America’s fiscal crisis is fueling activism in cities and town across America where Tea Party rallies shine the light on our national debt and out-of-control government spending. But there’s also a revolution happening online, particularly with web videos that tell the story of an economically challenged country.
Debt, spending and taxes don’t exactly translate into blockbusters. Over the course of the past week, however, web videos on each subject have illustrated just how significant those issues are for engaged citizens.
A project called Bankrupting America set out earlier this year to escalate the issue of government spending by using innovative communications techniques. A major component was online video -- not the easiest goal to fulfill given the platform, subject matter and audience.
After about four months of experimenting, Bankrupting America hit one out the park with its latest video and accompanying “Spending Fail Map.” Clay Broga and Michelle McAdoo ask people on the street about various government projects and whether they’re real or fake. It’s astonishing -- and at times humorous -- the stupid things our government funds.
"We tried to take a serious and concerning topic -- how both parties in government are overspending our hard-earned taxpayer dollars in this time of economic need -- and turn it into something that was both entertaining and informative," McAdoo said.
The video hit viral status earlier this week when it surpassed 100,000 views on YouTube. The best part? All it required was a little creativity and interviews on the street.
The office of House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) took the opposite approach. Its highly produced 13-minute documentary, “Obama's Endgame,” chronicles the challenges of the national debt. Featuring interviews with Republican members of Congress, it’s a serious look at the consequences of inaction.
Conventional wisdom for years kept political and policy videos to about two minutes in length. The success of Cantor’s video shatters that notion. It currently has nearly 80,000 views.
“Put simply, the public now accepts long-form online videos as a viable viewing choice; providing the opportunity to tell compelling stories and convey increasingly complex information,” writes Matt Lira, Cantor’s director of new media. “Undoubtedly, long-form video will play an important role in political communications going forward.”
Cantor’s video is significant for another reason: It builds on the success of the YouCut campaign. YouCut, conceived earlier this year as an interactive way to expose and eliminate runaway spending in Congress, has focused so far on smaller projects (albeit still expensive). As all politicians know -- but some refuse to admit -- it’s the big issues that need to be solved. It’s refreshing that Cantor is explaining the scale of the problem.
The third video making waves was produced by my colleague Brandon Stewart at The Heritage Foundation. It uses the concept of a theatrical trailer to tell the story of the impending tax hikes. It’s a clever way to communicate the seriousness of the issue in a non-wonky way.
“Obama's Tax Hike: The Movie” has nearly 25,000 views. More importantly, it has generated a robust debate about taxes on YouTube -- in which Heritage is engaging. After all, isn’t that the point? A video could be hilarious and popular, but if it doesn’t advance the agenda, it’s a lost opportunity.
These three videos are just a few examples of the good work being done. They’re not the first and won’t be the last, but their success is an indication that Americans are seeking serious policy information in new ways.
Bluey directs the Center for Media and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation.