete with psychedelic graphics and not-to-subtle digs at George W., the videos featured Gravel as an anti-establishment agitator and raconteur, a candidate who’s ready to take on the mainstream for the sake of real political change.

Whether these and his other videos strengthened or undermined the legitimacy of his candidacy remains unclear, but they definitely confirmed Gravel’s central message: that he was a different kind of politician. Gravel may have lost his presidential bid, but few can deny that here on YouTube, he certainly caused quite a ripple.

Newt Gingrich: YouTube Pro

You may be surprised to know that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is a YouTube expert. ngingrich has had a YouTube channel for over a year, and Gingrich - a man of big ideas - has fed it with a steady flow of content from American Solutions, an organization he founded to take on America's toughest problems. Though American Solutions, Gingrich has held a YouTube contest, attacked those in power whom he believes are taking the country in the wrong direction, and posted hot clips from speeches - this contrast Newt draws between the U.S. postal system and FedEx has well over a million views on YouTube.

His latest is a video in which he lays out the solution to our energy crisis - "Drill Now".

But Newt gets the 2-way power of the web, and he's asking people to submit their own ideas in his "Solutions Lab". There, you can submit your solutions to America's problems - and rank the ones you like the best.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Veterans Get Political

Memorial Day might be over—but as the debate over the new G.I. Bill heats up on Capitol Hill, we've noticed a surge of videos featuring U.S. veterans weighing in about the two presumptive presidential front-runners, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama. Each has received endorsements from veterans' groups across the country, but each has also been the target of attack ads from others, like the video we saw last week on Senator McCain from, or this one on Senator Obama:

This latest attack ad is from VetsForFreedom, which accuses Senator Obama of refusing to meet with Iraq War veterans during a recent visit they made to Washington. Meanwhile, other veterans are continuing to speak out against Senator McCain and his opposition to the new G.I. Bill, which would cost nearly 2 billion dollars a year to fund--or, according to most estimates, approximately what the United States spends in Iraq in a week.

Judging from these videos, and in light of the perceived effectiveness of the 2004 Swift Boat ads, it appears U.S. veterans from both parties are going to play a pivotal role in this year's election.

Monday, May 26, 2008

You Choose ’08: Monday Round-Up

Get your YouTube fix, and keep abreast of Election ‘08, by watching these videos.

Hillary Clinton's RFK Assassination Comment (tomm2thumbs)

Web Ad: Memorial Day (johnmccaindotcom)

Bob Barr Nomination Speech (BobBarr2008)

Obama on Hillary's RFK Assassination Remark

Mike Gravel says goodbye...well, to his career (Voiceofjon)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Win a Trip to the GOP Convention - on YouTube

It may be three months away, but the GOP has been planning the Republican National Convention for some time -- and YouTube is a key part of their strategy. The Party plans to use the site to help you to get involved in the action, and they're starting today with their American Neighbor contest.

Between now and June 26, the Convention staff is asking you to upload video profiles of someone from your community who goes "above and beyond the call of duty." Senator John McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis explains here:

The YouTube community will get to vote on the best videos, and the winner -- plus the person he or she is profiling -- will get to attend the Convention this fall in St. Paul, Minnesota.

In addition to launching the American Neighbor contest on YouTube, the Convention has been quite busy using their YouTube channel to build buzz around the big event this fall. They've upload clips of great moments from past conventions, like this video of Ronald Reagan's 1980 acceptance speech. They also asked YouTubers to help them name their Convention blog (the winner: "Grand Old Blog"), and they uploaded this clip from an interesting -- and surprising -- visit to the Convention offices by a Democratic superdelegate...dressed as a donkey.

[originally posted to the youtube blog]

CitizenTube's Friday Five

From John McCain's Nightmare to Al Franken's Birthday. Here's this week's Friday Five...

McCain's YouTube Problem Just Became a Nightmare (bravenewfilms)

Latest video from Brave New Films targeting Senator John McCain.

Flesh Wound (Election08)

In this video from the Public Service Administration, presidential politics meets Monty Python.

"Arab = Muslim = Terror = War"?

Jordan’s Queen Rania addresses stereotypes many people have about Muslims.

