Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Top 5 Viral Videos That Changed Someone's Life (For the Worse)

[There's an update to this post - See Viral Videos: Election 2008 Edition At This Link]

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It's been all over the news and you've read about it everywhere: Radio personality Imus recently did his part to bridge the racial divide in our country by making some racially insensitive comments about Rutger's women's basketball team:



In today's wired world, the spread of information is so total and so quick that words uttered by a radio dinosaur one morning can reach the ears of tens of millions of TV viewers, internet readers, and radio listeners by the end of the day. As a result of Imus' mistake, he's lost sponsors, been dropped by MSNBC, and been forced to kowtow to Al Sharpton on Sharpton's radio show.

But this isn't the first time that a video has gotten loose into the world and totally played havoc with someone's life. Here are five that I think are particularly noteworthy. I chose these based on a) The ability of the video to shock you, make you laugh, and/or basically make you just say "WTF?", and b) The relative impact the video had on that person's life. So without further ado, here we go:

5) Gray Brolsma's "Numa Numa" - Gary Brolsma was just a normal kid who knew how to get down with a webcam. But in late 2004, he submitted his "Numa Numa Dance" to Newgrounds, in which he lip-synched a Romanian song, "Dragostea Din Tei" ("From the Linden Trees"):


(from Youtube user xloserkidx)

The world was never the same. Brolsma rocketed to internet stardom nearly overnight, and his video was seen by millions all across the world. His video was seen on CNN and VH1 and Brolsma himself even made an appearance on "Good Morning America"

But apparently, Brolsma wasn't the same again either. In interviews given for a New York Times article from 2005, family and friends described him as moping around the house, feeling himself a victim of his own fame. Apparently, getting recognized on the bus for being that guy that can dance flailingly and move his eyebrows with great force wasn't a big boost for Gary's self-esteem. "I don't know what's wrong with him," his grandfather was quoted as saying.

This is the one story on this list that has a happy ending though. In September 2006, Brolsma emerged from obscurity to present us with this gem:


(From Youtube user NewNuma)

Happily, it appears that Brolsma was able to embrace his fame after all. His videos still bring a smile to my face at least, and for that I'm grateful.

(For more information, see "Internet Fame is a Cruel Mistress for a Numa Numa Dancer" by Alan Feuer and Jason George in The New York Times, 2/26/2005)

4) The Howard Dean Scream - Things were going great for the Dean campaign back in 2004. Howard Dean was the pre-eminent front-runner, raising tens of millions of dollars using grassroots movements to fuel his meteoric rise to the top. But in a shocking upset, he only won 3rd place in Iowa, losing out to the clearly-more-charismatic Kerry (?). So in a moment of apparent delirium, he did this on national television:

(From Youtube user Kittensaremegasilly)

The rest is history. (Dean has no plans to run for President in 2008)

3) George Allen's "Macaca" - A year ago, George Allen was heavily favored to be George W. Bush's successor. He had great down-home, country appeal in the South, was an articulate and personable speaker, and had the conservative politics to boot. Allen was a virtual lock to win the Senatorial race in Virginia, and afterwards, to potentially win the Republican nomination for the Presidential Primary. And then S.R. Sidarth, a dark-skinned staffer from his opponent's campaign, filmed Allen saying this to a crowd of white people:


(From Youtube user zkman)

Daaaaamn! He just called him...something that sounded vaguely racist. Yet despite the fact that no one really knew what "Macaca" meant (it was later revealed to be a racial slur based on a word referring to a monkey) , almost overnight, the polls indicated that Allen's supporters were deserting him en masse; the race was a dead heat shortly after the video was released on Youtube (many mainstream media outlets were also sent the video).

Allen ended up losing the Senatorial election by a hair, in a decisive election that gave the Democrats a majority in the Senate. From my understanding, his political career is over.

