The Making of the "God Sent Hitler" Viral Video, and McCain's Break From Hagee
BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, May 30 2008
[What follows is the first-person account of the making of the viral video of Pastor John Hagee that precipitated Senator John McCain's decision to renounce Hagee's endorsement of his candidacy. Wilson is a co-founder of the E Pluribus Media blogger collective, and blogs at Talk To Action. This is his story, the story of a citizen journalist who changed the course of the race. It is reposted with his permission. The editors.]
In the day or two following the McCain-Hagee rift, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, AP, The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News, Yahoo News, ABC News, and WaPo credited my website with causing the McCain-Hagee "God Sent Hitler" scandal. But, to be more precise, I was the culprit. (See here:
I made the "God Sent Hitler" source video - I found the original "God Sent Hitler" audio file and put it into a short video. I posted the video which went viral on YouTube May 16.
That version, which went viral, was the 4th iteration. The video, in all likelihood, has been seen or and--the audio clip I dug up and put in the video--by hundreds of millions of people around the world.
The breakout could have been bigger, too, if people had been listening to me at the time: I conservatively dated the audio, from the crazy Hagee sermon, to "the late 1990's", and the media enshrined my judgment call--which was very conservative--as "fact". Actually, John Hagee Ministries still sells the "God Sent Hitler" video. To this day.
The viral breakout was far from accidental. I've been researching Hagee quite heavily for roughly a year and a half. That's why I was able to find the appropriate rich media (an audio clip) that forced McCain to renounce Hagee. I'd done a massive amount of homework. Although some people had been hammering on Hagee for a month or two prior to the breakout, I'd been hammering on Hagee for about two years.
I've done the bulk of the writing establishing much of the "Hagee's an anti-Semite" frame in the first place. Scroll to the end of the following story and you'll see a list of my Hagee stories--especially on the anti-Semitic nature of Hagee's Christian Zionist Beliefs--over the past 1 and 1/2 to 2 years. No one else has done more hammering on Hagee re hate speech. Sara Posner, Max Blumenthal, Bill Berkowitz, Esther Kaplan and Frederick Clarkson have also done great work on Hagee, Christian Zionism and CUFI. But, over the course of the past 1 and 1/2 years I've done 20-30 stories on Hagee's anti-Semitism and on McCain/Hagee, and they've gotten around the Net.
For that writing, see the links appended to the following story, at the end of the story .
Here's the video I made which started it all:
It "only" has racked up ~117000 hits on YouTube video so far because countless media outlets grabbed the video and put it on their own servers. Fair enough--that's what I hoped would happen.
I posted the first iteration of the video on YouTube and on TalkToAction and also the Daily Kos ~May 15. Here's my first dKos post, May 15. Here's my second dKos post, May 16, which went to the top of the DKos rec list (it had the now infamous video) :
On May 16 I posted the 4th iteration of the video -- the one that went viral.
Stein's story, plus my video and one other story on the video ALL zoomed up top the top of one of the biggest Newsladders (Digg) and the story went top the top of a lot of other newsladders around the net too. Stein's story probably went up much faster than it would have on Digg because I promoted Stein's story on dKos and asked people there to vote it up on Digg = I provided the Digg link and routed maybe ~250-500 votes, maybe more (who knows) to support Stein's story : which probably provided a key boost to it at the time because the Digg algorithm that determines popularity of stories is X votes / Y amount of time story has been up on Digg.
Stein's story zoomed to the very top of Digg, then to the top of many other news ladders. Then 2 other posts about the same story, one a post directly about my video, zoomed to the top of Digg too. Then the story zoomed up other news ladders.
Then, the media breakout happened. The MSM, it seems, REALLY pays
attention to the news ladders. Many cited Stein, but a Google search on MSM stories, a day or two after the breakout, with "McCain","Hagee" and "Talk To Action" produced 231 hits. That was only a fraction of the 2-3K MSM stories plus all the TV and radio (I couldn't possibly have counted).
The McCain-Hagee breakout might not have happened at all except that one Huff Post writer, back on May 21, had the class to credit me with making the video which then went viral.
Let me repeat: it might not have gone viral at all--and reached millions or hundreds of millions of people (my mother-in-law saw my website's URL on TV and figured out that it was me) if one Huff Post reporter had not given me credit in his story. When I saw Sam Stein's Huff Post May 21st story--on my story and video (Stein credited me with originating the story--his Huff Post story was an expansion of my original work) I was moved to support Stein's story because it had given me proper credit.
From there it moved on to Olbermann/Countdown and "The Verdict". Olbermann showed my viral video, as did "The Verdict." Countdown mentions the source, my blog: www.talk2action.org. Countdown called me that day, to go on, but they never got back to me - I'm not in a big city so that I could get to an affiliate station quickly. So, Countdown threw up another talking head.
Thus my little video precipitated the McCain Hagee split. Olberman, "The Verdict", and probably about 10-20 million Americans (or perhaps 100 million ? who knows)--via the gazillions of network TV and network affiliates that ran it--saw my the 4 minute video I did that was designed to go viral.
My mother-law-law even saw it randomly, on TV and saw my website's name and knew I'd done it. She called my wife to talk about it.
It was one of the biggest, fastest viral breakouts in history, as far as I'm aware.
On May 22nd, Mike Stark contacted me to say I'd gotten the award. He and I talk in the AM, May 23rd, and Stark did a dKos post, with a little biopic on me, announcing the award.
Now many nonprofits and efforts are claiming credit and sure - a lot of people and orgs were hammering on McCain/Hagee. But, a Google search one day after the media breakout had 230 msm stories crediting my website (Talk To Action) and Wolf Blitzer (of all people) gave credit to Talk To Action on CNN. It was true enough - all the hammering by various orgs, people and efforts had potentiated the climate for such a breakout, but I created the video that did it.