Macaca Moments

YouTube made its mark in political campaigns in 2006 with then-Sen. George Allen’s “macaca” comment, which contributed to the Virginia Republican’s eventual defeat.

The widely dispersed ability to record audio or video and post it to the web may have a powerful effect this year, too. And having cited the most famous Republican example, here for your bipartisan edification are a couple of instances from the Democratic side.

  • The Democratic nomination contest may have been extended by reaction to audio captured at a San Francisco fundraiser, in which Sen. Barack Obama explains Pennsylvanians’ affinity for guns and religion as the fruit of bitterness about job losses. (Scroll to the bottom to hear the audio on the Huffington Post.) The resulting controversy undoubtedly slowed Sen. Obama’s momentum and likely had something to do with Sen. Clinton’s winning streak in the later primaries. Who knows whether it might make a difference in battleground states like Pennsylvania and Ohio?
  • Most recently, former Democratic National Committee Chair Don Fowler was captured on tape as he was returning from his party’s convention in Denver. Fowler was seen expressing delight that Hurricane Gustav was going to hit during the Republican convention, interpreting it as a sign of Divine approval of the Democrats.


Here’s his “I’m sorry if I offended anyone” apology.

The lesson for politicians — and for all of us — is that a “private conversation” is an exceedingly rare event…particularly on a commercial airline.

Contrary to George Orwell’s prediction in 1984, in 2008 the threat to privacy is not a “Big Brother” government (or Bush administration wiretaps.)

Tens of millions of cell phones with video capabilities, as well as easy-to-use video cameras like the Flip, mean that almost anything you say or do could be captured and made available on the Web. But don’t blame a nefarious government plot; it will most likely be an ordinary citizen recording and uploading it.

Who has another example? Where have you seen embarrassing audio and video captured and posted to the Web?

Share your examples in the comments, and I’ll update this post with other “Macaca Moments.”

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Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

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