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This one is about how performers and politicians love to be seen, to be listened to and preferably to be loved. All publicity is good publicity in public life, hey?

Most contemporary politicos would give a great deal to go viral on the internet. Preferably for something that they regard as worthy, but failing that, they just want to be known, very well-known for absolutely anything.

The internet has thrown up a perfect way for them to get seen for anything. A meme is any concept that spreads by hyperlink, video, pictures, websites, hashtags, mash-ups or simply a phrase/word, often misspelt or misapplied. Memes can go viral very quickly, spreading instant fame/infamy.

Clegg in the Hotseat

Deputy Prime Minister, Nicholas William Peter Clegg has given his consent for a satirical video about him to be issued commercially, provided profits are given to a worthy, brownie-point scoring cause (Children’s NHS Foundation Trust in his Sheffield Hallam constituency).

Senior Liberal Democrats are reported to be concerned that it will damage the gravitas of Cleggie’s public image!

Whatever. Clegg must be hugging himself with joy. A great one for the album. Much better to be seen as a good sport and all that, as well as being a star of political stage, television screen and now the internet. Even bookmakers William Hill are playing along with the game and offering odds of 25/1 on the recording being a Number One hit!

In the heydays of TV’s Spitting Image (1984-96), the satirical, latex, caricature-puppet show that mocked a generation of politicians, celebrities and the Royal Family, it was widely reported that the then-senior Conservative big politician, Michael Heseltine, was desperate to buy his own puppet as a souvenir, to go with his massive collection of cartoon originals featuring him. The creators of the show, Peter Fluck and Roger Law, apparently refused to massage his ego and declined to sell, for any money.

The Performers’ Friend

Just as the invention of the autocue or teleprinter was a gift in the 1950s to those who struggled to remember things on live television, so the arrival of Autotune could prove just as profound.

In line with the spirit of the age where little is actually real but has to be augmented from teeth to breasts to reality, Autotune is a computer program that scans singers’ vocals to manipulate their output to pitch-perfect standard. In political correctness parlance, it is ‘pitch correction’.

It began seriously enough, as a way of interpreting seismic data which was then applied to singing. Now it is acknowledged that the majority of popular music is enhanced by this means. ITV’s The X Factor experienced harsh criticism when it was discovered gerrymandering with some contestants’ efforts. And rightly, if it was no longer a proper talent competition. What was Simon Cowell thinking of? Ah yes, money.

President Obama found his health care reforms viewed by over 5 million people in 2009 who enjoyed his apparent singing of his plans.

The Issue

Are yes, what is all the fuss about? In terms of public performance it’s less important than the hype. Clegg makes a show of contrition over his party’s broken promises to oppose student tuition fees in a manipulated video where he is singing ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry’.

It turns out that he is not apologising for the student fee increases, but for making a promise before the 2010 general election to oppose them in Parliament.

On the question of higher fees, the majority of the non-student/taxpaying population were in favour of the move. But then, the issue will usually play second fiddle to the main stage and who is on it.

Carbon and Non-Carbon Copies

Many will now just watch in bemusement as others seek to copy Clegg and get themselves Auto-tuned. A new craze has definitely been born.

In the best traditions of parodies and pastiches, spoofs, sarcasm and downright piss-taking, the Clegg video has already hosts of hybrids. Some changing his video to a sorry tale drowned in soppy music,  made like a Nike commercial featuring Tiger Woods or turned into a scene from South Park.

The point is to be clever and funny, and sometimes the collateral damage is that it can become offensive or over-hurtful. One mash-up on YouTube is not about politicians directly or public performers, but about the modern love of standing in front of a camera and microphone and saying something, joining in to the times we are a-living in.

This article is a reduced version of one at The Performer. But have your say …

Related reading:

Even Comedy and Satire Have Gone Digital, 14 March 2012

Augmented Reality Changes Shopping Virtually Forever, 28 November 2011

When the Family Becomes a Nice Little Earner on YouTube, 29 November 2011

Think Global, Think Viral in Business, 23 November 2011

Mash-Ups Mix the Old and the Now to Make Art for Today, 6 April 2012

Movie Remakes Are the Golden Goose of the Entertainment Industry, 2 June 2011

Sorry Seems to be the Hardest (Official) Word, 29 October 2011

Image: WIKImaniac