Sushi Politics (tlg847)

Tlg847 (aka Tom) discusses the political divide between those who eat sushi and those who don’t.

Happy Birthday, Al Franken (TheNRSC)
's recent political ad targeting Al Franklin.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Young Vets Target McCain

VoteVets.Org just released a video against John McCain criticizing his opposition to the new G.I. bill currently being debated in Congress. Featuring several young U.S. veterans, the video calls on McCain and other senators to support today’s troops by increasing the amount of financial aid veterans receive from the government to pursue their education. While not expressly an attack ad, the video wouldn’t be the first instance of U.S. veterans speaking out against a presidential candidate in an election year—as anyone who’s seen the 2004 John Kerry "Swift Boat" ads can certainly attest.

U.S. of Friggin A... Number-Oned

Ever since ParkRidge47's Vote Different YouTube video, the art of the political mash-up has become a cultural political phenomenon. More recently we've seen people using the ads that candidates upload to the tube as the source material for their mashups, like Hillary Clinton's "Children" ad, which inspired dozens of parodies and mashups, like this one. The latest in this genre started with Senator McCcain's campaign last week. In his "2013" ad, we're given an inspiring preview of what America and the world would be like at the end of a President McCain first term... but this optimistic vision turns absurd in "McCain 2013 Ad Roughcut," posted by SomethingAwfulvideos. It's billed as a "pre-release version" of the official McCain video.

The original McCain piece:

The mash-up:

Whether McCain would approve of this "roughcut" is unclear—but on YouTube a mashup is often the highest form of flattery...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

President of...the World?

If you think Americans are the only ones following the U.S. presidential election—think again. From England to Russia to the Middle East, people from all over the world are paying close attention to this year’s battle for the White House—and they’re using YouTube to declare their endorsements and speak their minds.

Recognizing the global importance of this year's U.S. election, LinkTV launched "Dear American Voter," a video series in which they asked non-U.S. citizens whom they would vote for and why. These videos highlight the fact that the U.S. President's influence and decision-making extend far beyond national borders.

Some non-U.S. users have uploaded personalized messages to their favorite candidates, like this video from hedjamavieille, who urges Barack Obama not to forget about the people of Africa if he's elected. Other YouTubers have gone one step further, like this British citizen who recently traveled from England to San Francisco specifically to volunteer for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Whether they’re curious onlookers, supporters from afar, or active volunteers, people all around the world recognize that this year’s U.S. presidential race isn’t just an American tale–it’s a story that involves us all.

Monday, May 19, 2008

"Ask the PM" on YouTube

Did you know the British Government has their own YouTube channel? For over a year, 10 Downing Street has not merely been the street address of the UK's Prime Minister - it's also served as the YouTube address of the government's online video headquarters. Tony Blair's Labour government started the channel, which they've used to give a behind-the-scenes look at life inside Britain's second-most famous residence. They've documented visits with other world leaders, messages to specific constituencies, and even the arrival of the PM's cat. When Nicolas Sarkozy won the French presidential election last year, Blair's congratulatory greetings (shot in both English and French) combined for over half a million views.

Now Gordon Brown picks up that mantle with the launch of "Ask the PM", a YouTube program (er, programme) in which he'll respond to questions from his constituents on YouTube on a regular basis. Citizens can submit the questions right on Number 10's YouTube channel, and he'll respond to them when he can. Much like the You Choose '08 Spotlight program in the US last year, "Ask the PM" gives citizens a chance to speak directly to their leaders without a media middle-man.

Preserving Your Vote

Given the record-breaking voter turnout throughout this primary season, huge numbers are expected to turn out at the polls in November. In anticipation of this, several watchdog voter groups have started proactive educational campaigns on YouTube, hoping to educate as many voters as possible about the complexities and pitfalls of the American voting system.

Back in 2006, an organization called "Video the Vote" started a YouTube channel, encouraging everyday citizens to capture their voting experiences on film. Concerned about the disenfranchisement of eligible voters in both the 2000 and 2004 elections because of problems like long lines, voter intimidation, and broken voting machines, Video the Vote asked people to document their polling places and expose alarming defects in the electoral system. Others followed their lead, like the group Election Journal, which goes into the polling places and talks to voters on the scene about some of the hurdles they face on election day, like ballot shortages and rigorous voter identification. User bringingtherock posted his own video of his personal election day experience when the voting machine he was using broke as he was casting his ballot.