2) Michael Richards' N-Word Tirade - It was supposed to be a private, embarrassing night for Michael Richards. His set was bombing. The crowd was starting to get rowdy. But rather than deflect their jeers with some well-timed and classy barbs of his own, he said this (and some guy filmed it with his cell phone camera):


(From Youtube user ZILLA2010)

Instantly, everyone in the country became convinced that Richards was a racist. He appeared on Letterman later, in a cringe-inducing apology that was awkward for everyone involved:


(From CBS, via Youtube)


Is Michael Richards really a racist? I don't know, but he definitely shouldn't have said what he said. More to the point, because of this video, this will be the single incident he will be judged against for the rest of his life. Being Michael Richards will be a tough gambit from here on out.

It's now no longer possible to watch those old Seinfeld DVDs without in some way remembering this incident. That, perhaps, is the greatest tragedy of all.

1) The Star Wars Kid -


(From Youtube user raze7ds)

No explanation necessary, but here's the video anyway for old time's sake

***

Update 1:
After she read my blog post, my friend Angie directed me to this fantastic article from Radar Magazine, which has a longer and superior write-up of this phenomenon, along with a bunch more videos. You can click on the link for the article, but in the meantime, here are a few more of my favorites that I had forgotten about:

Lee Paige's self-inflicted gunshot wound - DEA Agent Lee Paige could kill you using just his thumb. He has FORGOTTEN more about firearms than I will ever know. But as fate would have it, one day, while Paige was giving a safety lecture (fate is cruel), a loaded firearm accidently discharged into his leg:


(From Youtube user Punisherx75)

Somehow the video leaked out and Paige became the object of ridicule everywhere. Law enforcement agents stopped taking him seriously, and eventually, he got recognized in everyday situations. As Paige put it, "Imagine the 16-year-old working at Panera Bread says, 'Hey, you're the cop who shot himself.'" Ouch.

Aleksey Vayner's UBS Video Resume - Aleksey Vayner is my hero because he made this video resume, which is possibly the most inspirational video I've ever seen in my life. Perhaps if I work as hard as Aleksey Vayner, impossible will be nothing for me too:


(From Youtube user actionpetential)

Unfortunately, UBS Investment Bank didn't think so, but they enjoyed the video enough to distribute it through intra-office communication. The video spread through all of Wall Street and eventually, through the rest of the country, getting picked up by various outlets including "The New York Times", "US News and World Report," and "The New Yorker". Vayner didn't get the job, is currently unemployed, and has now become a cautionary tale for video resume enthusiasts everywhere. His video was even parodied by "Arrested Development's" Michael Cera:


(From Youtube user maplestreet)

Good luck, Aleksey. If you can overcome the challenges you described in your video, no doubt you can overcome this too.

***

Update 2: Thanks for all the comments everyone, and thanks for reading! Let me respond to a few things.

Digg user olik said the following: Come on people, get your political history straight. Howard Dean was the target of media fanboyism, but his campaign was doomed. His big hook was that he raised a bunch of money by getting college students to donate $15 apiece, but college students in New Hampshire don't control the outcome of primary elections. His campaign was in hot water way before the scream. The scream was the cherry on his sundae of failure, not the source or the cause.

My response? You're absolutely right, Dean's campaign was already very much headed downhill, but I don't think it would be too far of a stretch to say that the scream helped him to seal the deal. In any case, I apologize for any distortion of the facts I may have made.

Digg user happyscrappy said the following: Dean's life wasn't changed by a viral video. That video wasn't passed around the net, it was all over the professional news media outlets. I mean wasn't [sic] simply passed around the net.Even without stuff like YouTube, Dean got more than enough exposure to end his run to office.

I think it's 100% accurate to say that without Youtube and the internet, that video would've been seen by millions of America thanks to the mainstream press. However, to say that the video wasn't viral would be inaccurate. As evidence of this as a viral phenomenon, haven't we all seen or heard "Dean's Scream Remixed" or something similar?

Digg user hdtvdust said: George Allen was never favored to be George Bush's successor.

I don't know if you just think my use of the term "favored" is wrong, but Allen was definitely trying to position himself as Bush's successor, a fact which actually became a liability as Bush's popularity plummeted. See this Washington Post article for details. There are more, similar articles on the subject but I think what I've said on the matter is pretty indisputable.

23 comments:

I Need Beer Money said...

I like the site. We should all fight back for Imus... Rappers can denigrate black women all they want but Imus can't? Yes it was in bad taste but why the double standard?

Anonymous said...

Rappers denigrate black women? Yes they do, Imus denigrated black women? Yes, but do rappers have nationwide syndicated Radio shows on NBC/CBS? NO..Rap is Rap, journalism is journalism, and it was the right decision made by 2 networks, in order to maintain their integrity. They would never hire a Rapper

Anonymous said...

ummm.. Imus is NOT a journalist. He is an entertainer - just like a rapper, simply different forum. He invented "shock jock" radio. CBS and MSNBC simply caved on a non-issue that was overblown by guys like sharpton who make a living out of exploiting race issues.

MasterAaron said...

Anonymous, check your information about Imus. He's as much a journalist as people like Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh. Actually, probably less than Limbaugh. He doesn't even pretend to care about reporting an accurate story like the 'real journalists' do - he's out to shock you with how outrageous his opinions are, and if you don't like him, he'll tell you exactly where to put your dissent. If Howard Stern said something like this, would anyone be truly surprised? No. The guy would say ANYTHING if he thought he could get away with it. Would anyone be offended? Probably, but... come on, it's HOWARD STERN. You can't possibly take the guy seriously. Why, then, is someone who fills the same sort of role getting so much flak?

Jo3y said...

Anonymous said...
Rappers denigrate black women? Yes they do, Imus denigrated black women? Yes, but do rappers have nationwide syndicated Radio shows on NBC/CBS? NO..Rap is Rap, journalism is journalism, and it was the right decision made by 2 networks, in order to maintain their integrity. They would never hire a Rapper


I agree with Anonymous. While others make good points, and even if Imus is viewed as an entertainer and not a journalist, I don't see why we should 'fight back for Imus'. It pains me to read about people putting rappers and Imus in the same box. Rappers may glamorize misogyny and refer to themselves and other black men as 'niggas', (which, I might add, is not synonymous with the word 'nigger', no matter how badly some would like you to think so) but I have never heard of one calling anyone a 'nappy headed ho', and even if they did, do you really think the context is the same? A black man or woman calling someone a nappy headed ho and an old crusty white guy insulting some college girls about their genetic appearance while referring to them as whores? That is not even close to the same thing and we know it.

Anonymous said...

the Ismus video has brought all the racists out of the woodworks. I'm surprised by how so many people that previously referred to themselves as liberal and tolerant are coming out and not just supporting Imus but actually say all sorts of horribly racist and derogatory comments. Personally every article about Al Sharpton and Ismus is best to avoid because the comments usually entail something like this "This is reverse discrimination! Al Sharpton is an [expletive], I hate [racial slur]."

Jane said...

Yes, Jo3y, it's not the same. But, as different as the two boxes may be, they are both suppressing 'African-Americans.' And what Imus said isn't even close to being as detrimental to African-Americans as the way rappers talk about women of their own race. As we can all see, when an old white guy says something derogatory about African-Americans the whole nation turns into an uproar about it. We question whether or not that's okay, and immediately most of us come to the conclusion that it's just not right. But, how often is there an uproar when a rapper belittles and dehumanizes their female counterparts? Never? Which is a shame, because it then appears that it's fine for them to treat females this way. Which in turn suppresses black culture and holds them back. Rappers can rap all day about how they're being discriminated against by white men like Imus, but the real perpetrator is the rapper who uses phrases similar to those that Imus used. Why? Because it's hardly ever brought up for debate, it's just left alone and treated as acceptable. But, God forbid a white guy do the same thing...that's the African-American rapper's place, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

About Imus...
Remember the days when people didn't take a stupid comment about someone they have nothing to do with to heart?

Unless you are one of the members of the team he was talking about it should (at worst) make you not want to listen to his show. You don't have to you know.

As for the blog post, very cool. I hadn't seen that Numa Numa one before. That's hilarious and it's good to see things turned out well for the guy.

BTW It's much easier to avoid Imus than it is to avoid hip-hop.

Anonymous said...

