Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Baron Hill, David Allen Coe and Richard Nixon

Column notes: I already posted a short blog item about this video where Baron Hill got caught in a "compromising position on youtube," but I decided to also write a column on the topic. I love it when I can make such interesting connections between seemingly unrelated people.

HARBESON: Perfect YouTube video stars Rep. Baron Hill

I love YouTube.com. On this Internet Web site, anyone can post videos, so I can find almost anything I want. Videos range from the amateurish to the professional, ridiculous to thoughtful, intelligent to downright stupid. I can find quality videos to learn something new or I can just watch some silly mindless entertainment.

For a while now, I’ve been on the lookout for the perfect YouTube video. If that extra verse in David Allen Coe’s famous song that includes mama, prison, getting drunk, trucks and trains could define the perfect country-western song, then there has to be something similar for YouTube videos.

I was confident one would show up eventually that would succinctly and effectively define the medium. Well, I finally found it and it stars our very own congressional representative, Baron Hill.

During one of his recent town hall meetings, a student asked Hill why she couldn’t record the event. Hill explained that he refuses to allow videotaping because of the chance that excerpts could be put up on YouTube in a compromising position.

Of course, it’s now on that Web site and I challenge anyone to find a more perfect YouTube video, at least in the political realm.

He knew it was going to be difficult to control his message and tried to do it on his own terms by attempting to ban average citizens from recording the event. He even digs a deeper hole in the video excerpt when he says that it was his town hall meeting and constituents aren’t going to tell him how to run his office.

So much for the humble public servant aspect of being a representative I guess. Rarely do we see so much truth packed into about 70 seconds.

It also proves that Baron Hill’s instincts were right. The poor guy tried his best to avoid town hall meetings this year because he knew it wouldn’t end up benefiting him. But constituents can be so darn annoying and demanding so he gambled that he’d be better off by scheduling a couple than not having any.

He learned the hard way, now that technology has given the average citizen way more power, that what happens in town hall meetings does not stay in town hall meetings. He probably would have been better off hiding out in Las Vegas for a couple of months.

I wonder if it would console him to realize he now has a lot in common with Richard Nixon, who also knew his share of woes as technology passed him by. First, it was the humiliation of comparisons over his appearance to Kennedy’s during the 1960 presidential debates. Then when he finally made it to the Oval Office, he thought recording technology would be his friend, but alas, Nixon could never erase all the mistakes he made.

I’m sure many of you have made a call recently and been informed it could be recorded “for quality assurance purposes.” This is a well known method of evaluating employee competency that does not disrupt the business interactions taking place.

So doesn’t it make perfect sense that a constituent who wants to evaluate his congressman might want to do the same thing and record interactions for quality assurance purposes?

You would think a politician like Hill, one who claims to serve his constituents, would be applauding innovations like YouTube. But what we see instead is that Hill automatically assumes that if someone simply attends a meeting and presses a record button, they’ll gather plenty of material to make him look bad. Of course, that’s the most interesting aspect of this entire situation.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson is often in the mood for something mindless but sometimes has a hard time choosing between YouTube dancing babies and political speeches.

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