Posts Tagged ‘Political Attack Videos’

Carly’s Demon Sheep Meets eMeg’s $5M TV Buy

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Tom Meyer’s take on Tom Campbell today finds the wannabe Republican Senator posing, Scott Brown-like, for a Cosmo centerfold. This makes Dudley Do Right the first California politician in  history to be portrayed in one week as both a wolf in sheep’s clothing and a wolf in no clothing.

As the flapdoodle grew over rival Hurricane Carly Fiorina’s horrible web ad —  which casts Dudley as an evil, liberal, ram in drag lurking dangerously amid the clueless GOP flock  —  the authentic awfulness of iCarly’s 3:22 online commercial could be measured by one simple fact: it was so bad that Campbell e-blasted it to his own supporters.

Embarrassing, inane and juvenile, the now-infamous Demon Sheep ad joins Fiorina’s much-panned campaign web site in establishing her clearly as the leading cyberdunce and technoklutz running in 2010 for any office anywhere in the nation.

While Hurricane Carly’s handlers on Thursday sought to make light of how badly the spot bombed across the far reaches of the internets (“in all seriousness, who doesn’t need some entertainment to supplement the drier aspects of politics” one of her mouthpieces averred in an e-mail – clunk) it was hard to find anyone in state politics who applauded it as a really, really swell idea.

“If a political consultant tried to cut a happy cows-make-great-cheese ad while on blotter acid, it would look something like this,” said one longtime Republican strategist not playing in the Senate race.

For Carly’s sake, Calbuzz sincerely hopes she didn’t pay eMeg-level prices for this dog, the most head-scratching narrative since “Mulholland Drive.” Putting aside the fact that calling the soft-spoken, terminally mild-mannered Tom Campbell a “wolf” is the coolest thing anybody’s said about him in 30 years, the ad suffers from two fatal flaws:

First, its production values reek of something that might be churned out by a decidedly untalented, would-be film studies major at Santa Monica City College. (which, truth be told, is unfair to SMCC students). The over-the-top narrator can’t decide whether he’s talking to Campbell or addressing the viewers, freely mixing up the second and third person voices, and the cheesy wolf face supposedly masking Campbell would be a disgrace to the average denizen of the Bidey Wee Pre-School and Toddler Care Center.

More substantively, the central message of the ad portrays conservative Republicans -– the people whose support Fiorina is supposedly seeking — as a flock of dumbass ovine, baa-baa-baaing while mindlessly munching grass and mooning the big bad wolf lurking in the meadow.

Accusing iCarly of being in full “mutton meltdown,” Campbell flack James Fisfis properly harrumphed: “Contrary to Carly Fiorina’s insulting portrayal of fiscal conservatives as sheep, these are in fact involved people who engage the issues and ask tough questions.”

More amusing are the countless legions of tweeters and web commenters weighing in on the weighty matter, such as those over at Gawker, who ranged from members of the Responsible Bestiality Community (“Needs more sheep fucking”) to more serious political types (“Is this video trying to get me to vote for Carly Fiorina or convert me to Scientology?”) and the more be-here-now, philosophically inclined (“Meanwhile, my HP printer still jams”).

eMeg’s $5-million Mission – Make People Like Her: Want more proof that Meg Whitman is prepared to spend unlimited amounts of money to become California’s next governor? How about a maiden ad buy in excess of $5 million, including the Super Bowl pre-game show, for a TV commercial that never mentions that the candidate is a Republican?

It’s a soft-sell approach, with nice flourishes for skeptical women – simple jewelry and makeup, lots of nodding, mentioning that people are “scared to death,” and suggesting that “a business perspective is a bit of what California needs right now.” Not too much, you see, just a bit. Aaaaaw. Gentle branding, with only fleeting glimpses of the candidate herself.

Sure the ad fudges how long eMeg has lived in California (she suggests she’s lived here since 1980, which isn’t true) and there’s no demon sheep, but it’s a nice piece of work by Scott Howell and lays out Meg’s three priorities very clearly: creating jobs, cutting spending and fixing schools.

