Presidential Candidates Are Trying to Go Viral and It's Getting Weird

The Internet is a different beast altogether, and instead of catering to the interest of journalists, candidates can/must appeal to the masses.

Presidential candidates have always said incendiary things to get the media's attention. Some, like Abraham Lincoln, actually owned newspapers. Don't be surprised, however, if news outlets aren't ready to discuss their history as rumor mills and propaganda machines for the rich and politically connected.

But the Internet is a different beast altogether, and instead of catering to the interest of journalists, candidates can/must appeal to the masses. And what do we want in ceaseless quantities? Entertainment! Here's just an example from the last week or so:

Donald Trump publicly discloses Senator Lindsey Graham's personal phone number.

Senator [Lindsey] Graham destroys said phone with a myriad of crude tools.

Rand Paul burns, chainsaws, and woodchips the U.S. tax code.

Lots of political commentary gets coverage, but only bombast and weirdness go viral. 

Democratic candidate Martin O'Malley's recent claim that climate change hastened the rise of ISIS, falls somewhere in the middle. It's a shocking claim that neither addresses the core of ISIS or climate change, but cannot be denied as entirely baseless.


The Pentagon has already said that climate change is a "threat multiplier" in that it creates conditions, like droughts and food shortages, that make poverty and the rise of extremism and violence more likely.

One wonders how atomized political discussions that center on a singular event, such as a video montage of cellphone or tax code destruction, can ever create the kind of shared experience necessary for transcendent political discussion.

On the other hand, if politics becomes more entertaining, and gets more (young) people talking about who they would or wouldn't vote for, maybe they'll actually vote. That would be a good start.

Photo credit: Washington Post/Getty Images

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