Flip: Seizing The Message and Messenger

I can see already that one of the principal activities of Mode Shift is to make a difference in the 2008 presidential campaign, not by convincing readers to vote for a particular candidate but by helping to make the case for public priorities that deserve to be treated seriously. Resource conservation, public transportation, metropolitan patterns of develohillary-clinton-photograph-c11811455.jpgpment, global climate change, healthy food, and land conservation merit attention. And it’s our responsiblity as writers to frame the issues in a way that people understand and leaders can’t avoid. 

This month an Internet event that stirred millions of Americans and the political community provides solid evidence that things will be very different next year. The event,  a video critical of Hillary Clinton that borrowed heavily from Apple’s famous 1984 Super Bowl commercial introducing the Macintosh, attracted more than two million viewers in 15 days. The video provides more evidence of the eagerness of creative and politically involved  people at the grassroots to shatter conventions. The power of their ideas and their access to social media indicates that it’s not going to be possible for candidates, regardless of political party, to wave their hands at “energy” or “health care,” or “education”, or even “security” and think that’s going to be sufficient.

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The Associated Press summarized today’s events this way: “A copy of the original commercial, directed by Ridley Scott, has been remade into a satirical attack piece against presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, replacing the Big Brother figure with the Democratic senator from New York instead. It then ends with a message supporting her opponent Sen. Barack Obama and a fruity Apple-like logo that has been converted into an “O.” The woman runner in the commercial has also been modified so that she’s wearing an iPod. The creator of the so-called online video mash-up was identified Wednesday as Philip de Vellis, a strategist who worked with a digital consulting company that has ties to Obama. The Illinois senator’s campaign has denied being behind the ad.”

The more durable point is that a clever video with a powerful message broke through to reach people. It apparently was produced by one guy with a brain, a computer, an editing program, access to YouTube, and a bit of a marketing strategy. 

The same is possible for people interested in transportation, the environment, housing, energy, land, and infrastructure investments. The convergence of record population growth, declining family incomes, and rising energy, land, housing, and living costs is eroding the right of a majority of  Americans to a good and decent life. These trends threaten our national security and our economic well-being. They are the threads of a national emergency hidden in the complex tapestry of our economy, culture, and business practices. Concern about these issues turned them into top public priorities in Michigan and some 40 other states. It’s our responsibility to tease them out, display them in creative and visual ways that get to the point, and to do so with persistence and clarity of mission that can’t be ignored at the national level. 

The tools and technology of social media, particularly YouTube, provides thinking people access to the hearts and minds of millions of Americans. We have brains and creativity and passion. We also have computers, cameras, recorders, mixers, editing software, and access to mass dissemination platforms, all available at a reasonable cost. Look for much more out of the grassroots in exploring the American Mode Shift. We have the opportunity to break open the conventional packaging and make the 2008 race something special. Neither the parties nor the candidates will be able to fully control the message. You and I will have our say.      

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