Tuesday, June 08, 2004

AMERICAN CANDIDATE: Rigging the Game So It Stays the Same

So you want to produce a political reality show, but you've gotta do it on the cheap.

You can't even afford to pay the city of Keene, NH to use their square and Keene State College can't lend you the quad because the Lions Club has already got an event that day.

Heck, your budget may be so tight that you've only got one person on the web to deal with your supposedly interactive website. You know, the website with a news page hasn't been updated since it went online in early March. The one that's so under-funded, AmCan can't even manage to announce the show's finalists … even though the finalists are announcing themselves.

And on top of all that, the folks who applied for the show really are what you advertised for – regular Joe's and Jill's with a passion to make a difference. But, most of them are missing the connections, clout, and cash politicians need … and it turns out, you need too if you want to make your show.

What to do?

If you're RJ Cutler, the solution might be simple.
Forget what might be possible. Instead, do what's already been done.

RJ Cutler told CNN: We are always saying that the right people, the people who really could be great leaders are turned off from politics. Whether it's the money or they think they have to have gone to Yale or their fathers had to have been president, or they have to be worth $250 million.

And when interviewer Kagan asked: Where would they get that?

Cutler replied: I don't know. But somehow they get the idea and they're turned off to the process. This is opening the process up to people.

Well, thanks to RJ Cutler and the AMERICAN CANDIDATE SHOWTIME SHAM, we can now SEE where they get that idea -- from politics as usual and RJ Cutler, who'll make the rigged game manifest for everyone on his new show. Yup, he's really showing us just how rigged it is.

Here's what Cutler meant.

Meet Bobby Vanech (who one candidate calls Wicked Bob Vanech): Bob's a white, middle-aged, millionaire with connections of his own who'll cost next to nothing to promote. Especially since Bob bought a mobile American Candidate Billboard that American Candidate used on it's website for weeks. He paid to give them free advertising.

Meet Chrissy Gephardt: Ms. Gephardt's father is Dick Gephardt. Not exactly president, but a past contender, and a possible Vice-President in the upcoming elections. Ms. Gephardt is a very well-known PR consultant, a major player in the National Stonewall Democrats, and exceptionally well connected. Not exactly one of those regular gals plucked from "obscurity" that AmCan said they were looking for, but certainly one who will be easy to promote and draw viewers to Showtime on the cheap.
(Wonder if Ms. Gephardt applied like the regular folk and sent in her application by April 9. Poor gal didn't get a AmCan webpage until the dead of night last night … after the competition began.)

Meet Keith Boykin: Boykin has enough clout that he announced his candidacy on the CBS Early Show … and his rally tonight will be NATIONALLY TELEVISED. Another candidate who can give Cutler and American Candidate lots of FREE publicity that they couldn't afford to pay for. Boykin is President of the National Black Justice Coalition, a former Special Assistant to President Clinton, and a sought after public commentator. And let's not forget, Boykin didn't go to Yale, but he did go to Dartmouth and Harvard. Ivy League anyone?
(Keith's another one who had no webpage until the wee hours of the night … suggesting he too didn't fill out the application, make the video, and send it in by April 9.)

Meet Richard Mack: Mack has been running for governor in Utah. Although he said on his mackforgovernor website (now offline except in cache form) "After careful thought and prayer, I have decided to withdraw my candidacy for Utah governor so that I may spend more time with my family and pursue a unique opportunity," he'll be leaving his family for six to seven weeks to be on American Candidate. Not to worry though, he too can bring in the publicity on the cheap for RJ Cutler. After all, he's been campaigning for real in Utah for quite a while, and all those supporters for his previous campaign can now just switch right on over. Wonder what'll happen to all those donations he accepted for that campaign … even while trying to get on a reality show, when he knew he'd have to ditch the governor campaign if AmCan came calling.

Meet Jim Strock: Strock "served in President Bush’s sub-cabinet as Assistant Admin. For Enforcement of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency," and he's a triple threat middle-aged, Ivy League, white guy -- Harvard College, Harvard Law School, and Oxford University. Also, a fairly well-known author, counsel to a US Senate Committee, and of course, so well connected he doesn't really need American Candidate, but they sure need him if they want to do this on a shoestring.
(Strock's another surprise late comer to the game specially selected by Cutler)

Meet Bruce Freidrich: Freidrich is a Director at PETA, and according to a PETA press release announcing his candidacy, "the man behind such PETA stunts as passing out "Unhappy Meals" to children to try to get McDonald's to improve living conditions for its chickens," among other highly publicized stunts. Another candidate that can garner loads of free press for American Candidate and will hardly cost them anything. Cutler must count it a huge asset that Friedrich already has a platform for politics with PETA … and all the press power he needs since PETA is handling his press, hosting his rally, and spreading the word. Yup, clearly he's another one plucked from obscurity so RJ Cutler can give him the resources an average Joe like he needs. Definitely a guy to whom the political process was closed before RJ Cutler found him.

Meet Joyce Riley and Lisa Witter too, but you can just google them, because I'm tired of typing. You'll have no trouble finding them – though their American Candidate webpages didn't show up until the early hours this morning. No doubt, they too filled out the application forms, made the videos, and sent them in by April 9. Especially Ms. Witter who speaks eloquently about "fairness" and "one set of rules" for everyone in her press release. Both ladies have the connections and clout most folks don't have, and they know the political game well.

In an LA Times article, it was suggested that Cutler wanted to "help break down financial and media-related barriers to seeking office," with this show. He told the LA Times "We wanted to open up the process. The whole philosophy of this show is to make the process available to those who don't otherwise have access to it."

In reality, Cutler's reinforcing the barriers, and getting more bang for his carnival buck. Quite a game – keep politics the same and make the process available to those who already have access to it, those who can help Showtime get access to more viewers and help RJ film on the cheap.

It's a Shame … on him and for us, the public. This could have been something more than the same old BS.

If you reached this spot via google's individual page archiving, and you'd like to read more, just click AMERICAN CANDIDATE: The AmCan Sham