Wednesday, March 21, 2007

ParkSlope47 - the Mystery is Revealed

So the guy who created the Obama/Hillary 1984 ad has revealed himself to the world. His name is Phil deVellis. And he works for a technology company that provides support to several campaigns, including - in some capacity - the Obama campaign.

Now, some people are going to come out with guns blazing, charging that he did this on behalf of the campaign. I don't believe that for a second. I don't think the story about this ad is even about Obama or about Hillary Clinton. Read his manifesto/announcement, and tell me what you think.

Hi. I'm Phil. I did it. And I'm proud of it.

I made the "Vote Different" ad because I wanted to express my feelings about the Democratic primary, and because I wanted to show that an individual citizen can affect the process. There are thousands of other people who could have made this ad, and I guarantee that more ads like it--by people of all political persuasions--will follow.

This shows that the future of American politics rests in the hands of ordinary citizens.

The campaigns had no idea who made it--not the Obama campaign, not the Clinton campaign, nor any other campaign. I made the ad on a Sunday afternoon in my apartment using my personal equipment (a Mac and some software), uploaded it to YouTube, and sent links around to blogs.

The specific point of the ad was that Obama represents a new kind of politics, and that Senator Clinton's "conversation" is disingenuous. And the underlying point was that the old political machine no longer holds all the power.

Let me be clear: I am a proud Democrat, and I always have been. I support Senator Obama. I hope he wins the primary. (I recognize that this ad is not his style of politics.) I also believe that Senator Clinton is a great public servant, and if she should win the nomination, I would support her and wish her all the best.

I've resigned from my employer, Blue State Digital, an internet company that provides technology to several presidential campaigns, including Richardson's, Vilsack's, and -- full disclosure -- Obama's. The company had no idea that I'd created the ad, and neither did any of our clients. But I've decided to resign anyway so as not to harm them, even by implication.

This ad was not the first citizen ad, and it will not be the last. The game has changed.

I don't think he did this to support Obama so much as he did this in order to prove a point. It'll get blamed on Obama, and the people who blame him will be missing the entire point.

The last sentence of his post says it all. "The game has changed." Suddenly, it's not just campaigns and shady 527s who can make attack ads or support ads. It's everybody. The democratization of technology means that we can all make our voices heard, all at the same time.

Will there be more ads? Sure.

Will some of them be ugly? Sure.

But ultimately, this is good for democracy. Howard Dean changed the rules of fundraising when he started soliciting small donations - $10, $20, $50 - off the web. This one ad has changed the rules of who has a voice in the national elections. And, as it turns out, we all do.

So, this will surely cause some consternation amongst the Obama campaign, and it's possible (but it wouldn't be smart) if Clinton said some things about the ad's creator. But the legacy of this ad and ParkSlope47 is going to last much longer than the fight between those two candidates. This was a cultural watershed. The future just happened.

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