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article imageSalon Person of the Year: S.R. Sidarth

By lungta     Dec 16, 2006 in Politics
The Virginia native and son of Indian immigrants changed history with a camcorder and introduced Sen. George Allen -- and the rest of us -- to the real America.
(forgive the freestyle and the spelling...curses on the trojans living in my word docs)
when i first heard about digital journal off the tv there was a great excitment about the concept of reporters reporting the airplane crash into those apartment buildings before anyone else had got cameras on scene on this site.
that has of course become a hard act to follow with the majority of posts being local sensation bizzare crime and advert journalism selling technobits or dissing them as the case maybe
there are lots of posts of reposts of" look what i found it's cool huh?"
to be honest ..i could have geared up and drove twenty minuites and got a picture of some of the 8 tractor trailers that blew off the highway here last night but the appeal of that as a project or a story out here is well...probably not that appealing.
i'm posting this person of the year from salon as it harks back to that original on the edge feeling that the first brush with this site brought.
that and the fact as they say ...here is some guy with a digital camera that just changed the course of history
this all leds to an opinion of mine that i have come to from being a contributor on other sites
this scrap booking ..the cruising and collecting and pasting and posting...is in the end only for our own entertainment and amusement ...there is nothing new going to happen here that has not been found out there before..possibly and probrably in a hundred different shades
so this could be a personal problem but agents of change we are not
more of a coffee club really looking at the world going by
so this link is to a guy who ...albeit with a great deal of luck ...was out there and on the edge
i scapbook him with honor
Salon Person of the Year: S.R. Sidarth
By Michael Scherer
Photo courtesy of the Webb campaign
S.R. Sidarth at Sen. Jim Webb's campaign headquarters Aug. 14 in Arlington, Va. Inset: A screen shot of former Sen. George Allen pointing at Sidarth.
Dec. 16, 2006 | Sometimes, for just a moment, nothing makes sense. The senator who would be president stands on the dais. It is a bright summer day. The branches of trees, still green, sway gently in the breeze. Republican George Allen is feeling good, and the crowd likes him. Almost everyone thinks he will win reelection. Then he says something. "Let's give a welcome to macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia." No one knows what has happened.
But the confusion does not last long. Over the next week, people consult dictionaries in several languages. They find that the word "macaca" is a term for monkey, used in some places around the world as a racial epithet. At first, the senator recoils from the claims of insensitivity, refusing to apologize. Then he apologizes hesitantly, then profusely. At first, the senator's advisors say the word was a nickname for a mohawk haircut. Then they say the word meant nothing at all.
As days stretch into weeks, a video of that moment, with the senator onstage, spreads over the Internet like a sickness, entering popular culture and political history. Months later in the fall, when the votes are counted, it becomes clear that a successful politician has stumbled badly over a 20-year-old with a camcorder. The career of George Allen, the former front-runner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, is in shambles. And when he finally concedes defeat two days after the 2006 election, he has not only lost a seat that was considered safe but also handed Democrats control of the Senate, completing their takeover of both houses of Congress.
It must be said that the young man, Shekar Ramanuja Sidarth, is not much of a cameraman. In the macaca footage, his hand shakes, though he manages to hold Allen in the frame as the senator points him out, an Indian-American in a crowd of whites. But in the weeks that follow, Sidarth does not shy from the spotlight that surrounds him. He undergoes a transformation of sorts, appearing on CNN and the network news, giving long interviews to the pen-and-paper press. He becomes a symbol of politics in the 21st century, a brave new world in which any video clip can be broadcast instantly everywhere and any 20-year-old with a camera can change the world. He builds a legacy out of happenstance.
Weeks after Allen's blunder, Sidarth finds himself writing an entrance essay for a class at the University of Virginia, where he is a senior. The class is called Campaigns and Elections, and it has about four applicants for every spot. "I get all these large, elaborate essays about the meaning of politics and why they are going to be president," says Larry Sabato, the professor. Sidarth writes only three words. "I am macaca." Sabato lets him in. "When you have the right stuff, you don't need to brag," the teacher explains. "A simple declarative sentence will do."
Of course the myth of macaca, like the myth of Achilles, does not capture the enormous complexity of the political war. Voters were also thinking about Iraq, about corruption in Congress, and about the unpopular president with whom Allen was allied. What's more, Sidarth wasn't really just a random 20-year-old with a camcorder testing the power of the Internet. He was backed by the full force of a Senate campaign, with a professional public relations machine that had the ear of national newspapers and networks.
"People sort of assume that we just threw macaca on YouTube and it just blew up and 400,000 people saw it and all this stuff happened with George Allen and then the whole tide was shifted in our race," says Jessica Vanden Berg, the campaign manager for Jim Webb, Allen's opponent. In fact, the Webb campaign bided its time, and then used the mainstream media to launch its message.
Hours after Allen uttered the word, Sidarth, who was a Webb volunteer, called the campaign to explain what had happened. It was getting late on a Friday afternoon. At Webb's Arlington headquarters, campaign staffers were not initially sure what to do, so they did the only sensible thing. "We all went out to the bar," Vanden Berg recalls. By Monday, the video had still not been released online, but political bloggers were abuzz with word that a bombshell was coming. When the campaign tipped off a Washington Post reporter, no one knew whether macaca would be a big story. "The Post reporter was sort of like, 'I don't know if this is news. I don't know if we are going to write about it,'" says Vanden Berg.
Next page: The real message of macaca was the kid behind the camera
More about Macaca, Person of the year, Camcorder
 
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