Why no mention of her actual political party (the one she joined up with just a short time ago)? “She is quite obviously a Republican and when voters are in the voting booth, they’ll know she’s a Republican,” Megaphoner Tucker Bounds told us. “This is an introductory ad. She’s introducing herself and her conservative principles and her solutions for California and that was the focus.”

Nice spin Tucker. But the reason she never mentions that she’s a Republican is that she’s not even running for the GOP nomination with this ad – she’s running for the general election, when she’ll need all the independents and Democrats she can possibly attract. This ad speaks right past the Republican base, assuming that she can win the nomination without catering to the conservative GOP rank-and-file.

Incidentally, that’s the same meta-message eMeg has sent to the state GOP by refusing to join Steve “The Commish” Poizner in debate at the statewide convention next month – that she shouldn’t be expected to try to hustle support from the Republican base: they should be delighted to have her as their standard-bearer. And thank you for that.

Teddy D. scores: Those looking for news of the Senate race with a bit more, um, grrrrav-i-tas are advised to check out Teddy Davis’ report on an interview with Campbell on ABC’s “The Note,” in which Tom Boy calls for a new carbon tax, coupled with cuts in the payroll tax, as alternative to incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer’s cap-and-trade proposal.

Deep Thoughts: Who Validates the Validators?

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Web wh033-827acker alert: As the Ebert & Roeper of the still-emerging fine art of online political attack videos, Calbuzz believes that the pallid  gnomes laboring away in the campaign media shops of eMeg and The Commish are having entirely too much fun.

The latest You Tube exchange between GOP don’t-invite-ems Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner features nice examples of two very different, but equally effective, dirt-dishing genres: Team Whitman’s offering is a high-concept, full-length (1:28) narrative rip job that bashes the Insurance Commissioner for junketeering to Las Vegas and making exaggerated claims about his record, accompanied by The Who doing  “Who Are You?” and highlighted by grainy images of Poizner amusingly framed by yellow crime scene tape.

Stevie Wonder’s posse by contrast checks in with a spare, minimalist (0:28) design noir approach that uses as its central image a blurry video of a Y2K-era Billy Bass singing fish – neo-post ironic cultural iconic chic! – belting out “I Will Survive” in front of headlines that proclaim eMeg’s enduring love affair with the Delta smelt.duvall

We love the smell of napalm in the morning.

The truth about bullshit: It goes without saying, of course, that the audience for these things is small – if select and influential (we name no names). But web whackers nonetheless are significant, both as off-Broadway sneak peaks of themes that may be later recycled in actual, obscenely expensive TV campaigns, and as hints to the level of credibility the candidates believe it’s necessary to meet in their abiding efforts to kneecap the other guy.

Production values aside, what we find praiseworthy about these new web ads is that the Whitman and Poizner camps both e-blasted memos citing the third-party sources that support their attacks. Because your Calbuzzards were pioneers (We walked to school – uphill – through six feet of snow – barefoot!) of what has come to be called “the truth box,” the standing feature graphic by which the MSM deconstructs and factually checks claims made in campaign ads, we applaud these responsible exercises in assertion attribution.

Givenbullshit that, the latest round of online fusillades raises several key points:

1-Memo to flacks: In the future please include in your fact sheets the title, artist and recording date of all music used in ads. We’re old, have two good ears between us and don’t have time to hang out on Lime Wire.

2-The meat of the toughest claims in both ads is drawn from the reporting of Ken McLaughlin of the Murky News, who appears to be the only guy in California doing any useful work. In several pieces packed with Actual Reporting, McLaughlin has not only revealed the squishy, tree hugging beneficiaries that Smokestack Meg selected for the largesse of her charitable foundation, but also bitch slapped Poizner for inflating and enlarging his record and role in delivering savings to consumers and taxpayers. Hello?  Is anyone else playing the game or are you gonna let Ken just keep running round and round the track by himself?

3-Whitman’s web hit includes a number of faux headlines, most of them quoting language lifted directly from the Merc story. However, the toughest punch is a hed that screams “Steve Poizner Caught Lying” which is from a different source altogether.

