By now, everyone has seen or at least heard about the grainy and highly disturbing video of Saddam Hussein’s execution that was released on the web last week. The appearance of the video on the internet, as well as the outpouring of anger and criticism it has drawn, has prompted an investigation by the Iraqi government to determine how a cell phone equipped with a video camera slipped through the rigorously tight security at the execution. Regardless of who captured the video or how, the fact that Saddam’s execution was recorded and distributed demonstrates one of the many effects mobile video may have on politics in 2007 and beyond.
The ’06 elections were the first to be influenced by the growing ubiquity of mobile video devices and online video. While many campaigns used the internet to spread their campaign ads to wider groups of viewers, snafus like the infamous Macaca ordeal and the viral spread of the video of Rush Limbaugh mocking Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease made 2006 the year in which campaigns lost control of their messages thanks to video and the internet.
Last week, John Edwards announced his 2008 run for President on Youtube. The Edwards campaign has even launched a channel on Youtube, which was the 88th most viewed channel this week. Edwards explained in an interview with Rocketboom that he launched the channel as a way to reach out to a younger demographic.
I’m sure that Edwards is the first of many who will try to reign in internet video for the success of their campaigns, just as many campaigns tried to utilize the blogosphere to their advantage in 2004 and 2006. But if Iraqi guards and officials can’t keep video cell phones out of the most high-profile event of the year, I find the possibility that campaigns will be able to overpower the growing number of citizen journalists armed with increasingly high-tech mobile devices to be highly unlikely. If the last year is any proof, internet video will continue to have a powerful and uncontrollable impact on the way campaigns and candidates are viewed by the public.