Since then, a number of organizations and individual users have been crusading on YouTube to help teach Americans about the voting process. Black Box Voting, a non-profit organization dedicated to monitoring elections, created a series on their YouTube channel called "Election Reality TV." In their most viewed video, "New Hampshire Primary - Sham Chain of Custody," representatives from BlackBoxVoting drill-down on polling place workers on exactly how the ballot boxes work (ultimately determining that the boxes were not truly sealed).

There are also a number of documentaries on the subject that attempt to give a fuller picture. Rocketboom created a short, informative piece called "The State of Electronic Voting Machines," and's two-part series, "Voter Fraud and Black Box Voting," is also worth checking out. For those wanting to understand the issues in depth, the real must-see is the award-winning series "Hacking Democracy," which is available on YouTube in its entirety in nine parts.

Friday, May 16, 2008

CitizenTube's Friday Five

Welcome to the first installment of CitizenTube's Friday Five. Every Friday, we'll spotlight five must-see news and politics videos on YouTube.

Bill Clinton Argues With Voter (CBS News)

Former President Bill Clinton responds to a heckler in the audience.

Obamacan - Winner, Obama in 30 Seconds (karinmoveon)

The winner of’s Obama in 30 seconds contest.

Myanmar day 2: Operation Blessing Brings Relief (operationblessing)

U.S. relief workers document their efforts to help cyclone survivors in Myanmar.

Proud (TennesseeGOP)

New GOP video taking aim at statements made by Michelle Obama.

College Democrats Superdelegates Lauren & Awais Endorse...(CollegeDemocrats)

Two young super delegates announce who they’re endorsing for president.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

On YouTube, Politics is Still Local

This week, Democrat Travis Childers won a special election held in Mississippi's 1st District, securing a hotly-contested congressional seat that had been in GOP hands for fourteen-years. With over a million dollars invested by each party, this was the costliest fight for a congressional seat yet—and one of the first in which both sides used YouTube as a key part of their campaign strategy.

The NRCC's YouTube channel posted several negative ads against Childers, taking aim at his political positions, his business practices, and his high-profile supporters, including Barack Obama. One of their videos even links Childers—through Obama—to Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Meanwhile, Childers seized the initiative and launched his own YouTube channel. In a series of videos, Childers responded to various accusations and defined himself as a new kind of Democrat: a pro-gun, pro-life populist dedicated to helping Mississippians get better jobs and affordable healthcare. Several of his videos have thousands of views on YouTube.

By embracing new media as a key part of their campaign strategy, Childers and groups like the NRCC are proving that a global platform like YouTube can be effective in local politics.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Verdict Is in: College Dem Superdelegates Endorse Obama

More than two weeks ago, superdelegates Lauren Wolfe and Awais Khaleel, President and Vice President of the College Democrats, created a call-out video on YouTube (our earlier blog post here), in which they asked for help in deciding who to support as the Democratic presidential nominee.

Big surprise: after receiving 5,000 emails, 1,000 Facebook messages and wall posts, and hundreds of comments from YouTubers in response to their video, Lauren and Awais announced their endorsement yesterday of... Senator Barack Obama.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The YouTube Interview: Ralph Nader

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader took a quick break from the campaign trail yesterday to chat with us and answer some questions from the YouTube community. Nader explained why he was running for President, proposed some solutions for the environmental challenges we face, and spoke about reigning in corporate power. We ended our session with a "Wordless Interview," in which Nader gave a "thumbs-up" or a "thumbs-down" in response to a rapid-fire series of questions.

He's asking for voters to submit videos to help spread the word for the campaign, so check out Nader's YouTube channel and visit his website to learn more about getting involved.

Grape Jello

With the Obama veep talk kicking into high gear, YouTube political pundit James Kotecki makes an interesting wager...

