Untold story behind the story: “Barack Obama: People’s President”

A film to reveal what the old media didn't show...

A film to reveal what the old media didn't show...

When Barack Obama and his running made Joe Biden won the US Presidential Election held on 4 November 2008, they not only beat the Republican duo McCain-Palin but also a host of other also-rans. It’s too soon to tell, but that date might also mark the beginning of the end for the old media, also called the mediasaurus, who have been dominating the public’s access to news, information and commentary for over a century.

But how did it all happen? Who can tell us the real story as it happened, and why, without filters and biases so rampant among the mediasaurus?

On this blog, we have watched with deep interest and some fascination the rise of Barack Obama from relative obscurity to become the President of the United States. On 6 November 2008, soon after the election results were confirmed, we noted how Obama had just been elected ‘President of the New Media world’. I explained: “Obama’s rise has epitomised change in many ways. Among other things, he is the first elected leader of a major democracy who shows understanding and mastery over the New Media World, which is radically different from the old media order.”

On 20 January 2009, when he was inaugurated, we wrote: “For four or eight years, Obama’s every move, word and gesture will be captured, dissected and debated to exhaustion by admirers and detractors alike. And his administration will be under scrutiny by thousands of citizen journalists who don’t share much except the digital platforms and social networks on which they post their impressions. Welcome to the New Media Presidency. The hard work – and real fun – begin now!”

And now, one of the world’s leading new media activists, Danny Schechter, is about to release a new documentary on how the Obama campaign rode the new media wave to the White House — and more importantly, how the same new media can help the American public to keep Obama Administration accountable.

The film “Barack Obama, People’s President”, (slated for DVD release later this month by ChoiceMedia.net), documents the online and on the ground techniques that were used to win the highest office in the land.

As the film’s advance promo blurb says: The one story that most TV outlets didn’t tell in the 2008 election was the most important one -how did a young and relatively unknown candidate become President? If you voted for Barack Obama or not, this is a story you will want to know because it shows how the face of presidential politics changed forever. Barack Obama used techniques never seen before in a nationwide election — his grassroots mobilization and use of the internet was unprecedented, inspiring and effective. You have seen the rest of the coverage — now see the real story.

The film goes inside the official and unofficial campaign to show how Barack Obama was turned into a political brand to appeal to young first time voters. It shows how social networking on the internet — blogs, Facebook, texting and other techniques — were used carry the message to the masses and to raise tens of millions of dollars for the campaign. Popular online videos such as “Obama Girl”, along with those created by regular yet passionate supporters to engage their own communities, became one of the most important tools in the campaign’s success.

Watch the trailer of “Barack Obama, People’s President” directed by Danny Schechter:

Emmy award winning film-maker Danny Schechter, who is also blogger-in-chief at MediaChannel.org that keeps a critical eye on the media, just wrote this explaining why he made this film:

“It is hard to remember that two years earlier Obama was barely known, registering on the radar screen for just 10% of voters. He was also hardly a brand name as a first term Senator who spent more time in state politics in Illinois than on the national stage. Moreover, he was young and a man of color — not qualities that usually prevail in a presidential arena which tends to draw far older, far whiter, and far more centrist candidates. The thought that he would beat frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the primaries was, quite frankly, unthinkable to most of the elite.

“And yet he prevailed, as he used a phrase appropriated from labor organizer and Latino legend Caesar Chavez. Obama turned the farm workers Spanish language slogan “Si Se Puede” into “Yes We Can.” Rather than focus on specific political issues, he built a campaign on the promise of “Hope.” Rather than just rely on traditional fundraising — although by the end, he was plush with it — he reached out over the internet for smaller donations from millions of donors.

Perils of the New Media Generation...

Perils of the New Media Generation...

“Few in the major media gave him a chance, but he was not discouraged because he had created his own grassroots media operation using sophisticated organizing and social networking techniques to build a bottom-up movement, not the usual top-down apparatus. While his campaign ran the show, he encouraged independent initiatives including citizen-generated media, music videos, personalized websites, twittering and texting, etc..

“This is the new direction our politics has taken. It is a story that may be somewhat threatening to old media – and older activists – who prefer a one to many approach to communication, as opposed to forging a more interactive empowering platform. There is no question that young people — especially those mobilized by Obama — prefer online media and that choice is making it harder and harder for traditional outlets to sustain their influence and, in some cases, even their organizations. Old media may be on the way out.

“This is why our film is, in my mind, so important, not just as a record of how Obama won and what happened in 2008, but in what will happen, can happen, and is happening in the future. This is why I believe its critical for Americans to see it — and others in the world as well — to recognize how Obama represents more than just another politician, but a whole new approach to politics. That old adage is worth remembering: “It’s not the ship that makes the wave, it’s the motion of the ocean.”

“Obama, for all his shortcomings, which are becoming more obvious by the day, has pioneered the way change must be won — not by people on the top, but by all of us. It remains for “us” to hold him accountable. We live in a culture of amnesia – it is important to learn the lessons of the recent past.”

Read the full comment: New Film Tells Unreported Story of Obama’s Election on MediaChannel.org

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Barack Obama: Just elected President of the New Media world

President Obama and the call at 3 am...

President Obama and the call at 3 am...


“Congratulations for restoring sanity and intelligence to Washington…and giving the world its first President. Real hard work begins now. Look after him!”

This was my brief message to American friends soon after they elected Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America.

