When YouTube is TheirTube

CNN hosted a YouTube debate for GOP presidential candidates this week. I’ve not paid much attention to any of the debates, from either party, YouTube or otherwise, given that so little is revealed given the constraints of the debate format. The YouTube series has been promoted as giving voice to the average person through submitted questions that are then answered by the candidates.

As is often the case with political theatre many of the questions are just dumb, but more to the point of why these debates are based on a false premise, instead of an online meritocracy where the audience determines what questions will be asked the questions are screened and vetted by CNN and reflect their own political agenda.

It seems more “plants” are being uprooted with each passing day. Almost a third of the questioners seem to have some ties to Democratic causes or candidates. Another questioner worked with Democratic Senator Dick Durbin’s staff. A former intern with Democratic Rep. Jane Harman asked a question about farm subsidies. A questioner who purported to be a Ron Paul supporter turns out to be a Bill Richardson volunteer. David McMillan, a TV writer from Los Angeles, turns out to have several paens to John Edwards on his YouTube page and has attended Barack Obama fundraisers.

When a significant number of the so-called average joe questioners turn out to be Beltway insiders or campaign volunteers working for the other party, just how much trust should anyone place in the debate itself and in CNN? CNN has claimed ignorance despite almost universal disbelief that the producers were truly unaware of the backgrounds of the questioners they selected and paid travel expenses for, given that Google searches revealed the participant backgrounds.

What is ironic is that is has been the bloggers, often the real average joes, who have unmasked CNN. Perhaps instead of answering questions from their peers, who in this case are largely silent despite overwhelming evidence of a rigged debate and serious flip-flopping by CNN executives over just what they knew and didn’t know, CNN executives should host a YouTube press conference to respond to their critics.