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Winner: Obama in 30 Seconds

On March 27th, launched its "Obama in 30 Seconds" campaign, an online video contest in which voters were asked to submit 30 second political commercials on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama. Unlike many campaign ads seen on television these days, submissions for this competition needed to be focused on the positive spirit of the Obama campaign and entirely void of personal attacks against his opponents. received 1100 entries, and after 5.5 million votes, they announced the winning ad this morning. Check out "Obamacan", produced by David Gaw and Lance Mungia from Monrovia, CA, which features John Weiler, former Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, and "life-long Republican."

You can see the rest of the contest submissions on, and other videos from the organization on their YouTube channel.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Yes Everyone Can

Back in early February, when the Black Eyed Peas' posted a music video onto YouTube, little did he know he'd not only be joining the Obama movement—he'd be starting a movement of his own. His "Yes We Can" music video, inspired by Obama's concession speech in New Hampshire, has been viewed over five million times on his illwilly YouTube channel alone, and has itself inspired a slew of knockoffs, parodies, and tributes.

The first of these to gain attention was a video parody from Election08 entitled Aimed at John McCain, and using a similar soundtrack and style as the video, it edits together snippets from several of McCain's stump speeches—but for a decidedly different effect.

Meanwhile, this video entitled yes.we.will from johnnyhardwick pokes fun at Hillary Clinton, who shortly after New Hampshire (and the viral success of's video) tried out a new campaign slogan at one of her rallies.

Some of the knock-offs take a less partisan, more absurdist approach, such as this one from G4TV, a political music video "inspired" by Attack of the Show's Cobra Commander. Meanwhile, this video from welovegamerz pays tribute to "the man who dares against all odds to spend the tax rebate George W. is giving him on a HDTV and an X-Box 360. Yes...He…Can."

But parodies and send-ups aside, it's clear's video has resonated with millions of people around the world—as demonstrated in the above video from Obamediadotcom appropriately entitled "Yes We Can International." And if one needed further proof of its impact, this performance by a college a cappella singing group indicates that we'll be hearing this song—and seeing more knockoffs and tributes—for a long time to come.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Got a Question for Ralph Nader?

As we mentioned yesterday, Ralph Nader has been using YouTube to draw attention to his independent presidential campaign. Next Monday, we have the opportunity to interview him - what should we ask him?

Check out Nader's YouTube channel -- -- and send us your questions, either by video response or as a text comment to the video below.

And make sure to look out for the interview next week...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Can We Ask? Yes We Can.

With Senator Obama's candidacy as the Democratic nominee looking more and more likely, the GOP's general election strategy ratcheted up this week online. The GOP's new media team, led by ex-Yahoo Internet guru Cyrus Krohn, has begun compiling media clips that criticize the Senator - and asking party supporters to submit tough questions for Obama via YouTube.

They've even turned the Obama campaign's own catch phrase, "Yes We Can," against him in this call-out video for their "Can We Ask?" initiative.

The GOP has already seen the value in using YouTube to rally their supporters in the past; back in July, the Republicans actively reached out to party members on YouTube, soliciting questions for the Democratic CNN-YouTube debate. Even RNC Chairman Mike Duncan used this forum to pose questions to Hillary Clinton and Senator Obama.

Check out the GOP website to view a list of all of the video questions submitted thus far.

Thanks to David All at for the tip!

No one paying attention this time? Get on YouTube

While Clinton, Obama, and McCain might be getting most of the attention, there's another familiar name in this year's presidential race—Ralph Nader. The long-time activist and consumer advocate is making another bid for the White House—eight years after capturing 2.7 percent of the vote in the 2000 presidential election. And while the mainstream media is paying much less attention this time around, Nader has turned to YouTube to reach voters.

Nader recently launched a YouTube channel to promote his campaign. Unlike other presidential candidates on YouTube, he isn't exclusively relying on his campaign staff to create videos for his channel—he's soliciting volunteers and supporter to contribute videos as well. From public speeches featuring him and running mate Matt Gonzales, to tongue-and-cheek commercials, to enthusiastic testimonials from supporters, the channel reflects Nader's anti-establishment, grassroots sensibility.

Although sometimes blamed for costing Al Gore the presidency in 2000, Nader refuses to let that argument deter him, and in a recent public appearance (see the video above) he's argued that third-party candidates deserve to be treated better than "second-class-citizens."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Operation Chaos—Did it Work?

