Fast Talk: John Edwards’s Web General

Fast Talk:  John Edwards’s Web General

Mathew Gross

Senior Adviser for Online Communications, John Edwards Campaign
Greensboro, North Carolina

Mathew Gross, 35, created Blog for America for Howard Dean in 2003 and is now in charge of integrating John Edwards’s online and offline communications. So far, Edwards’s campaign has been arguably the most technologically innovative, experimental, and aggressive.

“In the television era of politics, the instinct was very much to control the message, to get the perfect sound bite. With the Internet, I think you have to release control as you do in a conversation. Traditionally, when one politician attacks another, you respond either by attacking back or voicing your outrage that a candidate would stoop to such a level. Now, suddenly, the audience is able to hurl their attacks as well. Asymmetrical warfare is the perfect analogy, because now the ability for things to go viral is in anybody’s hands, and if an attack is coming from a voter, it’s no longer a given to simply strike back. There was one video on YouTube of Edwards getting made up for a debate and someone had set it to the song ‘I Feel Pretty.’ It became pretty popular and was clearly an attack on him. We thought, ‘What’s a way we could counteract this? Do we make fun of it?’ Ultimately, we decided that in this particular case, it didn’t rise to the occasion of warranting a response, but I think that’s something all campaigns will have to deal with on an ongoing basis. It’s always a judgment call, but now it requires a new sense of judgment.”