Imus is an unfunny idiot, but even worse than him is Al Sharpton. Sweet Al is a hypocritical, race-baiting, opportunist, bigoted, piece of shit that incites his rabble to riot in order to strike fear into the whites as a means to damage whomever he has set his sites upon, whether his attack be justified or not. His vitriol has never been intended to actually resolve any racial issues, or create any sense of harmony. Instead, he throws gasoline into the fire of racial disharmony in order to further empower himself through his divisive tactics.

brit blogger said...

If only you American ingrates managed to pull your festering souls out of the self deprecating historical bullshit you perpetuate, maybe shit like this wouldn't have gone so far.

Look, ANY retort against another is wrong - sure it pisses me off when I hear a black man say "cracker" and get away with it, but I'm not going to sound off like some double standard-biased tosser with no fact-based conviction.

If everyone realized that it was only 200 years ago that the blacks were slaves - it's a gross part of your history that needs to be embraced, learned, and ultimately put to bed. And that goes for the African American communities too. The entire country has a racism problem that needs to be dealt with - half of my closest friends in England are non-caucasian, and it sickens me that you guys continue to fight about the same topic, day in, day out. And allowing shits like Sharpton to get involved only empowers those of color to feel it pertinent to reciprocate the racial hate.

Change the fucking record.

Derek said...

In regards to the DEA agent who shot himself in the leg...

He was holding a glock, which are notorious for their hair-triggers. In fact, this isn't the first recorded case of a qualified person shooting himself. If you look at the tapes from the Waco, Texas incident, when the agents are climbing up the side of the building, one of them noticeably flinches. Why? He shot himself in the leg while he was holstering his glock.

Glocks are bad for your health.

Anonymous said...

you know, if you're going to be inflamed that rappers can denigrate women without punishment, the proper approach is not to say "let's get behind don imus to let everyone know his words aren't so bad!" it's to get behind everyone who is systematically and institutionally held as less than a human being, and to get mad about the things that perpetuate that state.

Anonymous said...

About Lee Paige.
A Glock .40 is one of the most dangerous weapons ever mass produced. the misfire rate for this weapon is off the charts. It has been glorified by rappers, and the gangsta culture, but it is because most of these people know little or nothing about firearms. It is notorius for misfires and jams, and many many well trained professionals have had incidents with them. There were a rash of self inflicted shootings by the NYPD when this firearm came out, and since it has been all but abandoned by the law enforcement community. For him to have been messing around with this weapon however would have to be chalked up to his deserving to be ridiculed, though to be honest, i am betting most of the kids in that room, that day, will not be likely to ever decide to mess about with even "unloaded" weapons.

As for the star wars kid, let it f'ing die already. leave the poor fat kid alone.

Michael Richards n word tirade has no real explanation. It is impossible to believe he doesn't have some racist leanings, but then, there isn't a recording of the whole show. you don't see the whole picture of what was going on. it appears he was talking about how some words have the power to incite madness, and irrational response, but that could have just beena spin he put on after he realised what he said/did. While it seems pretty cut and dry, it is impossible to be fair without seeing the whole incident, instead of a clip that is designed to malign him. but lets be honest, he pretty much set himself up to be maligned there.

George Allen, got what he deserved.

Howard Dean had pretty much already shot himself in the foot, this was just what everyone rallied about. and lets be honest, it's hillarious.

Congrats to the numa numa kid for embracing his internet fame. good show.

Les said...

About Numa Numa... You said he submitted it to Newsgrounds. The site is Newgrounds, not Newsgrounds.

Dave Chen said...

Good call, Les. My bad. I changed it in the posting.

Anonymous said...

Rappers may glamorize misogyny and refer to themselves and other black men as 'niggas', (which, I might add, is not synonymous with the word 'nigger', no matter how badly some would like you to think so)

So Imus (or Richards for that matter) would be ok if they had just referred to black people as "niggas" instead? No. The difference is still the messenger not the word.

A black man or woman calling someone a nappy headed ho and an old crusty white guy insulting some college girls about their genetic appearance while referring to them as whores? That is not even close to the same thing and we know it.

How is a black man calling someone a "nappy headed ho" not insulting to her her genetic appearance while referring to her as a whore??
(and I can't figure out why "crusty" and "old" are important here other than to throw in some negative connotations...)

