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Capturing a Moment, but Not a Life

NY TImes: Putting Candidates Under the Videoscope. (T)he embeds have changed the dynamic of this year’s election, making every unplugged and unscripted moment on the campaign trail available for all to see. One particular video shot of American flags tilting over behind Hillary Rodham Clinton last November has been viewed more than 300,000 times on the ABC News Web site. A video of the Fox News host Bill O’Reilly shoving a member of Barack Obama’s staff at a New Hampshire campaign rally has drawn almost 150,000 views on YouTube.

The dynamic was changed earlier, actually — supporters and opponents have been making videos of candidates for some time. What has changed is the notice of this by major media organizations as an endemic part of the process.

What is still not part of the understanding is the sheer unfairness of letting a single moment on video reflect a person’s reality. Yet this is what seems to happen on a regular basis.

When, as in the case of former Sen. George Allen — he of the famous “Macaca” comment — there is a history of racially charged words and deeds, then you have something worth discussing. When it’s simply one of those weird moments on the campaign trail, it’s nothing or close to it.

I could follow anyone reading this with a video camera for an hour and post something on the Web that would make you look ridiculous. You could do the same to me. Neither posting would reflect who we really are.

A culture of gotcha is a shallow culture. Is it the one we really want to promote?

2 Comments on “Capturing a Moment, but Not a Life”

  1. #1 Seth Finkelstein
    on Feb 11th, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    “Is it the one we really want to promote?”

    Dan, you’re getting downright radicalized! 🙂

    As you know, the web-evangelist answer is to say IT’S A CONVERSATION!!! 🙁

  2. #2 sidereal
    on Feb 11th, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Not the greatest examples, since O’Reilly has a pretty distinguished history of being a self-obsessed bully, and the video merely reinforces that.

    I’d distinguish between ‘looking ridiculous’ and ‘revealing oneself in a moment of candor’. Certainly if I were to follow one of my acquaintances around all day there’d be innumerable little moments that would probably be a little embarrassing captured for posterity. If one of them shoved a campaign staffer and repeated what O’Reilly said, they’d stop being my acquaintance.

    It comes down to how often a fundamentally decent person behaves like a jackass. For most fundamentally decent people, I think that number is quite small.