Philosophers tell us that one of the hallmark signs of digimodernism is its earnestness as its creators ride the whirlwind of the modern world. Alan Kirby wrote that the triumph of computerization creates a new paradigm:
new form of textuality characterized in its purest, instances by onwardness, haphazardness, evanescence, and anonymous, social and multiple authorship. These in turn become the hallmarks of a group of texts in new and established modes which also manifest the digimodernist traits of infantilism, earnestness, endlessness and apparent reality.
Looking at political discourse online this overcast Pentecost afternoon, I find indeed that all that is solid melts into pixels.
Take, for instance, the art and text of the endorsement video. In all seriousness, two parallel examples of endorsement videos for Tom Emmer underscore Kirby's point.
Let us start with the YouTube with the most views. By the standards of the Tom Emmer for Governor Youtube channel, Robert Erickson's citizen endorsement is a hit with over 600 hits, as the most views any other video has received is Jack Tomzcak at 381, with Representative Laura Brod as a close second with 358 people.
The second--Ryan Flugaur's citizen endorsement of Tom Emmer-- is part of the large group of endorsement videos assembled at Emmer's YouTube channel:
This is as earnest as earnest gets--right down to the refusal to mask the obvious reading of cue cards. No teleprompter for Mr. Flugaur, whose Youtube had received under a hundred views as I write this.
Political observers may remember how Flugaur, now 23, first entered Minnesota's political landscape in 2005 as president of the Minnesota Teenage Republicans. A true child of digimodernism, Flugaur posted an appeal online asking for evidence of political repression in the state's high schools by liberal teachers and administrators, stating that he did so at the request of then state senator Michele Bachmann. Bachmann Trolling for Stories from Teen Age Republicans, a Dump Bachmann post from 2005, is a good starting point for understanding the story.
This incident was one of the few times in Bachmann's pre-congressional career in which the media took a serious look at her fringe views (and it's interesting now how it foreshadows her calls in 2008 for investigating members of congress for Anti-Americanism). However, Flugaur quickly learned about the evanescence and haphazardness of digimodern discourse as Bachmann Hang[ed] Teen Age Republican Student Out to Dry.
Flugaur's next cameo appearance came as the legislative assistant for Mark Olson's caucus of one, following the House Republicans' ejection of the legislator pending his trial on domestic assault charges. Flugaur quickly became Mark Olson's Biggest Defender. Olson stayed banished following his conviction on a lesser related charge; he no longer serves in the legislature.
While the content of Flugaur's online life may have shape-shifted as Republicans struggled to get their narrative together, his fellow-endorser and apparent contemporary in terms of age has no such distinguished pedigree. Recently chosen as #2 MN Blogger of the Year in an online poll, the anti-immigrant activist burst on the scene last November at a Tea Party Against Amnesty. The full story is found here.
I'd written last week that Erickson intended to release an Emmer endorsement video, Bluestem Prairie asked the question then, Who does Robert Erickson think he is? I still don't know the answer to that digimodern question, though he seems every bit as earnest as Mr Flugaur, albeit not as stationary.
Yesterday, FireDogLake picked up where my post ended. In Come Saturday Morning: Robert Erickson Endorses Tom Emmer for Governor — But Would Like to See Emmer’s Papers, Phoenix Woman (not from Arizona) writes a quick assessment:
Show us your papers, Tom! We can’t have any illegal Canadian hockey-playing anchor-baby-fathering men in the Governor’s Mansion!
More on Robert Erickson can be found here. The lad’s a genius, and quick on his feet.
What does this wrinkle in 2010 Minnesota political discourse mean? The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern politics would be very tedious if it were either, and discourse analysis a complete impossibility.
Photo: Tom Emmer, endorsed by the Republican Party of Minnesota, Robert Erickson and Ryan Flugaur. Does social media's role role in Minnesota politics--and these videos in particular--reflect Kirby's theories about digimodernist texts being mark by "infantilism, earnestness, endlessness and apparent reality" or was that more a characteristic of the Emmer floor speeches Flugaur so brilliantly referenced in his video endorsement?