The internet is a great tool for politicians or celebrities trying to get their name out in the public eye. Howard Dean is a perfect example of how fast word can spread through different circles on the internet. Dean used a site called meetup.com to launch part of his internet campaign. This site was originally used for trading beanie babies, and this caused internet followers of Dean to be coined as “Deanie Babies”. Dean’s was the first campaign that relied on the internet for a lot of financial help, and the internet following he acquired was the main reason for his success earlier in his campaign. Ironically, these internet communities of followers were his downfall. He made one mistake in his campaign, which was when he let out a wild scream at the end of a speech in Iowa. He was a fiery speaker, which his internet followers loved at first, but this turned against him as soon as his screams sound byte started circulating. The internet is a double-edged blade due to how fickle online communities tend to be. A person saw the speech and decided his scream was worth making fun of on the internet, which led to a massive amount of parody videos on the internet. Perhaps the mere loss of his internet following wouldn’t have lost him the campaign, but when the sound byte starting appearing on broadcast television he lost an entirely new and more expansive community. This is what Henry Jenkins was writing about in Photoshop for Democracy, when he said “If the internet made Dean’s candidacy, television unmade it.” (214) Alone the internet affects a specific community of people, but when combined with broadcast television the audience grows and any story can be spun in any number of ways by the broadcasting network.
The reverse is also true, since the internet can blow television clips way out of proportion, or at least spread them to a vast community on sites that have a large audience like Youtube. When Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift while she was receiving her VMA award for her best music video, the internet magnified the event tenfold.
Youtube created an environment where people could watch the video and comment on it, which led to tons of cruel comments aimed in all sorts of directions, but mainly at Kanye. Since he had no way of responding on the internet, his apology for doing it did not go viral as quickly or to the extent that his interruption video did. Over 16 million people have now viewed the video on youtube, and this took a serious chunk out of Kanye’s fan base. It also allowed for people to express their opinion by creating parody videos and response videos. Before this Youtube had just been a place where people could go to listen to his songs for free by watching people’s uploads of them, but then the internet showed how quickly it can turn against you by making his interruption one of the most viewed videos of the year on Youtube.
The fickleness of the online community also adds to this double-edged nature of the internet, since just as in real life, people tend to agree with the larger community in whatever situation they’re in. In a community as large as the internet, this is multiplied because people’s general opinions change so fast. One minute Kanye can have tons of followers, the next he can make a mistake and lose just as many, which starts a snowballing effect. Perhaps not everyone saw the same video on Youtube, but if a person sees it and posts the video on a different site such as Reddit, then that entire community knows about it and the cycle continues. The video on Youtube of Kanye’s interruption was from MTV, and they didn’t even ask it to be taken down. They allowed for the video to stay on Youtube to create hype for the story they were putting forward. In this way, Broadcasting networks can expand their viewing audience by utilizing the online community to get the word out. Because of this, and the Howard Dean story, it seems as if the only real winners whenever this situation presents itself are the broadcasting networks who get a lot of people watching their channel because they provide clips and videos that go viral online. The people like Dean and Kanye are the victims of the mass media’s love of drama and circulation of it, even though they use it just as much to create their own positive hype.