Linda Ronstadt & Jerry Brown Newsweek cover, April 1979

Meg Whitman may have more more money than good sense, despite hiring a cadre of political consultants, but then again she’s in a tough bind. She was challenged to a three-way bipartisan gubernatorial debate before the California primaries by Democrat Jerry Brown. The debate would include Brown, Meg Whitman and her fellow Republican challenger and Steve Poizner. Her response went from maybe to no, no meaning not until Jerry has a debate with his longshot Democratic challenger. All the while, Jerry has received a ton of press with his challenge.

Whitman {a billionaire} and Poizner {a multi-millionaire} have plenty of cash to spend and they’re going to burn through it trying to get the Republican nomination. Brown’s warchest is light, but he hasn’t been spending. Meg was avoiding debating Steve, but finally succumbed last month. Poizner’s approach has been to paint Whitman as not conservative enough, while Whitman tries to allow for more shades of grey on issues. In the long run, Whitman’s strategy is what’s needed to win the blue state of California, as Republican numbers favour Democrats and moderates need to be courted to win. A debate with both Poizner and Brown would be very risky for Whitman. From what I’ve seen, she’s not quick on her feet and talks like a corporate executive who spends 15 minutes answering a question with, “it depends.” A three-way debate would mean attacks from her right and her left. She would have to come across as a strong moderate that would enough appeal to more conservative Republicans and I’m not convinced she has the platform or the rhetorical chops to pull that off.

Love him or hate him, Jerry Brown is an interesting guy. When I was a kid, I remember him running for Governor in 1978, handily defeating his Republican challenger Evelle Younger. I also remember his nickname, Governor Moonbeam. He was dating Linda Rondstadt and I recall this corny political joke, “Linda Ronstadt started dating Jerry Brown when she realized she wasn’t getting any Younger.” Anyway.

Jerry made a bid for the presidency in 1976, 1980, and 1992. He was a credible threat to Bill Clinton in the primaries with grassroots campaigning and a toll-free contribution line. He also isn’t afraid to get rough. Here he is going after Clinton by making Whitewater allegations::

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I think he would give Poizner and Whitman a run for their money and having been in politics in the state since forever, he knows the beat.

Twitterversion:: Jerry Brown throws down gauntlet debate proposal vs. the millionaire & the billionaire. Shrewd PR move. #ThickCulture @Prof_K

Song:: Linda Ronstadt-‘Blue Bayou’




Image Credit: Bill Thompson

This blog is cross-posted here.

Twitter was a hotbed of activity this weekend. There was the Mikeyy worm {See Tweets on the Mikeyy hashtag-#mikeyy} and now the word of AmazonFail is spreading & I’m sure attitudes are being formed. TemporaryVersion has an overview of the AmazonFail fiasco. From what I have been able to ascertain, Amazon created a policy of excluding “adult” content from some searches and best-seller lists. When queried on this by a director of an erotic writers association, Amazon Member Services offered up this response::   

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

Best regards,

Ashlyn D
Member Services Advantage

One of the issues is the definition of “adult content.” Those familiar with the MPAA rating system for films in the US know how ratings are determined by power in the industry. If you’re an indie filmmaker with risqué content, well, good luck. You’ll get a judgment and you’ll have to live with it. If you have the backing of a major studio, no problem. The MPAA will negotiate with you on a scene-by-scene basis. There are serious implications for getting a more “restrictive” rating, since distribution deals often hinge on appealing to the widest possible audiences. A more restrictive rating almost guarantees lower box office revenues. See This Film Is Not Yet Rated for more on this. Here’s a long trailer::

The Amazon controversy is surrounding “gay” content being deemed as “adult.” One author documents his story and voices his concerns. Like with film in the US, media content on Amazon being deemed as adult content has the effect of limiting reach to potential customers. The core of the controversy is what are the criteria for being deemed “adult.” It doesn’t seem to be evident & I can’t make sense of it. DVDs are not affected and I’ve seen different editions of the same book treated differently. For example, Anaïs Nin’s Delta of Venus 2004 edition paperback isn’t ranked {presemably as it’s adult content}, but the original 1977 hardback is { Sales Rank: #156,857 in Books}, albeit only available used through private sellers. Amazon has stated that there in no new adult policy and the rankings issue is a glitch. Nevertheless, the the above quote makes it clear that Amazon reserves the right to categorize content as “adult,” as it sees fit.
Enter Web 2.0.
There’s interesting sleuthing going on. has a AmazonFail section and is compiling a list of titles deemed adult & a pictorial comparison. The story wasn’t picked up by the press until Web 2.0 made it a story. I’m sure Amazon is scrambling on how to deal with this PR nightmare, as consumers are spreading negative word-of-mouth and urging boycotts. I’m quite interested in seeing how this story evolves.
If this is a glitch, I think that this really shows that Amazon needs to be more up-front and explicit about what “adult” means. If Amazon was trying to be content restrictive, will they fess-up, ignore the issue, or cover it up? Given how Web 2.0 spreads information and opinions, coverups and hoping things will blow over might be adding fuel to the fail.

The Twittering Machine

The Twittering Machine (1922)-Paul Klee

The news has been covering the testy exchange between Obama and CNN’s Ed Henry.  Henry asked a series of questions, including one of why the Obama himself wasn’t immediately outraged about the AIG bonuses.  Barack responded by saying he likes to know what he’s talking about before he speaks.  Sure, the press is covering it, but the press is also covering how Twitterers are reacting to these stories and video clips.


You can see for yourself by searching on Twitter: Obama Ed Henry.  On Wednesday, March 25, as of 11:44 EDT, the responses were trending towards Obama, with many tweets using the term “smackdown.”

There are nuances of communication that are more in the open now more than ever.  The ability for Web 2.0 multimedia to be shared quickly can help to provide context for these exchanges, as well as providing users with a fora for getting their views out there.  I would even argue that these technologies can even gauge the American zeitgeist to a certain extent.

Last night on CNN on Anderson Cooper, Ed Henry gave his side of the exchange on the AIG outrage matter:

I thought it was funny that at the end AC quipped, “you can nurse your wounds tonight, Ed.”

Will these 2.0 technologies (like Twitter) create both challenges and opportunities in future PR battles?  Undoubtedly.  (Will PR turn into pwn relations in certain circles?)  It will be interesting to see how the use of these technologies evolves over time.