After Hillary Clinton’s two-percent margin of victory in yesterday’s Indiana primary, many are speculating whether conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos” had an impact on the outcome. For the last several weeks, Limbaugh has been encouraging his mostly Republican listeners to cross partisan lines during the primaries and vote for Clinton, which he hopes will prolong the nomination battle and further divide the Democrats. Mainstream pundits have been reticent to point fingers--but YouTuber JoeFelice is not. YouTube gives such commentators as JoeFelice the chance to be his OWN talking head, and no matter which candidate you support, his analysis of last night’s election results is worth considering.

The Long and Winding Delegate Road

Two more primaries down—and the race for the democratic nomination carries on. After claiming a decisive victory in North Carolina yesterday, Barack Obama maintains his lead in pledge delegates, and is less than 200 delegates short of reaching the 2,025 he needs to secure the nomination. But Hillary Clinton made it clear in her Indiana victory speech last night that she’s not out of the race yet. "Tonight, we've come from behind," she told supporters. "We've broken the tide, and thanks to you it's full speed onto the White House."

The fight over these two states—one a Southern state with a significant number of black voters, the other a mid-Western state with a significant number of white rural voters—dramatized the demographic polarities of the Democratic party, and indeed took several dramatic turns on YouTube.

The first was a TV ad released by the North Carolina GOP, which used a clip from one of Jeremiah Wright’s sermons to portray Obama as an extremist. Many Republicans, including John McCain, condemned the ad and requested it be taken off the air.

Next, Jeremiah Wright returned to the scene, making a series of public appearance and statements that prompted Obama to issue the strongest condemnation of his former pastor yet.

Most recently, the political debate turned to gas prices. In the week leading up to the primaries, Clinton, following McCain, came out in support of a “gas tax holiday,” arguing that it would offer temporary relief to ordinary Americans. Obama, following many leading economists, opposed the gas tax holiday, arguing that it would cost Americans more than it would save.

In the end, Obama’s message resonated with North Carolinians, while Clinton’s narrowly resonated with Indiana voters. So whose message will most resonate with super delegates? That question still remains to be seen.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

"We Votin', and Throwin' It Up"

Taz Arnold (aka TI$A), a member of the hip-hop trio SA-RA, made his debut as a solo artist yesterday with the release of "Vote Obama". The latest musician to use his celebrity to mobilize voters to the polls (after the smashing success of's "YES WE CAN" and "We Are the Ones" videos), TI$A rounded up a bunch of his hip-hop colleagues -- including heavyweights Kanye West, Jay-Z, Chris Brown, and Apple of the Black Eyed Peas, among others -- to appear in this lyrical endorsement.

With a nice sample from Ice Cube's classic "Today Was a Good Day," and a very repetitive refrain ("We hood, we votin', and throwin' it up"), this track is likely to get stuck in your head -- which may well be the point.

The Democratic race - in 7 minutes

Looking to catch up on the Democratic Primary? Thanks to Slate, you only need 7 minutes:

Obama Campaign: 1,000 videos

Last Saturday, the Obama campaign posted its 1,000th video to YouTube - a speech clip from the Senator's closing arguments in Indianapolis, Indiana. 1,000 videos... that's a lot of videos. It's nearly double the number that Senators Clinton and McCain have posted to the site - combined. And it demonstrates just how integral of a role video has played in the Obama campaign strategy this election.

The Obama campaign has been using video since the beginning of the You Choose '08 program - but they've hit a fever pitch in the last 5 months. A dozen of their videos have over half a million views, and they're now posting at a rate of about 2-3 videos a day channel. That means that for almost any to their YouTubeYouTube search on Obama's campaign, you're going to find at least some piece of official video from the campaign's channel. For a candidate who started out with a name recognition problem and a desire to reach new pockets of voters, online video has helped Obama develop his character and inspire new voters in some interesting ways.

