Wolf has learned a hard lesson for a writer: there are better ways to reach the masses than with your lucid, intelligent prose. The rise of the documentary and YouTube as the medium of popular choice changes the whole game of political messaging. All hail the Forward button!
Every once in a while, a culture shifts. You feel like a Luddite until your new learning curve is complete. That is the experience I have been having recently, as my book The End of America has been turned into a documentary. Can political documentaries make a difference? For someone who lives mostly in the dimension of words, it is an exciting and scary question.
The End of America details the 10 steps that would-be dictators always take in seeking to close an open society; it argued that the Bush administration had been advancing each one. I took the message on the road, and one of those early lectures – at the University of Washington in Seattle, in October 2007 – was videoed by a member of the audience. Even with its bad lighting and funky amateur vibe, this video, posted on YouTube, has been accessed almost 1,250,000 times.
This was a humbling lesson. While a polemical argument in prose may reach tens of thousands of the usual suspects – formally educated people who like to follow such texts – the video version reached far beyond that audience. Everywhere I went, from the gas station to the nail salon, I ran into people who would have been unlikely to read a book of mine, but who were passionately supportive of the argument from having watched it on YouTube.