alien & sedition.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
  A Prison of Their Own Design

This is a couple weeks old, but I just caught it -- Crooks & Liars reports (h/t: LowerManhattanite) on the latest project from the alternate reality that is modern American conservatism: QubeTV. Like Conservapedia, QubeTV is an attempt to combat reality's liberal bias, as manifested in online communities -- in this case, YouTube:
Apparently, cats playing the piano and homemade videos of soap stars and Harry Potter characters to the soundtrack of the latest pop love song are too…shall we say…liberally biased:
The popular video-sharing Web site first debuted "Hillary 1984," which compared Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. to a Orwellian dictator, then-Sen. George Allen's career-altering "macaca" moment and the "I Feel Pretty" video that chided former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards' good looks.

But YouTube, which is owned by Google, has also been a favorite target of conservatives, who accuse the site of a liberal bias.

Railing against YouTube, two Republican White House veterans have launched QubeTV as a conservative alternative.

"The 2008 campaign will be dominated by video and in particular by user-generated video," says QubeTV founder Charlie Gerow, a former aide in the Ronald Reagan White House.

"There are a vast array of young conservative activists and operatives out there armed with cell phones or hand-helds that are going to capture the next 'macaca' moment or John Kerry bad joke and put them on Qube TV," says Gerow, whose Pennsylvania strategic media firm, Quantum Communications, created the Web site.

Gerow insists YouTube banned a video by conservative blogger Michelle Malkin about radical Islamists.

Responding to that incident, a statement on the Web site reads: "We fly the conservative flag here at QubeTV, and we will not be about banning or deleting conservatives."
For what it's worth, Michelle Malkin personally has 25 of her videos on YouTube and a site search yields 251 results, so she's hardly underrepresented. But that's just that pesky reality again. It's much more fun to embrace victimhood, even if it's a ridiculous lie.
The whole thing is eminently mockable in and of itself, but web-based projects like QubeTV and Conservapedia are excellent illustrations of the pitfalls of the larger conservative strategy of constructing parallel institutions. The point of something like YouTube is to share information and experience with the widest social network possible -- what makes it useful as a political tool is the fact that political speech (even if it's just self-produced propaganda) joins the same pool where millions of people are looking for American Idol clips or breakdancing 5-year-olds. It's an online agora, a form of civic sphere.

But conservatives, over the past few decades, have increasingly focused on talking to each other, not to the public. In fact, they're openly suspicious of conservative politicians who do make an effort to talk to the wider public -- I've referred to this in the past as "cultural secessionism." You could also just call it a counterculture.

The strategy has boosted conservative political fortunes to an extent - is there any doubt about the role of Fox News in disciplining and motivating the Republican base? But it has its limits, and something like QubeTV is a perfect example. Okay, ghettoize yourself - post your video clips at QubeTV and nowhere else. You'll be the only ones watching them. Everyone else will be over at YouTube, or whatever replaces YouTube.

Not satisfied with merely preaching to the choir, conservatives seem intent on building walls around the choir box to shut out the rest of the congregation entirely.

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