Anonymous said...

...and after we get the rappers lets get those rock and rollers for singing the devil's music. Anyone who does not understand the difference between rappers and political punduts is either not thinking hard enough, is an Imus fan, or want some kind of 'ethnic revenge.' Where's the crusade to stop emo rockers from causing teenage alienation from their parents? Stop making rediculous comparisons and go to the library and check out 'the Turner Diaries' or something.

Anonymous said...

Before I start I would like to mention that I am not racist in any form despite what I might say. While people are getting all upset about Michael Richards...I would like to note this...I have never seen any black comedian not act racist or not pretend to be racist in their performances…and I watch a ton of comedy central. I think black comedians can get away with this because…no white person could ever get away with calling a black person a racist. While what Michael Richards said was a bit excessive and he was out of line…so was the heckler. I do believe the heckler was asking for it just a little bit and is RACIST against white people. There I said what all white people who can think wanted to say but were too afraid. And all of this is just ridiculous…he was still being funny throughout his little tantrum.

Anonymous said...

...and after we get the rappers lets get those rock and rollers for singing the devil's music. Anyone who does not understand the difference between rappers and political punduts is either not thinking hard enough, is an Imus fan, or want some kind of 'ethnic revenge.' Where's the crusade to stop emo rockers from causing teenage alienation from their parents? Stop making rediculous comparisons and go to the library and check out 'the Turner Diaries' or something.


Its not about "getting" anyone. Its about free speech.


Imus is not a "political pundit".

Anonymous said...

"Lee Paige's self-inflicted gunshot wound - DEA Agent Lee Paige could kill you using just his thumb. He has FORGOTTEN more about firearms than I will ever know. But as fate would have it, one day, while Paige was giving a safety lecture (fate is cruel), a loaded firearm accidently discharged into his leg"

Paige is representative of the "Only Ones" culture among police officers and false liberals, who think that only the polcie and military can be trusted with firearms. He had a NEGLIGENT discharge of a firearm, not an ACCIDENTAL one. The gun did not "go off", HE PULLED THE DAMN TRIGGER BECAUSE OF NEGLIGENCE. He doesn't know crap about firearms, safety, or anything else, and I'm glad he's being held up to be ridiculed and shamed. Untrained, negligent, unsafe, firearms-ignorant individuals like Paige should never be trusted with firearms.

--A True Liberal and gun owner

Voodoo Idol said...

How is calling a black woman a "nappy headed ho" racist, but calling a white woman a "blonde bimbo" not?

Ben C said...

Paige and his Glock, and a couple other comments on here:

First, the Glock is not known for a "Hair Trigger" and many "accidental" discharges.

The Glocks have a standard trigger pull in the 5-7 pound range NIB. Competition guns are normally around 3-4 pounds, and they are by no means hair triggers either.

The internal safties on Glock pistols are very good and redundant, unless some fool pulls the trigger. If you pull the trigger with a round in the chamber, the gun will fire, every time; doesn't matter if you meant to or not, BANG. It is the ONLY way to make a Glock fire, it takes a deliberate action.

Second, what makes people think the Glock is dangerous is the lack of an external manual safety. Without the mild idiot-resistance of a manual safety, sloppy and foolish gun handling is more likely to cause a NEGLIGENT DISCHARGE (it's not an accident if some fool pulls the trigger, its negligence and stupidity).

Safety lectures have some important guidelines:
1. All demonstration guns are unloaded and checked, then double checked by a second qualified person
2. NO AMMO or loaded magazines around the demonstration guns.
3. EVERY time you pick up a firearm, check the chamber AND MAGAZINE for rounds.

The "Only person in this room qualified enough to..." did none of these things. That is why he shot himself.

There was no accident, there was a dramatic failure to plan and act safely. He is damn lucky he didn't shoot a kid.

I am familiar with firearms and shoot regular competitions, and sloppy handling like Mr. ATF would get him booted from any range I've ever shot at.

Anonymous said...

it seems that richards' little N word has sprung him up on this chart of the most pathetic celebrity of 2007:
http://www.makefive.com/categories/entertainment/celebrity/the-most-pathetic-celebrities-of-2007