Personally, I think I first came to realize just how powerful Social Media could be in 2006. Anyone who follows government will remember that 2006 was the year that Democrats regained control of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. What you may not remember is the thin margin by which Democrats controlled the Senate: 51-49. Seat #51 was a huge upset, as incumbent Senator George Allen (R-VA) was upset by defeated by veteran and former Navy Secretary, Jim Webb (D). Webb’s margin of victory was razor thin; Webb won 49.6%-49.2%, a margin of less than 10,000 votes. Many things made the difference, but for me, one scandal stood out above all: Macaca:
To summarze: George Allen called Webb volunteer, S.R. Sidarth, macaca. Sidrath is Indian (though born and raised in Virginia) and was filming Allen at all of his campaign stops. Macaca is a racial slur for an Indian, and the video was widely disseminated on YouTube (the embedded version above has nearly 700,000 views), which was just rising to prominence at the time. Around the same time, Allen’s poll numbers began to tank. Macaca was the beginning of the end for Allen, and YouTube was the road that put him out of office.
Barack Obama legendarily utilized Social Media in the 2008 election, but this really started in 2006. Never before had video been so easily accessible, so shareable. I’d argue this macaca was the original Social Media #Fail.
Those are the kind of stories I’ll cover in this blog; both historical ones and as they happen. I love schadenfreude as much as the next person, but that isn’t the entire point of this blog; I’ll also talk about the Dos, Don’ts and best practices when it comes to politics and Social Media. Hopefully, in the process, I won’t make any of the same mistakes that I rail against!
Social Media and politics is just like any other tool; it can be used for good, or for evil. Hopefully, this blog can show how to stay on the right side of this powerful medium