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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: Scissorsheldon.com

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, Scissorsheldon.com has received 515 clicks so far through Bit.ly 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?

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