I can’t predict the future, but I can tell you where you’ll see it.
I have no doubt about this. Everything about our lifestyles screams it. We went from library books to microfilm to computers to Google. We went from letters to radio to TV to TiVo. Let’s face it. We want to know more and more about this thing and that thing without ever leaving our chairs.
YouTube, the ultimate Web site for video, is the future of that. It takes Google one step further. You can type in a topic and look up things, but instead of reading, you can watch – and we know what human beings do when given a choice between those two.
YouTube lets you see things that happened last month, yesterday, or in some cases, 5 minutes ago, simply by clicking your computer mouse. People around the world are feeding this monster with video cameras and cell phones. So are record companies, movie studios and anybody with anything to sell.
You want to see Paris Hilton let out of jail? Just click. Want to see the sports highlight you missed? Just click. YouTube – which amazingly was formed less than three years ago and eventually sold to Google for $1.65 billion – is rapidly becoming a seat on Mt. Olympus, from which you can watch the entire world.
Whether this is good or not – you tell me.
You likely read about – or saw – the YouTube clip of then-Virginia Republican Sen. George Allen’s controversial remark to a young campaign aide working for Allen’s opponent. “Let’s give a welcome to Macaca, here,” Allen said at a campaign rally.
He insists he meant nothing derogatory. But that moment was captured on video and posted on YouTube. Some viewed the “Macaca” reference as a racial slur – and when the smoke cleared, Allen, a heavy favorite to win, had lost his seat. YouTube did him in.
Then there was last week’s Democratic presidential debate. For the first time in history, the questions were posed from YouTube participants, who had their inquiries played on a big screen in front of the viewing world.
The opening statement came from a YouTube-er, a young man wearing a dark T-shirt, a baseball cap, some loose hair on his chin and an arm tattoo. He challenged the candidates not to “beat around the Bush, so to speak.”
Then came the questions, from young and old. One came from a snowman.
Really. A snowman. It asked about global warming – in a voice that sounded like Mr. Bill from the old “Saturday Night Live” skit – and worried about the future for its “son,” a mini-snowman.
Not exactly Walter Cronkite.
By the way, the Republicans have a YouTube debate of their own scheduled for September. A scarecrow may ask a question about farm subsidies.
The best way to be heard – be sexy
And then there’s “Obama Girl.” In case you hadn’t heard, this is the enormously popular music video in which a model writhes sexually in various states of undress while cooing about her crush on Barack Obama. She sings lyrics like, “you’re into border security/let’s break this border between you and me/universal health care reform/it makes me warm.”
She also suggests – in a cute play on words – that he’ll get oral sex in the Oval Office.
This video was followed by one featuring “Giuliani Girl,” an equally fetching woman who takes on Obama Girl and coos of her favorite, Rudy: “I’m gonna be wife No. 4. He warms my globe just like Al Gore.”
These videos have drawn far more viewers than your average local election. But when we dreamt about drawing young people into politics, is this what we had in mind?
The danger of an all-powerful video site is that each person needs to scream a little louder, be a little sexier, or act a little more controversial than the last to draw attention. With millions of postings on YouTube, you see how that noise rapidly adds up.
Some argue that YouTube is the ultimate in democracy. I don’t know. It sure seems to favor the creative, the bored, the sexy, the rich, the brazen or the technically skilled.
But this part is undeniable: It is the future. And it’s not coming. It’s here.
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).