It was entirely appropriate that I sent this message via mobile phone text (SMS). For Obama’s trail-blazing campaign to the White House used the new media innovatively while also using the old media (such as broadcast television) in a complementary manner.

Obama’s rise has epitomised change in many ways. Among other things, he is the first elected leader of a major democracy who shows understanding and mastery over the New Media World, which is radically different from the old media order.

As AFP reported in a story titled ‘Obama surfs the web to the White House‘: “Social networks and Twitter messages may have helped but analysts agree it was the Democrat’s impressive online organization and Internet fund-raising that fueled his victory over Republican John McCain in Tuesday’s election.”

It quoted Julie Germany, director of George Washington University’s Institute for Politics Democracy & the Internet, as saying: “No one’s going to say Obama won the election because of the Internet but he wouldn’t have been able to win without it. From the very beginning the Obama campaign used the Internet as a tool to organize all of its efforts online and offline. It was like the central nervous system of the campaign.”

Both Obama and McCain campaigns had slick websites and TV campaigns. But additionally, Obama inspired thousands of web-savvy volunteers to extend his message way beyond the official outreach. Doing so risked diluting the campaign or losing tight control, but that gamble paid off.

Al Gore, US vice president from 1992 to 2000, also understood the potential of new media, especially the transformative nature of the Internet. But at the time he was in office, the new media tools were not being used by sufficiently large numbers of people for it to make a difference in political campaigning or citizen engagement.

Both the timing and technologies favoured Obama, who successfully tapped into Digital Natives — those relatively younger people who have grown up with digital technology such as computers, the Internet, mobile phones and MP3. (In contrast, Digital Immigrants are those individual who grew up without digital technology and adopted it later.)

But as many commentators are pointing out, the real fight has just begun. It remains to be seen how Obama and his team use New Media tools, platforms and potential to deliver the promise of change.

Meanwhile, my own favourite cartoon of Obama election is the one above – and funnily enough, it concerns a piece of old technology: the good old fixed phone. If you recall, in long-drawn campaign for Obama to secure Democratic Party nomination, his rival Hillary Clinton ran this TV commercial which peddled her credentials for being familiar with the corridors of power.

It’s 3 AM and your children are safe and asleep. But there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing.
Something’s happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call…


Hillary’s original ad:

Obama’s official response:

There were various unofficial spoofs created by Digital Natives who love to play with new media tools. Just run a search for ‘3 am’ or ‘red phone’ on YouTube and you can watch many of these online!

By the way, isn’t it time that the old-fashioned Red Phone in the White House – the American President’s Hotline to save the world – was replaced with a more modern looking instrument? One more thing for the New Media President Obama…

‘War for the Whitehouse’: Obama, McCain and The Onion

Onion News Network - for news you can't afford to miss

Onion News Network - for news you can't afford to miss

The American presidential election race is entering its last lap. And the world watches the campaign trail with baited breath.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama enjoys more international support than his Republican rival John McCain, as most people outside the US prefer the Democrat leader to become next US president, according to a BBC poll in September 2008. Most of the people questioned in the global poll conducted by international polling institute GlobeScan believe that US relations with the rest of the world would improve under the presidentship of Obama.

While so much of American and international news media time is being spent on covering the campaign and various opinion polls, some comic relief comes from The Onion – that wickedly funny and innovative website which now produces a steady stream of videos spoofing the news media’s worse excesses.

The Onion calls it the ‘War for the White House’ and has set up its ‘election analysis bunker’ from where its intrepid reporters are bringing us news that you – and major news organisations – have somehow managed to miss. They call is Onion News Network, ONN for short.

They’ve been doing it for the better part of a year, and here are some of my favourites from The Onion YouTube channel:

Caution: There’s a slight bias towards Senator Obama in some of these news reports, but then, he’s been the liberal media’s darling for much of this campaign year.

October 2008: McCain Left On Campaign Bus Overnight
Campaign officials downplayed the incident, saying the senator was fine as soon as he was fed and taken to the bathroom.

October 2008: Gifted Youngster Sells Cookies To Buy Attack Ad
In this installment of Beyond The Facts, a precocious 8-year-old girl participates in grown-up politics by spreading smears and lies.

September 2008: McCains Economic Plan: ‘Everyone Marry A Beer Heiress’
McCain pointed to his personal success in marrying a wealthy beer heiress to prove how the plan could benefit every American.

September 2008: Obama Runs Constructive Criticism Ad On McCain
In response to Republican attacks, Barack Obama unleashed a series of slightly negative ads that gently point out how McCain could be doing a better job.

August 2008: Portrayal Of Obama As Snob Hailed As Step Forward For Blacks
Overjoyed civil rights leaders say that Barack Obama has paved the way for future black politicians to be smeared as country club snobs.

March 2008: Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters
For a majority of likely voters, meaningless bullshit will be the most important factor in deciding who they will vote for in 2008.

January 2008: The Onion: More Candidates Court Fat Vote
Presidential candidates are reaching out to fat voters on the campaign trail by eating large amounts of fattening food.

See all election videos of ONN

ONN’s self-introduction says its “style of hard-hitting, on-the-ground coverage of live news events has become a standard in the news industry. The network can be viewed in 92.2 million U.S. households and more than 500,000 American prison cells, making it the most-watched cable network in the world. It can currently be seen in 312 countries, with broadcasts in 52 different languages“.

Wow!

The Onion - The Nation's finest news source...

The Onion - The Nation's finest news source...