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April 7, 2011 / Political Fluency

Sound Bites

Now that my ears have stopped bleeding from the Rebecca Black “Friday” song and my laughter has subsided from the two equally genius parodies featuring a Bob Dylan cover and a death metal cover in time with the inane video, there was a “news” story taken out of context that epitomizes the media in the internet age.

This week, “Friday” is going to triple the number of YouTube views that Lady Gaga has for her video “Born This Way” and nearly double the number of views for the audio of the song. The eponymous album isn’t coming out until May leaving the only way for someone to hear “Born this Way” on demand is to buy it on iTunes or watch it on YouTube.* It is astounding that Rebecca Black is not equaling, but lapping the biggest pop star entertainer on the planet.

About two weeks ago when the Friday video was exploding in popularity, the news came out that Lady Gaga called Black “a genius” during an hour long interview with Google and she was lumped in as a supporter of the video.

This was the line chosen by most news and gossip sites. We can take it from The Daily News who did such a great job with their Egypt Timeline:

“I say Rebecca Black is a genius and that anybody telling her she’s cheesy is full of s—,” Gaga said Tuesday in a video posted to YouTube.

The Hollywood Gossip on March 24th wrote the following:

“I think it’s fantastic,” she in her recent Google interview. “I say Rebecca Black is a genius and anyone that’s telling her she’s cheesy is full of $h!t.”

The Queen hath spoken. Consider yourself enlightened.

But on March 23rd the same site wrote this:

Some Gaga revelations from the event

  • She’s a yoga fanatic.
  • She actually doesn’t know about Rebecca Black’s “Friday” …
  • … but she does love “David After the Dentist” on YouTube.

Here is the full transcript of the exchange – the most important part is first:

Logan (Google employee): …I’m wondering have you seen the video called “Friday” by Rebecca Black?

Lady Gaga (clearly having no clue about the video): Nnnno.

Logan: So this is the latest internet sensation. And it’s this 13 year-old girl who made a video and now it’s online and everyone’s making fun of it and just kind of criticizing it as really cheesy, which it is.

But she’s only 13… I’m curious about your reaction to YouTube as a forum for new artists and for some of the criticism that maybe young people get for going online. And then on the other side there’s the Justin Biebers who are becoming famous through YouTube. So what do you think about the future of fame through YouTube?

Lady Gaga: I think it’s fantastic. I say Rebecca Black is a genius and anyone that’s telling her she’s cheesy is full of sh–.

Logan: Thank you.

So a gossip site got it correct the first time, Lady Gaga doesn’t know about the video and her compliment of Rebecca Black was regarding her ability to get famous so quickly. That’s better than most other news organizations that never got it right. But then the next day the gossip site took the statement out of context (probably in an effort to drive traffic) as more reputable news sources covered the story out of context.


All of this is pretty silly and irrelevant, but the same thing is done on the most serious news stories. Cutting off the beginning of the Egyptian Timeline has already been discussed. There was also a cutting off the beginning of a clip during an American Presidential election – when Howard Dean lost the 2004 Iowa caucus.

Howard Dean had an Obama-lite campaign from the Summer of 2003 onward featuring a lot of enthusiastic young people, a large base of grassroots support and internet fundraising, and a lead in most polls over the rest of the Democratic field.

If you ask the average voter what happened to Howard Dean, the reply wouldn’t be in English, but merely a sound.

The famous Dean Scream. The sound heard around the world that revealed the Governor of Vermont did not have the temperament to be President.

However, this was the convenient sound bite the media played ad nauseam because it was hilarious and the downfall of the front-running campaign combined in one bizarre moment. It was played so often that it may be the best anecdotal rebuttal to the claim of liberal media bias.

The more complicated reality was what occurred in the hours before the Scream.

The week of the Iowa caucus many voters were beginning to take a closer look at surging candidates Senator John Kerry and Senator John Edwards. This led to Dean coming in a very disappointing third behind both when he was predicted to win the caucus. That was the important event.

He then proceeded to come out to address his supporters in what should have been a concession speech to both Kerry and Edwards. Instead he incongruously acted like he had won the caucus. He came on stage and began hugging and high-fiving professional politicians instead of simply shaking their hands to thank them.

This sent the already excited crowd into a loud, raucous frenzy that soon forced Dean to shout into his microphone which broadcast to the nation that he was raising his voice for no reason as the crowd noise was subdued in the background to TV viewers. Then the Scream happened and overshadowed the third place finish that should have been the real story.

It seems that was too complicated for the media to explain. And this let conservatives delude themselves into thinking that online fundraising and grassroots excitement were for fringe candidates like Dean, Ron Paul, and Barack Obama.

Well, the last guy became President and only since his election have there now been active online fundraising and grassroots movements on both sides of the political aisle. Maybe this would’ve happened sooner if pundits and the media would be willing to use their 24 hours, 7 days a week to flesh-out stories a little more rather than relegating them to screeching by a 13 year-old girl or a screech that sounds like a 13 year-old girl.

*MySpace has a negligible 600,000 listens of Born This Way


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