And that one raises some interesting questions.


Whom do you trust? In Whitman’s ad, the “lying” headline is attributed on screen to “California Political Blog.” That phrase is written in bold-faced letters over a smaller, plain type face underline that reads “Orange Juice Blog 11/15/09.”

Orange Juice Blog is a venerable (2003) site that promotes itself as “Orange County’s top political blog.” It’s run by a fellow named Art Pedroza who’s been in and around the OC’s Beirut-style politics for years, variously as an advocate, candidate, consultant, public official and Republican operative.

A stroll through the site shows a strong, hyper-local focus on Orange County – “Al Amezcua and Dennis DeSnoo joined forces to oust AUHSD Trustee Harald Martin” – in-your-face heds – “Republican Ed Perez incoherently babbles about Lorri Galloway” – plus funny photos of political enemies pictured with cat whiskers or above captions that say things like “Colonic extraction was deemed necessary to save the patient.”

There’s also evidence of feuds with other conservative bloggers and blogs, like Flashreport and Red State, as well as utter disdain for Steve Poizner:

Poizner is the Republican Party’s Phil Angelides. A rich, funny-looking guy with an odd last name. He may prevail in the primary – but he will be toast in the general election.

In other words, it’s your run-of-the-mill, highly-opinionated, irreverent, score-settling, rip-your-face-off, stick-it-in-and-twist-it political web site with agendas that may or may not be completely transparent. Fair enough, but one thing Orange Juice is not is a take-it-to-the-bank source of journalistically-based information about the California governor’s race.

As noted above, Whitman in her ad attributes the “Steve Poizner Caught Lying” headline to Orange Juice Blog only as a secondary source, underneath a cite line that reads “California Political Blog.” On the Orange Juice site, the original hed (“GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner caught lying”) was splashed atop a brief anti-Poizner rant that introduced excerpts from McLaughlin’s carefully written and balanced piece (which the blog attributed to “The San Jose Mercury Bee”).

While the OJ post falls obviously and fully within the bounds of fair comment on the story, it raises an intriguing question for the truth box patrols: Who validates third-party validators?

billy-bassQuestions without answers: Put another way, does the “lying” headline meet the basic standard and level of credibility worthy of use by a major candidate campaigning for the highest office in California? In other words, does the singular fact that something is published on a web site, any web site, qualify that information to be employed by a serious contender leveling a serious charge in a big statewide race?

If it is, what is to prevent candidates from using campaign cut-outs, perhaps clad in pajamas and tin foil hats, from posting all manner of web-based vitriol beneath all manner of screamer headlines, and then featuring those posts in TV attack ads as evidence that neutral parties think ill thoughts about their rival?

Is it acceptable political practice to use some neutral, official sounding name, like  “California Political Blog,” as a beard for partisan sources? How will truth-box referees analyze the quality of the information behind such allegations, or determine the motives and agendas of the allegators? At what point do we throw a penalty flag when the original source of charges is something like the  Breitbart/Newsmax/Drudge  re-validation crapchurn loop? Where, exactly, is the line to be drawn? Or is the very notion of a line self-incriminating evidence of discredited MSM-style thinking?Roseanne_Roseannadanna

As Roseanne Roseannadanna famously said, “You sure do ask a lot of stupid questions.”

In fact, reflecting on these matters gave Calbuzz a major headache (which didn’t get better when we asked the Whitman campaign about the issue, and  the volcanic Sarah Pompei offered this lavamoric answer: “We might even consider using Calbuzz.” Walked right into that one).

At first we thought, well, third party validators should only be considered credible if they have some proven form of journalistic cred.  And then we thought, oh no, Calbuzz, that can’t be right: as hip, black jeans-wearing New Media guys, we fiercely oppose all forms of institutionally credentialed gatekeeper journalism.

the_thinkerWhich left us with three basic conclusions:

1-The whole concept of third-party journalistic validation is being rapidly devalued by the unlicensed, uncredentialed, unapproved, unruly Internets.

2-Caveat emptor.

3-Never forget the ABC Rule: Always Believe Calbuzz.