I woke up this morning to reports on a tweet sent by US Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in response to last night’s Republican Debate.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 29, 2015
The fact that it was still on my timeline indicates to a certain extent that the tweet had gone viral, and it’s not hard to understand why – in many cases, it is the perfect response from a competitor. It was also extremely clever, considering that the GIF that was used to make her point, was from an very recent event that was extremely high profile. Those of you who follow American politics will recognise that shot from the Benghazi hearing where Hillary was questioned for 11 hours just last week. It is also another example of the sophistication of Hillary’s social media campaign this time round, as compared to 2008. I am reminded of this post on her Facebook page last night as well, while the Republican debate was happening. Tapping into the popularity of the ‘Text from Hillary‘ Tumblr page that made its rounds a couple of years ago (and not, to my knowledge at least, crafted by her team), her campaign allowed people to ‘text’ Hillary and get her reaction on the debate. The fact that her team used that image which became a meme says it all.
But it did make me wonder if all this is just more than a great ‘social media strategy’? I am seeing these posts at a time when I am diving deep into books on spin and manipulation in politics.
It reminds me of The GIF bite election I read following the end of the 11-hour hearing referring to the ‘GIF bite election’, noting:
Theory: while Republicans were playing for the sound bite, Hillary was playing to the gif, perhaps the first politician in history to consciously do so.
In the article, Matt Bors even questioned if that moment was a “Casual, common brushing of the shoulder? Or calculated media strat cooked up by Hillary’s yet-unkown Lead GIF Advisor?”
As with many things in a political campaign, there will be things we never find out. Yes, that theory is extremely plausible. It does, at the very least, come across as extremely too convenient.
It’ll be interesting to see what else comes from political campaigns in the future. It’s not just GIF’s that we should be looking out for, but also the current trend of Vine mash-ups we are seeing used in popular culture (see the current one of Drake’s latest music video making the rounds below). I’d be very keen to see how it’s weaved into politics.
Besides, it’s not really a new concept – the idea of the soundbite has long existed. And many politicians, including Hillary this time round, have been snipping up video footage of each other to make their cases or respond to competitors.
But while I am interested in this from an academic perspective, as voters, we need to be all the more eagled-eyed about how we are being manipulated. Because this isn’t about Hillary being ‘cool’ and ‘with the times’, this is very much about her team – and anyone else’s for that matter – making her (or them) come across that way.