Actors and Politics: What People Are Talking About Online This Week, Aug. 27-31

Clint Eastwood’s speech at the Republican National Convention last night should forever seal the deal that actors and politics should never mix. Oh sure, we remember Ronald Reagan, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, too. And it’s a fine line between many current politicians to know whether they truly believe the gobbledygook they spout or are they just acting for votes? (Sarah Palin comes to mind.)

However, Eastwood’s prime time turn just prior to Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech, in which he had a one-on-one with an empty chair that he believed President Obama was sitting in, was so downright bizarre it immediately spawned a Twitter account called @invisibleoabama that as of this morning has nearly 50,000 followers. And the memes are just getting started. 

It was a 12-minute unscripted riff that made two points: live TV is still worth watching because someone can lose it on air, and said lost marbles by an aging actor can (and will) be used to great benefit as free advertising to make the case for Barack Obama’s second term.

The Republican National Convention was meant to make Mitt Romney more likeable, but in the end he was upstaged by an empty chair. Meanwhile, it was a good week for our first social media President. Even before Eastwood and the Empty Chair took center stage, favorable Obama tweets were dominating online conversations. Obama even ratcheted his positive online presence up another notch when he took to Reddit’s AMA (Ask Me Anything) forum and answered “well-connected” voters questions for an hour on Tuesday. If the 2012 presidential election were held online – Barack Obama would win by a landslide.

What else are people talking about online this week?

Get up to speed on these stories and more at What People Are Talking About Online. Click here and join the conversation. 

Photo by AP. Pictured, actor Clint Eastwood (left) and empty chair (right), supposedly where @invisibleobama is sitting.

Moon Shot: In Memory of Neil Armstrong, the First Man to Walk on the Moon

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Where were you when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon?
I can proudly say that I was 8 years old and sitting cross-legged in front of the TV set – my one solid historical memory of the ‘60s that I was able to fathom and digest in its entirety. There were many (as you might have heard), but so goes the saying, “If you remember the ‘60s, you weren’t really there.”
I’d like to add that you might have also been a child. Many of my memories of the 1960s are about as clear and vivid as the pictures sent back to TV from outer space, and eventually the moon. Fuzzy, garbled, surreal. Apparently, I took it all in about as well as most adults.
The lunar module touched down on the moon’s surface  after 4 pm Eastern Daylight Time on Sunday, July 20, 1969. (Read more)

Legitimate Crackpot: What People Are Talking About Online This Week, August 20-24

When Rep. Todd Akin, an anti-abortion Republican candidate for Senate, made a bizarre statement on a local Missouri Sunday news show that women who have suffered a “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant because “the female body has ways to shut the whole thing down” the online community exploded with complete and utter outrage.
What is meant by “legitimate rape”? And, how in the world did such junk science beliefs that women can automatically repel a rapist’s sperm ever get beyond the extreme right-wing crackpot fringe? A group so determined to ban abortion for any reason they have sought to redefine a heinous sex crime to insist that if a woman claims she became pregnant as a result of said crime, it couldn’t have possibly been rape at all. The little lady is just “crying rape” to get out of a run-of-the-mill unwanted pregnancy. 

While high-level Republicans like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan sought to distance themselves from Todd Akin, and even demand he end his Senate campaign, Akin and his supporters (yes, apparently he has enough of them to have recently won a tight primary race) held fast, and let a Tuesday deadline for dropping out come and go. By that time, the blogosphere and mainstream media had echoed and underlined Sunday’s online rampage against Akin and unveiled his views on “legitimate rape” (i.e., must be terribly forcible and preferably extremely violent) and the odds of a woman getting pregnant from this type of assault were about “as common as snowfall in Miami,” weren’t that far removed from the GOP mainstream as Romney/Ryan would like us to believe.
It’s a scary time for a presidential election and a scary time for women (and the men who support our rights to make our own decisions about our bodies). Just when we thought the crazy GOP war on women waged earlier this year by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, various state governors and legislatures and members of Congress desperate to derail Planned Parenthood might be a-fizzle, a GOP Senate candidate says out loud what a majority of his colleagues have been thinking all along. Add to the mix that Todd Akin is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and you start to wonder how far these men are willing to go to control and snuff out women’s rights?

