SAN DIEGO, September 18, 2012 – Political candidates frequently hang themselves with their own words. Often they argue that their remarks were “taken out of context,” as with the now infamous comment “You didn’t build that” made by President Barack Obama.
While the right and the left do battle over their outrage regarding what the President really meant with those four little words, an Australian attorney offers his own take on the statement in one of the funniest, smartest political videos to come along this campaign season. Posted on his YouTube channel Sunday, Hugh Atkins’ “MC ‘Bama: U Didn’t Build That” is racking up laughs, page views and started getting the news media’s attention.
Atkins crammed this video with popular culture touchstones. The video includes a reference to Notorious B.I.G., the running man dance, the movie Pulp Fiction, Procol Harem, Billy Joel, and Ronald Reagan. Shirley Sherrod, Osama Bin Laden, and Australian prime minster Jennifer Granholm get shout outs. Granhold and Clint Eastwood make cameo appearances.
This isn’t Atkins’ first video commenting on American politics. His YouTube channel and his blog feature many more going back to the 2008 presidential election. Mitt Romney gets the Atkins’ treatment several times.
Why is an Australian attorney working in commercial litigation spending time providing political commentary and entertainment for the American voter? I interviewed Atkins to find out.
Communities: What got you started putting these videos together: your motivation, if you will? The chance to sound off on American politics? Sheer fun? Bored at work?
Atkins: I basically do it because I’m fascinated by U.S. politics, I really love editing and I find it thrilling when a video takes off online. I started posting satirical videos to YouTube during the during the Australian Federal election when I was in the final year of my undergraduate law degree. One of the videos I did during that campaign went viral (Kevin Rudd - Chinese Propaganda Video) and got a bit of media attention in Australia. I then did a bunch of videos during the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, a couple of which were pretty widely seen (“I’m F*cking Obama, Barackroll, John McCain Gets BarackRoll’d, etc). After that, I started full-time work at a law firm and had less time to put videos together.
I have just finished a postgraduate law degree in Oxford and have had a month or so to spare before starting work again as a lawyer in Sydney. I decided to use that time to put together some videos and that’s how I came to make “U Didn’t Build That.”
Communities: Are you surprised this one is getting so much reaction? What do you hope viewers get from watching it?
Atkins: I’m very happy and surprised that it’s taken off so quickly. I hope that viewers enjoy the video, and that they learn and think a bit about some of the issues that are raised by it. The video is not intended to be a polemical pro or anti President Obama video, and so I have been a bit surprised by some of the commenters who have read it as such.
Communities: Where did you learn the editing skills? Do you have a production background of any kind?
Atkins: I started editing when my siblings and I decided to make a short film for a competition in Australia in 2006. The film didn’t do very well, but I started editing together old family home videos and taught myself how to edit during the process. After the 2007 election in Australia, I worked for about six months producing satirical political videos for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s website.
Communities: I especially enjoyed some of your references to rap and pop culture. The Notorious GOP, the Michelle Obama running man dance. Have you always listened to this type of music? Where did you pick up on some of these things?
Atkins: Thanks! I really enjoy rap, but am not a devotee or especially knowledgeable. I guess I’m fairly familiar with all of the 90s rap that I grew up with. With both the Eminem and MC Hammer videos I did a pretty close study of the original song and video clip before starting out putting my videos together. I’ve got pretty eclectic taste, so I enjoyed being able to mix together references ranging from Ronald Reagan to the WWE.
Communities: Do you believe it’s good for Americans to learn what people outside the USA think about our politics? What does an “outsider’s” view have to offer us?
Atkins: I think it’s always good to have an external perspective. I’m not sure that I’m bringing anything different in terms of a political perspective, but I think that the Australian sense of humour tends to be a bit more irreverent. There is a good history in Australia of music videos being made out of politicians’ soundbites.
Communities: I read on your Twitter feed you aren’t planning any more political mashups. If you did, anything you’ve got your eye on? Or will you simply wait for the inevitable juicy opportunity you can’t resist? We do have some debates coming up, you know.
Atkins: I’m starting full-time work again in two weeks and so probably won’t have the time to make something like the “U Didn’t Build That” video. I will see if there is anything that can be cut together from the debates, but, if I don’t put out any more videos this cycle, I’ll still be pretty happy with what I’ve put out.
Communities: How long did it take you to put the video together?
Atkins: It started work on it three weeks ago. I’ve put together a couple of other videos in the interim so I would say that it took about two weeks of full-time work.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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