'The YouTube War'


"Losing people while you're over there…you don't get the opportunity to go through the traditional grieving process," said Lyon. "You have to keep pushing on with the mission…part of the healing process for them is to make these tribute videos."

'The Tools of Creation'

"When [people] take on these tools of TV, they can do amazing things," said Jarvis. "They're telling their stories. That's incredibly powerful. I think we're just seeing the beginning of what the people can create, now that they have the tools of creation."

As of now, the Pentagon has no specific policy on members of the U.S. military uploading video.

"It's easier to take a camera away from a journalist than it is to take a cell phone away from a soldier," said Cox, "and that cell phone is now a video camera, it's e-mail, it's everything."

"From what I've seen the military isn't saying we're going put a stop to this, or we're going to put sensors on these things," said Torie Clarke. "They know they can't."


The phenomenon isn't limited to soldiers overseas -- on the campaign trail, politicians couldn't control the Internet barrage either. One snippet of video had the power to derail a campaign, something Sen. George Allen, R-Va., learned the hard way.

A one-minute tape of him calling an opposition campaign volunteer tracking Sen. Allen a "macaca" this past August turned into the shot heard around the online world.

Allen seemed to be annoyed with the volunteer, S.R. Sidarth, a University of Virginia student and the son of Indian immigrants. "Let's give a welcome to macaca here," Sen. Allen famously said. "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."

"It means 'monkey,'" said Jessica Vanden Berg, James Webb's campaign manager. "It's a racial slur."

Hours after the appearance, Sidarth called the campaign and told Webb advisors what happened. "We knew it was offensive," she said, "but we had no idea what it would turn into."

Viral Video

The campaign did not put the video on YouTube until it appeared a newspaper was going to publish a story about the incident. After the clip was uploaded, it was soon viewed nearly a half million times. Allen insisted it was a made up word, a nonsense phrase, but the more he tried to explain, the worse it seemed to get.

"It moved virally," said Vanden Berg. "It moved to network news. It moved to cable. And it stayed for a really long time." To date, the clip has been viewed some 60 million times worldwide.

"In another campaign, in another year, it might have slipped underneath the radar," said Ana Marie Cox. "Journalists didn't make a decision that it was a crisis. People downloading the video off of YouTube made the decision that this was a crisis, and people decided that 'macaca' was news." Still, Allen did not apologize, and the story just kept growing.

In the end, Allen lost Virginia by 7,000 votes, and the Democrats won control of the Senate.

"I think that people are going to someday look back to the George Allen campaign as a textbook example of how not to run a campaign, especially in the day and age of the Internet," said Cox.

"You'd better be willing to admit mistakes more quickly than you might have been otherwise," said Torie Clarke. "And you better do it very, very quickly. "

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