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Youtube and grassroots ‘political’ parody
By Claudio Pires Franco
In his book Convergence Culture, Henry Jenkins defends that the Internet, and especially YouTube, have been used by ‘normal’ individuals to engage in debates around political issues.
This has most often been done in the form of parody, mostly of politicians, but also of civic/political issues. Jenkins thinks that humour plays an important role in engaging ‘normal’ citizens in civic/political debates.
Most people feel distant and alienated from formal politics with politicans adopting formal postures and rhetoric discourses that are far from grassroot level daily lives and conversations – maybe linked to social diffeentiation tactics described by Bourdieu?.
The Internet has allowed consumers and audiences to become producers, mixers and distributors. We use it mostly for fun / entertainment but are using some skills to touch issues in the political arena. And the way we’re doing it is especially through humour, what Jenkins terms ’serious fun’. See this ‘parody video’ posted on YouTube, the Snowman video, about climate change.
Politicans and mass-media broadcasters have often dismissed examples like this as ‘not serious enough’ for politics, but these videos have been watched by millions of people, have raised debate, have triggered chain reactions and further thought and debate about the serious issues they cover.
The Internet is just a medium, but one that opens production and distribution to people with access to it. In ways closer to ‘popular culture’ than politics, it seems that the way political debates / pressure are happening are tending more towards taking popular views into consideration, but only when there are enough numbers of people watching a video or Twittering about CNN’s low coverage of the Iranian elections.
So, is the Internet the answer to political disengagement? Not on its own, but with a dose of fun and humour, maybe more young people who are not engaged in other ways may find it worth having a go at touching civic / political issues – and at least have a laugh while doing it.

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