I was struck over the past few days by the extent to which we have become a culture driven by "Gotcha" politics. I wrote recently about the flak Hillary Clinton got for her remarks on RFK's assassination in June 68. Obama has had his share of faux-pas, although his were mostly the result of his now erstwhile pastors getting a little too outspoken and provocative by the standards of middle America. The theatrical Michael Pfleger makes an easy boogeyman for the republicans, another bullet for them to swift-boat Obama into a liberal radical, piling on to the assumed reluctance of many white voters to vote for an African American.
When I looked at that clip on YouTube, over half a million people had already elected to watch it. We have gone from the dictatorship of the 24 hour news cycle to that of the recorded image that can be played and replayed online on demand. Every single misstep that an exhausted candidate can make on the stump will exist for ever, and can have an impact that it never had before. The iconic example of this new dynamic is of course George Allen's infamous Macaca comment, which helped make the democrats the Senate majority again in 2006. In a way Americans are now writing the headlines themselves rather than waiting to see what a newspaper has decided for them should be front page news. Which you could say is good for democracy. But there is a downside to this: the risk that anyone's actions will have to become entirely scripted to avoid any potential slip of the tongue.
And I'm not even talking just about politics. Dior quickly dropped ads in China featuring Sharon Stone after she gave off-the-cuff remarks to journalists at the Cannes Film Festival in which she candidly shared her musings on karma. If you watch the whole clip though, clearly you understand that her intentions are good, and that of course she was not rejoicing in the death of tens of thousands of people. Even more baffling was how conservative bloggers managed to get Dunkin Donuts last week to stop running an ad with Rachel Ray simply because she was wearing a keffiyeh, which apparently makes her a supporter of Arab terrorists. What's next? I am certainly familiar with the threat of censorship, and the pressures to remain politically correct. But you know that being intimidated is not my style. Art will not be silenced, and with your support and that of organizations such as ANAVAILABLESPACE, I will keep on fighting for the freedom of all artists to speak their mind. Yes, even using YouTube to make that happen!