Here are 5 way in which the campaign has effectively used YouTube so far:

  1. Translating the fervor of the campaign trail to the Internet. Clips from campaign rallies with scores of adoring fans have helped translate the excitement of the campaign to the Internet. You don't have to be in Iowa or New Hampshire to be fired up and ready to go - just watch the speech on the Obama YouTube channel.
  2. Getting ahead of the media. You may know that Obama's speech on race is the #1 most-viewed video uploaded by a presidential candidate in YouTube history - currently the video has 4.4 million views. But he actually posted a response to the Wright controversy 4 days earlier, floating his message online before hitting primetime. This allowed the campaign to address the conflict without having to lean on the media first. And because of YouTube's feedback system (comments, rankings, etc.) candidates like Obama can use the site to test messaging and ideas before taking them to a broader stage.
  3. Targeting geographies. Early on, the campaign made playlists of videos focusing on different groups in a series called, "From the Trail." They had playlists from Iowa, New Hampshire... even a playlist on "Women for Obama" - developing communities around content aimed at particular demographics.
  4. Inspiring supporters to post their own videos. From 'Vote Different' to 'Yes We Can 'to 'Obama Girl' to 'The Empire Strikes Back' to the thousands of other voter-generated clips posted in support of Obama this campaign season, the campaign has benefited from a huge swell of support outside the traditional campaign. By engaging on YouTube they've shown they understand the medium and can connect with people where they are - which inspires others to reach back and connect, too. Case in point -, or the "Obama in 30 seconds" contest over at
  5. Talking directly with voters. Obama's You Choose '08 Spotlight video began a conversation with voters around community service. His 'have dinner with Barack Obama' program used YouTube to reach supporters who wanted to share a meal with the Senator. And Obama also took YouTube questions in an interview we did with the Senator in Mtn. View. By using YouTube as way to have a conversation with voters, the campaign leverages one of the most important political features of online video - interactivity.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Fighting Global Poverty on YouTube

Global poverty is an issue that seems to have only one side: it's bad, and we should end it. According to one statistic, the GDP of the 48 poorest nations is still less than the wealth of the three richest people…and most economists agree the gap between the rich and poor grows wider every year. Though the problem is vast, it often feels far away for many Americans. Moreover, global poverty is rarely an issue that drives voters to the polls.

In the face of these challenges, more and more groups and everyday citizens have taken to YouTube to advocate for an end to global poverty, raising awareness for an issue that doesn't get a lot of mainstream media coverage. One of them is Shawn Ahmed. Deciding to take some time off from his graduate studies at Notre Dame, Ahmed moved to Bangladesh, where he's been making videos for the last several months in an effort to give the statistics we often hear about global poverty a human face. His YouTube channel, UnCultured Project, provides a window into these efforts and documents the challenges, frustrations, and triumphs of one person's attempts to help end extreme poverty.

This video from GlobalDevMatters makes the case that U.S. farm subsidies, which mainly benefit large agri-businesses, negatively impact poor farmers around the world. In this clip from IRTAGMedia, Sri Lanka's Central Bank Governor talks about the potential consequences of rising food prices and what world leaders must do to address them.

And even Nobel laureates have used YouTube to spread their message. One of the leading voices in the campaign against global poverty is Muhammad Yunnis, founder of the Grameen Bank and the 2006 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Yunnis is credited with developing the practice of "micro-lending," an innovative form of loan allocation that has transformed the lives of millions of enterprising individuals in some of the world's poorest countries. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently met with Yunnis to discuss efforts to combat poverty and create micro-lending programs in Africa -– and posted the video to his YouTube channel.

And of course, you can't talk about global poverty advocacy without mentioning The ONE Campaign, which was one of the first organizations to bring attention to the issue on YouTube. Their videos aim to show that the fight against poverty isn't about politics — it's a problem that should concern us all. Their efforts seem to be working: with the help of a celebrity-ridden cast, ONE got every major presidential candidate to make a video for their YouTube channel, committing to making global poverty history.


[originally posted on the YouTube blog 5/5/2008]

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Avant-Garde Politics of Mike Gravel

In case you thought Mike Gravel had quietly exited the YouTube political stage—think again. He's back in yet another collaborative effort with user rx2008, this time taking aim at Barack Obama. Often ignored by the mainstream media, Gravel has been one of the most active presidential candidates on YouTube, beginning with his now infamous video, The Rock. Gravel's other collaborations with rx2008 include three music videos and several edgy political mash-ups.

