Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Sarah Silverman Uses YouTube, Bikini Bottoms to Kickstart an Online Anti-Adelson Campaign

BY Nick Judd | Monday, July 16 2012

Sarah Silverman in a new YouTube video. Source:

Sometime in the next two or three days, an ankles-in-the-air Sarah Silverman will probably appear in your Facebook news feed with a political stunt video designed to hijack the 21st-century media cycle as we now understand it.

If casino mogul Sheldon Adelson would just stop giving money to super PACs supporting Mitt Romney's candidacy, she says in a new video, she will put on bikini underwear and perform a sex act with him that is so far out of its normal context — the video hypes it up with the tagline "traditional lesbian sex" — as to make it almost-but-not-quite acceptable to describe to a family audience.

The video was released early Monday afternoon and is rapidly making its way into reporters' inboxes, Facebook feeds and Twitter posts. It's the product of a project called Schlep Labs, an incubator for Internet-enabled political media that consultants Ari Wallach and Mik Moore are hoping to use to jumpstart campaigns targeted at Jewish voters. Visitors submit their ideas about how to use social media, humor and celebrity to gin up support for Barack Obama; a small committee picks the best ones; then the super PAC Wallach and Moore head up, the Jewish Council for Education and Research, steps in to back the campaign. Wallach calls it "open innovation" for online politics. (Silverman, he says, reached out in response to an early call for submissions to a close group of friends and supporters.)

Silverman's new opus is the latest, and perhaps most outrageous, example of why this might be worth trying. Internet campaigners are hoping to take advantage of the crossover between social media and mainstream media to influence coverage of the 2012 election, and it looks in the early going that this video will make the jump for at least a day.

"This thing is flying," Wallach told me. "We're watching it fly through social networks and Twitter and who's retweeting it."

Up since the early afternoon on Monday, has received 515 clicks so far through and is already featured on Gawker.

Wallach says the first priority for the campaign is to grab the news cycle by the, uh, ledes, and redirect the national conversation back to whether a casino mogul reaping large profits abroad should be able to shower American politics with considerable largesse. Wallach said that as we were talking, someone passed him a note that said a major news network had already reached out looking to talk.

But in the vein of similar initiatives by MoveOn and Upworthy, "Scissor Sheldon" is also providing some data about what kind of audience might exist for bawdy political humor.

"Part of it is, who would retweet this video?" Wallach asked.

Another question is who's watching; those numbers are still low. The video comes with a warning, he said.

"People aren't opening this as much at work," Wallach told me.

Wallach and Moore collaborated with Silverman in 2008 on The Great Schlep, a YouTube call to action that asked young Jewish people to convince their grandparents to vote for Barack Obama.

They're pursuing that idea again this year, and expect to launch an expanded platform for "Schleppers" in September. They plan to keep their more PG-13 brand carefully separate from "Schlep Labs," especially since its most attention-getting project so far involves video of a female comedian in a sparkling bikini with legs akimbo, using a small dog as a prop.

"Scissor Sheldon" is an early test of what Wallach hopes will become a platform to develop and launch attention-getting pro-Obama or anti-Romney campaigns conceived of by Obama supporters rather than campaign consultants. The video will be a success, Wallach says, if Silverman's cheeky humor drives a deeper conversation in the media about Adelson and his spending in Romney's favor.

So the question to ask in the next few days is this: Will mainstream media explore the issue, or just rub up against the surface?

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.


wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.


The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.


tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.


Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.


monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.