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The Double Life of the Obama Campaign's "Julia" Character

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, May 4 2012

Two critics of "big government" have taken the Obama campaign's latest interactive, a several-frame graphic that seeks to paint President Barack Obama's policies favorably in comparison to Mitt Romney's, and turned it into a microsite that critiques the American social safety net.

Obama for America yesterday rolled out an interactive called "Julia," which followed the life of a hypothetical woman of the same name and explained how Obama's policies may have helped her.

As Kashmir Hill from Forbes noted, the Obama campaign didn't buy the domain name "thelifeofjulia.com." So these guys did, and built a remarkably similar parody to make their point.

This version takes a negative point of view of Julia's "experience" under Obama policies. For example, this slide:

"Despite the fact that Head Start costs taxpayers as much as 3 times what private daycare or preschool does while showing no positive lasting effect, Julia's parents decide to dump her off at the local Head Start program!" and "Julia needs to get surgery which is prohibitively expensive because competition between health care providers is all but non-existent. Meanwhile, the FDA forces drugs to go through expensive and overly complicated review processes and the AMA limits the number of doctors to serve her! She is pretty screwed."

This infographic was created by Josh Fields, a web developer and graphic designer, with Charlie Vidal, Illinois State Chair at Young Americans for Liberty.

"During lunch yesterday I heard someone mention on the radio (I don't remember the show, it was in passing) that @iowahawkblog had mentioned this new Obama online endeavor called "The Life of Julia." I recognized that Twitter handle and jumped on my computer to check it out; while I was listening to the program I immediately knew it would be parodied," Fields wrote in an e-mail. "I figured the Obama campaign wouldn't be naïve enough -not- to buy the domain; so I checked and when it was free I immediately purchased it on a whim. I contact a friend I worked with this summer, Charlie Vidal, because he's a funny person and I asked if he could write a spoof, and I would code, design and we'd parody it."

While Vidal focused on the writing process, he began the design and coding aspect. "I already had a script similar to the Obama campaign slider, so I started editing it and making it look as much like theirs as I could. I honestly wanted them to look identical, but I worked on it from 9pm-4am this morning (May 4th) because I knew it would be time sensitive. So at 4am, I knew I had work at 8:30, I figured it was good enough to go live." he wrote. "I added some minor rewrites and corrections this morning after I woke up to give it a broader appeal. What took so long, is instead of going the standard slide show route like a lot of other parodies had done, I wanted to get the animation of multiple layers like the original. Coming from a web design background I felt an obligation to make it stand out and be very similar to the original."

Fields describes himself as a "sane libertarian," explaining that some of his political inspirations are Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Barry Goldwater, Calvin Coolidge, some of Glenn Greenwald's ideas as well as Ron Paul.

"I would spoof any candidate that makes something ridiculous like this. How things like this, 'Attack Watch,' and 'Truth Team”' ever got green lighted is beyond me," Fields wrote. "The Obama campaign is just more open to attack by adopting these awful and embarrassing tactics ... I think the Obama campaign takes itself far too seriously, and their little attack chiwawas[sic] Daily Kos, Media Matters and Think Progress make it far worse." He added that, "I can’t say the false outrage on the right is any better; 'spiking the football' is also pretty embarrassing attempt at making something out of nothing. But, the GOP is an easy target, people rarely take on or make fun of the DNC or Obama, either out of fear or just blatant political bias; even if some of their things are even creepier (in the case of Attack Watch, etc), or far more outrageous."

Fields said he wouldn't have created the spoof he hadn't gotten the domain, which really motivated him. So far he's somewhat disappointed in the traffic numbers, and only between 500 - 600 shares, and possibly around 5,000 visitor numbers.

"It’s funny because Julia becomes a web/graphic designer, and that’s something I’ve been doing since I was 15 or so," he wrote. "I think the part of the story for Julia that’s missing is that life is more of a stumble and fall than a race to the top. That’s something I question if Romney or Obama understand, you can’t promise all this stuff and not expect people to be pissed when they don’t get it."

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