"I knew absolutely nothing about Mike Gravel until I saw him in one of the early debates," rx2008 told Citizentube. "He tells it like it is, and is incredibly knowledgeable about the issues we face as a country." Disillusioned with the Democrats, Gravel recently switched to the Libertarian Party and is seeking to win that party's nomination for president.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Citizentube Interview: Davis... er, Dennis Trainor

For the last year, one of the most prominent voices in YouTube politics belonged to Davis Fleetwood - a hermit who shot videos from his limestone-walled basement and posted them to YouTube. Vlogging under the tagline, "I stay in so that you can go out," Davis' quirky style (his dance moves even caught the attention of Hillary Clinton) and provocative tone (he consistently called for the impeachment of the president) gained him a large audience on the site. When one of his questions was asked at the CNN/YouTube Democratic Debate, Davis' national fame increased - so much so that the Dennis Kucinich campaign hired him to their video team

One hundred and sixty-nine videos later, Davis has left YouTube to pursue other interests. His fans (Citizentube included) will miss him, but what they might not know is that Davis doesn't exist... at least in real life. What follows is a Citizentube interview with Dennis Trainor, the mastermind behind YouTube's favorite hermit.

CT: How was Davis Fleetwood born?

Dennis: First off I should say that while some people know, many do not: I’m not really a video blogger, but I did play one on YouTube for a year.

My name is Dennis Trainor. Davis Fleetwood, the character, was “born” in 1996. He was the lead character of a play that I wrote while a graduate student at American Conservatory Theatre called PLUG. The play was produced in San Francisco and later in New York. Fast-forward a decade to last spring, when I was transitioning out of a seven-year stint as a high school teacher to focus full time on a freelance writing career (known in some circles as the early onset of my mid life crisis). I thought it would be fun to bring the character of Davis back for another run. The idea was to work on Davis Fleetwood in the morning, eat lunch, and work on long- term projects in the afternoon. That worked fairly well for a while; I have written a TV pilot and a 1st draft of a novel in the past year to go along with the 160-odd videos.

CT: What kind of person is Davis? Who does he speak to?

Dennis: He sees the world in terms of black and white. You are either his friend or his enemy. Also, he is a bit of a martyr, what with the “I stay in so you can go out” ethos. His audience is highly educated, a little desperate with the current political climate, and has a sense of humor. He talks to anyone who will listen.

CT: It seems odd to get at politics through theatre... yet so much of politics is theatrical anyway I suppose. Did your approach yield any interesting results?

Dennis: It was odd creating a “character” that did not exist in a narrative structure with other characters (like a character in a play or a film would do) but rather commented on, and later interacted with, real people. In a way that was my intention, to blur the lines of what was real and what was “story.” I was trying to inspire like Bobby Kennedy, using the approach of Andy Kaufman with the updated video technique of Ze Frank. Have you ever seen Ze Frank? He used editing like another element of grammar. I don’t think I ever got there, but that was what I was going for.

CT: Does Davis Fleetwood bear any resemblance to Dennis Trainor? In what ways are you similar/different?

Dennis: Davis Fleetwood and Dennis Trainor are alike in many ways. They share a wardrobe, and even though doctors do not recommend it, they share a toothbrush. In some ways, I liked playing Davis because he could see the world in such black and white terms. So simple. Davis would think that Dennis is a sell out. I mean, I am a married man, I help out with my son’s T-Ball team, take my daughter to the movies, etc. Until very recently, I was a teacher at a boarding school. Davis might think that Dennis is part of the mass of American indifference that allowed Bush to lead us into war, and now- with our inaction- will do nothing to stop us from expanding the into Iran.

On the other hand, I was arrested protesting at the 2004 Republican National Convention, and I did drop everything to go on the road and work for Dennis Kucinich, so I have plenty of Davis in me.

CT: You ended up doing a 2-month stint on the Kucinich campaign - what was that like? Was it Davis on the campaign trail, or was it Dennis???