What else are people talking about online this week?

  • What happens in Vegas goes viral, especially if you’re Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, and invite a couple of girls with smartphones up to your suite for a game of strip billiards!
  • New apps will make it possible for you to do even more with your smartphones (than take photos of naked royalty). Right now in France, you can pay for your Cheeseburger Royale at McDonalds when you link your Paypal account to your phone. In the U.S., you can text in donations to the Obama campaign.
  • You’ve created your drag queen name, soap opera character name and porn star name – now what? Create your hobo name using this online hobo name generator.
  • You’ve heard of the 99%, but what about the 98%? A recent survey finds that 98% of people distrust the Internet.

Catch up on these stories and more at What People Are Talking About Online. It’s at least 2% trustworthy.

Family Values and Facebook

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Last week I shared a post on my Facebook page. A like-minded friend had read and posted a story “If You’re Gay, a Vote for Romney/Ryan Is a Vote Against Yourself.” Pretty straightforward stuff for me, and I took it a step further by adding the update “I’d also like to extend this to People Who Have Family Members Who Are Gay. A vote for these two is a vote against someone you love.”

This was indeed targeted to several members of my family who repeatedly tell me they love me and support marriage equality, but every four years go into the voting booth and pull the lever for candidates who at best do nothing to further civil rights and at worst, obstruct them whole-heartedly.

The post got the typical “likes” from my usual handful of LGBT friends and supporters before my brother-in-law took the bait and commented that a) he loved me and supported same-sex marriage, but b) there was no way he would vote for Obama/Biden. In his opinion they were responsible for his job loss, short-changing his unemployment benefits and forcing him to take a part-time job that paid him one-quarter of what he previously earned. (Read more)

Paul Ryan, Poster Boy: What People Are Talking About Online This Week, August 13-17

Being America’s new political poster boy is tough work. You have to wear disguises. You have to fly to Las Vegas. Your regular workouts get disrupted. And your obsession with Ayn Rand doesn’t make you look as smart as you thought it would.

Welcome to Rep. Paul D. Ryan’s world. He’s the presumptive GOP vice presidential candidate and America’s newest political poster boy. Since Mitt Romney announced Ryan as his running mate last Saturday (in a shrewd move to keep the online media off the scent for a couple of hours – at least), online chatter has been all about the boy, who at 42, is considered relatively young to be so mean.

Hidden behind the altar boy good looks (not to mention six-pack abs) supposedly lurks a mean kid who would trip the old lady crossing the street (and pry her social security check from her hand). Online conversations about Ryan have flipped and flopped over his hair, his suits, his foreign policy experience – which sounds like just another day at the office for Madame Secretary, Hillary Clinton.

What else are people talking about online this week?

  • The 2012 Summer Olympics in London came to a smashing close with a pop culture festival on ice. Spice Girls on top of taxis, George Michael back in the groove, The Who still kicking it, ice skating nuns. All the tape delay complaints were forgiven after this epic 3-hour spectacular.
  • Is it just us, or do there seem to be more celebrity deaths this year than any year in the recent past we can remember? This week we lost the original Cosmo Girl, editor-in-chief Helen Gurley Brown and a Sweathog, Ron Palillo (aka “Horshack”).
  • Justin Bieber’s Klout score went down, Barack Obama’s went up. 
  • A YouTube video of 5th graders talking about what the Internet is (in 1995) – and what it will be – proves to be startling accurate, right down to the role cats will play in our online future.

And how was your week? Catch up on these stories and more at the Online Media Roundup. Meow!

American Psychopath, Texting for Dollars and Unfriending Babies: What People Are Talking About Online This Week, August 6-10

Alleged mass murderer James Holmes, who shot up a Colorado movie theater last month, killing 12 people, injuring 58 more, had a miniscule online footprint. Other than an odd profile on an adult dating site, Holmes, like the Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, had no online social media presence to speak of. Most significantly, neither had a Facebook page.

