Will a World of Ever-Watched and Virtually Present Politicians Destory any Authenticity in Politics?

Jessica Clark of In These Times discusses YouTube, virtual worlds, and the implications for politics.

Over on the Personal Democracy Forum, a Web site devoted to exploring “the tools powering the new civic conversation,” contributing editor Ari Melber put in a plug for the benefits of bottom-up media. “It’s not surprising that political aides are wary of user-driven technology,” he writes, “since it might force new information and scrutiny on conventional campaigns. Campaigns aim to deliver a message through several mediums, and campaign managers prefer top-down mediums that they can control or influence.”

Politicians are no longer able to tailor their messages to finite audiences: state fair attendees, senior citizens, the party faithful. Each appearance now holds the possibility of being captured and rebroadcast to the larger public. This means that politicians and their handlers need to develop new forms of communicating with a cynical and empowered audience.

How soon will it be before we see a lonelygirl15 political candidate—so appealingly genuine that she’s fake, so fake, she might just be real? Barack Obama comes to mind. Or perhaps the moment has already arrived: In late August, Democratic presidential candidate Mark Warner gave an address in the online virtual world Second Life in the guise of a pixellated videogame avatar—the next stage of inauthentic authenticity. It is available, of course, on YouTube.