Moscow Mitch explains his impeachment plans in Russian

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6 mins read

Spoof videos are weapons of mass persuasion. 

They convert popular movie clips into political messages disguised as satire. The videos are inexpensive to make, but get millions of views as they’re mass shared.

How are memes created? Storylines chosen? We created a spoof video to see how it’s done.

Background

“A violent parody aired this weekend at President Trump’s Miami-area golf resort — and the video’s mass sharing afterward — is yet another example of how Trump and the once-fringe movements of online trolls and meme-makers who support him have reshaped mainstream politics and the media.

Meme creators routinely build dark parodies and shareable memes from Hollywood films, superimposing the faces of journalists they dislike and the logos of media organizations onto characters getting beaten up or humiliated.” – Washington Post.

Why do spoofs work so well?

People grasp memes quickly as they’re based on films and TV shows they’ve seen. The political message is mixed with humor and ridicule to increase the chances of the video being shared. This viral distribution cuts advertising expenses. Some spoofs even get millions of views.

Memes are often designed to be controversial in order to generate media outrage which only generates more exposure.


How we created this spoof video

  • We chose Mitch McConnell’s comments about the impeachment trial for this meme.
  • We then picked a video clip of a Russian soldier to fit his ‘Moscow Mitch’ nickname.
  • Mitch’s talking head was superimposed on the solider using Adobe After Effects.
  • Next a Russian marching soundtrack was added.
  • The video was translated and captioned automatically with another app.
  • We translated the video into Russian as well given the topic and Mitch’s nickname.
  • This video was created on a laptop in a few hours using Adobe After Effects which costs $21/month.  Freelance experts are available to create videos with After Effects once a spoof storyline is prepared.
  1. Choose the source video clip with the ‘talking head’ to use in spoof.
  1. Choose the video to overlay the talking head on to.
  1. Merge the two videos with Adobe After Effects to generate the video.
  1. Translate and caption the video in different language(s).

The battle for mindshare

Conservatives have built a system to create video spoofs. Individuals make money creating spoofs (memes). InfoWars uses contests to encourage spoof creation on a topic they choose in return for small prizes. The White House recently organized a Social Media Summit to laud conservative meme creators. Further validation of video spoofs comes from Republicans who regularly outspend Democrats on social media advertising also using spoofs for outreach.

What’s needed to create a spoof?

  1. Writers / humorists to choose the topic and video clips to use
  2. Software experts who are in-house or freelancers to generate the video
  3. Partners to distribute and promote the video spoof when it’s ready

Each step requires a different skillset, so it’s best to have specialists focus on just their area of expertise. This streamlines the process and cuts the time and expense of creating a spoof. Even small campaigns with tiny budgets can now create their own video spoof with apps like Adobe After Effects.

Economics

Most campaigns use paid media where consultants are paid to create ads and platforms like Facebook paid to display the ads. The campaign decides where and when to run their ad campaign. This approach is effective but can be expensive and time consuming.

Spoof videos are a form of earned media where the humor in the spoof is used to generate viral distribution and press coverage rather than paying to buy advertising space. This is guerrilla-style outreach. There is no guarantee that the spoof will catch on, but definitely worth trying when spoof videos can be made for under $200.

Campaigns can tap their supporters enthusiasm and creativity to get ideas for spoofs in return for a small prize. Humor is subjective, so it’s best to get ideas from someone close to the target audience. Low cost apps can then quickly convert the idea into a video spoof.

Takeaway

Conservatives have weaponized memes, but there is no monopoly on humor nor creativity. Democrats should adopt (non-violent) video spoofs to also reach more people for less money. Learn more about the approach here.

Deepak
Co-Founder, DemLabs

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Democracy Labs is a hub for ongoing technology and creative innovation that serves progressive campaigns and organizations at the national, state, and local levels.

Our focus is on long term, sustainable and affordable solutions. An approach that is longer than an election cycle, and isn’t purely dependant on volunteers, can enable more qualified candidates to run for office and for more issue groups to bring about positive social change.

Democracy Labs is a project of the Tides Advocacy Fund.

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