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MoveOn.org Hits a Health Care Nerve

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, September 23 2009

A new online video released yesterday by liberal online behemoth MoveOn.org has hit a nerve. Starring comedian Will Ferrell and a host of A-list Hollywood actors, the video has already been 1.5 million times in less than 24 hours. Ilyse Hogue, the group's director of political advocacy and communication, tells me that it is "by far our best performing [video] through social networks." She reports that nearly 250,000 of those views have come from people clicking through links that supporters of MoveOn have placed on their Facebook pages, and another 36,000 or so from Twitter referrers. Not bad. Personally, I found the video a bit too sarcastic and dark to convince people who aren't already sure of the need for health care reform or angry about the huge profits made by private insurers while they deny vital health care benefits to consumers. Indeed, an unscientific online poll on the CNBC website found its business-oriented readers mostly untouched by the MoveOn/Ferrell message. My friend Deanna Zandt, a progressive social media strategist who is writing a book called Shared This Change on this topic, emailed me:
The problem with this video is that it's far too late to be publicizing with jokes and sarcasm. I understand the value of rallying the troops, but enlisting Will Ferrell (whom I love!) and other celebrities at a time when so much of the country has been seriously, *seriously* lied to, to then in many ways reinforce those terrible frames... It's just sort of dumbfounding to me. I love a good joke (see Billionaires for Wealthcare, for example--Rachel Maddow covered them last week) but this is just not MoveOn's role at this extraordinary juncture. It's indulgent of their role in progressive activism-- they are hugely influential for many people, and they are wasting their social capital on sarcasm.
But Hogue insists that the video is doing what it is supposed to do. "I don't think we meant it to move people in the middle," she told me. "It's meant to raise the profile of the insurance companies and the execs." In that respect, it's clearly working. News coverage from mainstream outlets like the New York Times and NPR definitely played up that angle. "Hollywoood Reaches Out to Insurance Executives, and Slaps Them," headlined the Times.

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