Which leads potential employers, landlords and others with a nose for online background checks super suspicious of those with similar minimal online activity. Could that new guy you’re thinking about placing in a nearby cubicle be another American psychopath – or is he just particularly private?

Sadly, another American mass murder this week at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, dispels that each and every potential psychopath will not reveal much online. Wade Michael Page, who killed six people before shooting himself, was part of a band called Definite Hate that sang about killing blacks, Jews, gays and other minorities. Page gave at least one online interview in which he said his lyrics “vary from sociological issues, religion, and how the value of human life has been degraded by being submissive to tyranny and hypocrisy that we are subjugated to”, and made more than 250 comments about a “racial holy war” on various online forums. His online activities were enough to alert the Southern Poverty Law Center that something bad could happen. And it did – before anyone could intervene.

Most of us are well into the process of leaving distinct online profiles that can tell anyone curious enough to Google our names quite a bit about us – our work history, marital status, political leanings, musical tastes and whether or not we prefer silly cat memes to silly dog memes – among thousands of other interesting and uninteresting minutiae.

It is more the norm to “over share” online rather than live off the online grid. So much so that new tools are coming out to help you filter the things online that make you roll your eyes – like your friends’ baby pictures. If too many of your friends are clogging up your Facebook newsfeed with photos of their little tater tots, check out to get back to your regularly scheduled pet memes and Sh*t People Say videos.

Happy parents and parents-to-be can fight back, though. Why not purchase a 3D snow-dome-like print out of your upcoming bundle of joy? That will teach your child-free friends to block your ultrasound photos!

Aren’t there better things to talk about online this week? Of course there are!

There’s more over at the Online Media Roundup. Click here to see how far the Internet has come.

Olympic Coverage Convergence: What People Are Talking About Online This Week, Jul 30-Aug 3

Television coverage of live sporting events has finally met its maker – the convergence of the 21st century and social media. The 2012 Summer Olympics in London are far from the first to have a multitude of online media options at their disposal. Certainly every Olympics since the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer have found it hard to suppress news of winners and losers (remember Tonya Harding, one of our first imploding Internet personalities? Of course you do!)

In an effort to not lose viewers to the plethora of online content that spills forth from the UK throughout the American 9-to-5 workday, NBC airs many events live – swimming heats, archery and ladies water polo matches were a couple of things we caught live on a half hour lunch break today. Where the trouble comes in is NBC’s decision to tape delay the most popular events – gymnastics and any swimming event starring Michael Phelps – and air them during prime time. Those who follow these events find it hard to avoid knowing who wins well before the tape-delay broadcast. They have taken to Twitter to complain and tag tweets #nbcfail.

In spite of this, NBC claims the prime time ratings to date have been huge. While diehard fans of live events may be dismayed, decent tape delay coverage is really all most Americans expect. That and the usual slew of human interest stories, like the sext-y pictures of gymnast Danell Leyva, swimmer Ryan Lochte’s all-American “grill”, and of course, how’s Ann Romney’s horse Rafalca doing in the dressage competition?

What else are people talking about online this week?

Catch up on these stories and more at the Online Media Roundup. We’re waiting for you to join the live conversation. No tape delays, we promise

Image source: Oh No They Didn’t!

Remembering Gore Vidal and the TV Talk Show

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American writer Gore Vidal passed away this week at the age of 86. In many ways, Vidal epitomizes the old school phrase “man of letters”. Over seven decades, he penned numerous novels, essays, plays and screenplays. But another contribution Vidal made to mass communication was his frequent appearances on television talk shows.

The above clip from the Dick Cavett Show is a classic piece of Vidal lore. Prior to the sit down, Vidal and writer Norman Mailer had been feuding backstage. Mailer, allegedly drunk, had headbutted Vidal over having compared him in print to Charles Manson. The feud boiled over on-air, but unlike the set of a Jerry Springer show, no fists or chairs flew. Rather it was insults, and host Cavett and fellow guest, journalist Janet Flanner, get caught in the cross-fire.