Dennis: Well, I only got one paycheck, but it was the both of us. Working for the campaign was an experience that I would never trade for anything. Dennis Kucinich was approachable, passionate, exciting to be around, and very scrappy. I miss him. Working for a campaign that was not as well financed as say, Obama’s, reminded me of my days running a small start up Theatre company in New York in the sense that everyone wore many hats. When I was recognized by fans on the streets of Manchester, New Hampshire just days before the January primary, I allowed myself to suffer under the illusion that I belonged there, doing what I was doing: advising a presidential candidate. And in those final days in New Hampshire, that was certainly one of my unofficial functions. I take full credit for the 1.6% of the vote we earned in NH.

CT: Your video, 'STUDENTS: A CHALLENGE TO YOU' has over 2 million views and was one of the finalists for "Best Political Video" of the year on YouTube. Why do you think that video struck such a chord with people, and did you see it coming?

Dennis: Vanity is going to force me to correct you on one point, Steve. The video has over 4.4 million views. I mean, come on!

I did not see it coming at all. Beside the half naked people in the thumbnail image increasing views, I think it struck a chord with so many people for several reasons- Davis is so arrogant and self-righteous, but the argument he makes is hard to dismiss. Specifically, war is here, war is coming, we live in a nuclear age (so the consequences of perpetual war, combined with our love affair with linear storytelling, means that we just might blow it all up to see how it all ends) and you all care more about Girls Gone Wild videos taking a stand. Also, as an Adult, Davis is not saying “follow me” He is saying, “this is how it is!” and the answer is not going to come from someone my age, the answer is going to come from the next generation. Davis is saying: one of you figure out a solution, and I will follow.

But truthfully, I think it is as popular as it is because people just forwarded it their friends with a note that said something like, “Will you get a load of this wacko!”

CT: In what ways do you think YouTube is influencing the political dialogue in America?

Dennis: More people, young people are registering to vote. Davis would say that they are naive enough to think that Diebold will let their voice be heard. I would say that more young people are invested in what is happening in the world around them. We don’t have to rely on three channels and tin foil stuck on a broken antenna for our news anymore. YouTube is leading the way in opening things up, allowing people to become more informed than ever before. The downside is that the candidates who survive this process are polished to the point of not being human. Everything is on the record now, and the candidates know it. It makes them less human.

CT: What is your favorite video you've uploaded to YouTube?

Dennis: I really like this one (notice the Super Bowl Prediction- Giants by 3!)

But the “Davis Fleetwood thesis” is best summed up here.

If I could have combined the humor of the Super Bowl video with the urgency and of the WWIII video, I would have been on to something...

CT: Who are some of your favorite users/channels on YouTube?

Dennis: The Onion is the best thing on any size screen right now. Really. Jon Stewart, Colbert- forget it. Imagine if SNL had the balls of The Onion? News without mercy and each video is like an abdominal workout from laughing so hard. I would love to write for them. Really, good folks at The Onion, read this, and call me. I want to work for you. Other channels I love:

CT: What would you say are some of the keys to having a successful YouTube channel on YouTube?

Define what you want from your channel. If you want to network, have fun, connect with people from all around the world, you can do that. If you want to be the next Lisa Nova, you are going to have to work much harder at YouTube than you do at your day job. That, and you will have to be much better than Lisa Nova.

Why has Davis Fleetwood "left the building"? What is next for you?

Dennis: Right now I am hustling, trying to recruit investors for the TV pilot that I wrote so that I can submit it to the NY Television Festival. If all of the pieces come together, we will shoot in early June. The project is called “Consenting Adults” and centers on a soccer Mom struggling to keep her swinger lifestyle private. Think “Sex in the City” meets “Weeds.” While that is the project that is ready to launch, I have several other projects I have been developing that require my attention. So, it just felt like it was time to let Davis go, and focus on the next project(s)… It has been a year since I left my day job. I feel like a farmer who has been working the land, now I need to see if there is a harvest, and I can make a living as a writer. So, really, I hope The Onion comes calling.

I’ll also be blogging over at Eventually, there will be a YouTube component to this project as well, but for now, this is a place where I write in different characters- “Davis” will be there, as is a new regular feature called “Spin Room” but I think the next star I am working on is a woman named Heidi Horoscope. I can see her syndicated in weekly magazines across the country.