Rocking the Vote
The latest YouTube celebrity is a Japanese political activist named Koichi Toyama. A street musician and leftist political activist, Toyama ran for election in the 2007 governor's race. His campaign: a strange but simple YouTube video. Toyama managed to gain .27% of the total vote, putting him in final eighth place out of the fourteen candidates who ran for office.
His campaign strategy might sound strange, even far-fetched, but it is a part of a growing trend. Globally broadcasted self-expression is now an option for just about anyone. Overnight web celebs are becoming more and more common. But can someone really go so far as winning an election by campaigning from YouTube?
The idea is both scary and profound considering Toyama's message-- "destroy the nation!!" Throughout his entire heated speech, Toyama raves, senselessly though provocatively, about an uprising of anarchy and destruction. He not only calls on his fellow citizens but "anyone" who might heed the battle cry of total destruction.
His polemic seems easily laughable and transferrable to the South Park, Simpsons and Daily Show arena, but then again, the guy took 15,000 votes!
Of course it isn't the first time that a political candidate has used little to any reason and lots of bravado and improvisation. In 1998 Jesse, "The Body," Ventura won the gubernatorial election in the state of Minnesota using campaign commercials that included fist-pumping action heroes who beat up the other candidates. His reform party headquarters were packed full of people drinking Budweiser, sitting at the Canterbury Downs racetrack. Humor and creativity seemed to win the election for him.
And even more recently, Steven Colbert demonstrated that even phony conservative talk-show hosts can raise democratic presidential nominee votes in the State of South Carolina.
Is there something about humor, absurdity and even extremism that can steal a voters attention? The answer seems to be yes. Perhaps it's the honesty that is either present or so directly implied in these sorts of political strategies. Or perhaps it's boredom with the theater of politics that has people desiring anything new, anything at all.
The CNN theatrical show "Crossfire" was cancelled not long after Jon Stewart's visit to the program. Stewart went on live television and lambasted the program for its overtly theatrical and all too polarized presentation. He likened the current political situation in the media to "professional wrestling." When asked what candidate would serve his Daily Show best, Stewart replied, "It's the absurdity of the current system itself that we play off."
Maybe people are willing to vote for a candidate like Toyama because his character rings out like a trumpet blast in the middle of an otherwise uninteresting political charade. When humor and absurdity become the most effective rhetorical devices on the planet, we should perk our ears up.
As savvy comedian and cultural commentator Mark Twain once wrote, "against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand."
Perhaps even more troubling, Twain wrote that, "The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow."Tweet