The Star Pundits of YouTube
A hilarious new generation of talking heads is analyzing the debate from their dorm rooms and parents’ basements.
As John McCain might put it: My friends, you can’t trust the networks to spin last night’s debate. But how to reconcile your craving for analysis with your loathing of the media elite? Behold the YouTube pundits, a ragtag gang of David Gergen wannabes. Today, they’re hashing out whether Barack Obama flubbed his chance to close the deal, why McCain bolted the stage moments after his closing remarks, and how Tom Brokaw is more obsessed with clock-watching than actual back-and-forth. Not all of these pundits have posted since last night’s debate, but they’re likely to weigh in soon.
Here are five self-made bloviators whom you may see sparring with George Stephanopoulos (online, of course) in 2012.
James Kotecki is living proof that anyone with a webcam, a blazer, and a tiny room can become a star pundit. The former congressional page started out making videos while studying at Georgetown, and found infamy when he coaxed Ron Paul up to his dorm room for an on-camera interview. He parlayed his cyberfame into a sweet gig doing video commentary for Politico. He’s also kind of a nerd dreamboat, but he’s not afraid to mix it up—after a recent feud with MSNBC’s David Shuster, he says he learned the key to punditry success: “People don’t care so much about politics. What they want is a good fight.”
For poll-watchers who spend their four-minute lunch breaks surfing the net, Will Coghlan and Robert Millis broadcast Snack Pack-sized commentaries on the day’s news with an arid-dry wit that smacks of Chevy Chase’s Weekend Update. And they believe they can reach that same level of fame, even online: “People who learn to use this medium will be ten steps ahead of those who don’t,” they say. Already, their professionalism far outshines most YouTube offerings— logo’d coffee mugs! A greenscreen!
Fleetwood, the LonelyGirl15 of YouTube punditry, is a self-proclaimed recluse with a rabid fan base, broadcasting from a dungeon-like basement in suburban Massachusetts. He gained notoriety for his crusade against superdelegates during the Democratic primaries and is known for his tirades against the two-party system. He surprised his fans by “retiring” in April, but America loves a comeback—by July, Fleetwood was back on the air with an armful of fresh axes to grind.
Billing itself as the first live daily Internet TV show, The Young Turks has hosted nearly every member of the liberal glitterati, from John Kerry to Nancy Pelosi. Yet the feisty pundits remain unknown to all but the most plugged-in of political junkies, despite their show’s considerable ambition: While the typical vlogger logs a few minutes a day, The Young Turks clocks an impressive three hours of daily airtime.
From “a bunker deep beneath Jackie’s Market in Murfreesboro, Tenn.,” two Joe Sixpacks whose taste in politics is more PBR than PBS serve as “Tennessee’s only online political pundits.” Except that Travis Harmon and Jonathan Shockley actually broadcast from Los Angeles, and their good ol’ boy political show is a popular satire that appears weekly on Salon.com. Their big break came earlier this year, when they appeared on CNN’s YouTube Democratic debate to ask the candidates if the attention being lavished on Al Gore “hurts y’alls feelings.”