Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tucker Carlson Called Me A 'Freak' -- Woo Hoo!

Huffington Post
Art Brodsky
Tucker Carlson Called Me A 'Freak' -- Woo Hoo!

I was driving to the subway, listening to the radio, when Tucker Carlson, of all people, called me a "freak."

He didn't say that I, individually, was a "freak," but I certainly fit into a class of people that he did label as "freaks." I am proud to have submitted a video question to YouTube for the Republican candidates debate sponsored by CNN and YouTube. In the eyes of the person who may have brought the show, Dancing With the Stars, to its lowest level ever, I and many others are to be condemned. What kind of people do this sort of thing, Carlson said, as he noodled around about people sitting in front of their Mac-cams taking videos of themselves or others. Perhaps we should leave the question asking to the professionals.

Let me try to clarify the situation not only for Carlson, but also for the rest of the Republicans who seem intent on dodging their version of the debate. The kinds of people who do this are imaginative, thoughtful, fun loving, off-the-wall, politically astute and just a little bit tech-savvy. What's wrong with this picture? Nothing that springs readily to mind.

Perhaps there is a problem with some Republicans in distinguishing reality from video. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney complained that he shouldn't have to answer questions from a snowman (after not having seen the snowman video). Silly Governor. It wasn't a snowman asking the question. It was a couple of brothers animating a snowman to ask a question about global warming in a fun and cute way.

Saying that a snowman was asking the question would be like saying Jack Bauer and his gang on 24 are real government agents who employ real interrogation techniques. On second thought, perhaps I could find a better example. After all, there are some people who think that Fox's show is an instructional video for torture. Some Republican candidates have even endorsed the whole torture scenario.

But I digress. The point is that Republicans shouldn't be scared of answering questions from snowmen, or even from middle-aged suburbanites like myself. Granted, it is a bit different from answering pre-screened questions from a pre-selected audience in a scripted-out "town meeting" or some such Kabuki. On the other hand, the videos are entertaining, and they provide an insight into what Americans are thinking about, expressed in a way that provides a little more relief than standing up with a microphone in hand. The questions are on the same topics as many of the questions asked by the "professionals," but have more meaning because they are presented more personally.

My question (number 85--see here) raises the quite serious issue of technology policy. Lots of candidates take Silicon Valley seriously when it comes to raking in their cash. But where are they on issues like a free and open Internet? Granted, the 30-second version that's posted on YouTube isn't as funny as the longer one my colleague Alex Curtis and I put together, but it fit the bill, and we had fun making it. And I go to play with Alex's iPhone.

There are a couple of reasons why the Republicans are shying away from the debate. It could be that Republicans are technophobes - at least when it comes to technology other than that generated by major companies like AT&T. They should be aware that this how people express themselves these days. They should embrace it.

Another possibility is that they could be humor-impaired. After all, Fox's attempt to do its own Daily Show-like show went down in flames faster than Tucker on his Dancing debut. The people who find "humor" in Ann Coulter or Michelle Malkin aren't likely to catch on to YouTube.

Or it could be that the Republicans equate the YouTube debate with the refusal of Democrats to take part in a debate sponsored by Fox News. That's a serious miscalculation. Democrats boycotted the Fox events not because they were afraid of the questions, but because they believed the debates would grant a legitimacy to Fox that wasn't warranted.

YouTube is different. It's neither left nor right, makes no bogus claims about "fair and balanced." It is what the people make of it. That's democracy in its truest form. YouTube is about American capitalism, having gone from not existing to being worth $1.6 billion in a little over two years (thanks to a free and open Internet). And it has a place in politics as it does in music, or TV or anything else on the site. It is, in short, something Republicans should celebrate, not avoid.

It is about American expression in all its silliness and seriousness. Sort of like "Dancing With the Stars."