Who Needs a Convention When You’ve Got YouTube?

NPR has a story from today’s Morning Edition chronicling the rise of Liberty Belle, a blogger otherwise known as Keli Carender.

A member of the Tea Party movement, this story serves as a very interesting exploration of the new media in our national dialogue.  According to the story, Keli became so popular from her blogging and viral videos, that she has been invited to become a spokesperson for this new movement:

Republican party leaders would very much like to harness the Tea Party energy. Just last week, former Congressman Dick Armey’s organization “Freedom Works” invited Carender and dozens of other Tea Party organizers to Washington for training and networking sessions.

Keli is also scheduled to speak at the National Tea Party Convention on Thursday – but hasn’t decided if she’s going to go.  She would share speaking duties with Sarah Palin, amongst others.

What makes Keli’s situation so interesting is the fact that her largest claim to fame is her ability to share her ideas through new media outlets, particularly blogs and YouTube.  According to the NPR article, Keli’s most popular video features her speaking to Rep. Norm Dicks, culminating in her offering Rep. Dicks a $20 bill as “down payment for the health care plan”:

While new media is an incredibly powerful tool, and I am clearly in favor of exercising its potential, the thing that makes it so unique is the ability for it to cut both ways.  From the traditional perspective, individuals aren’t able to “talk back” to traditional media outlets.  Now, however, one YouTube video can beget another, and another, and another.

To juxtapose Ms. Carender’s video, take a look at two filmmakers who made the trip to the 9/12 “DC Tea Party” and spoke with attendees about their feelings on the various issues:

This video provides some insight into why the organizers of the National Tea Party Convention are facing considerable difficulty.

Tea Partiers don’t want to be harnessed. They’ve shown a willingness to reject Republican candidates they don’t like. On the other hand, they’re not about to start their own national political party, as evidenced by the backlash within the Tea Party against the Nashville convention. It’s a movement without a central organization.

Like new media, this lack of central organization also cuts both ways.  While Ms. Carender may have a clear grasp of those issues on which she feels strongly, other YouTube videos would suggest that many people who call themselves Tea Partiers do not share Ms. Carender’s mastery.

And that’s okay – because in the world of new media, you don’t have to know what you’re talking about, you just have to be able to talk.

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