Tuned In

Bachmann's Looking-Into-Camera Video Found! Mistake, or Genius?

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As I mentioned in my post this morning, there was a reason that Rep. Michele Bachmann was looking off at an odd angle during her Tea Party State of the Union response: she was speaking to the camera that was streaming her talk on the Tea Party Express website, rather than the media-pool camera. Oddly, though, the website itself as of this morning was embedding a YouTube video from PBS, with the odd pool-camera angle. (Sidebar: What’s the Tea Party position on funding public broadcasting again?)

Curious to find out how the TPE viewers saw Bachmann, as opposed to the rest of America, I scoured video sites looking for the source video. I was finally able to find a single website carrying a capture of the original. (It doesn’t allow embedding; if I find a copy that does, I’ll add it here.)

Now, you could still think that choosing to look the Tea Party straight on, while the rest of the country saw an eccentric-looking speech was a failure of optics and messaging. But it’s just possible that—intentional or accidental—it was genius.

Michele Bachmann is a significant political leader in the Tea Party movement. She heads up the Tea Party caucus in the House. And she’s ambitious; there’s been talk that she may consider a run for the 2012 Presidential nomination.

I’m not a political expert, but I am guessing that, if she runs, even Bachmann knows she would be a very long shot to win. That’s fine; there are different reasons to run for President, one of which is to establish one’s self as the leader of one’s own political constituency, and thus raise one’s standing after the campaign.

If that’s the case, pleasing your base is much more important than impressing the general public and the media. In fact, the latter could even hurt your cred with the former.

So what better message to send than to say: “I had a choice to look directly at the lamestream media, but instead I decided to give my attention to you”? What better result than to have an audience of your most dedicated followers see you give an impassioned speech that they agree with, speaking directly to the camera like any normal person—and then hear outsiders and pundits mocking you, for some reason, as having seemed unsettling and cockeyed? What better metaphor than to have your followers and the mainstream media literally see you from two different perspectives, one straight and true, one literally slanted?

And if some of your fans infer that the second camera was there as a trick to set you up to look bad—well, that’s gravy, isn’t it? That’s what they do all the time—they laugh at you!

Mind you, I’m not a mind-reader; I have no idea whether any of that occurred to Bachmann or anyone else in advance. Just as likely there were two cameras, and either someone didn’t think through the visuals or didn’t care. But it’s worth remembering that, when it comes to niche politics in a polarized country, wildly diverging perceptions of one reality are not always a bad thing for a politician. In case you hadn’t noticed.

Maybe there will be a Saturday Night Live parody this weekend. I’m not sure Bachmann will mind; the show, after all, comes live from New York. And on that note, here’s a quick-turnaround spoof from comedian Sara Benincasa, previously known for her Sarah Palin videos during the 2008 campaign. Because I’m an East Coast elite, and I think this kind of thing is funny: