What kind of virus has Fiorina's ad spread?

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina's attempt to become a California senator is thrust into the spotlight by a trippy video that has gone viral. But is any kind of viral good viral?

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

I once went to a wedding in which a British High Court judge was the bride's godfather.

Having made a deeply insincere speech, he then proceeded to get blind drunk and attempt, for no clear reason, to remove his trousers. He left the proceedings with his pants around his ankles, his wife around his torso, and a deep hush around the marquee in which the wedding was being held.

People stared, so frozen at the lips that the wine enjoyed no sips. And this, I imagine, is a posture many have experienced upon viewing a campaign video made on behalf of former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

Fiorina seems to feel she is the right person to become a California senator. The first step in her righteous quest is to make voters believe that one of her Republican opponents, Tom Campbell, is actually Damien from the "Omen" movies--except that he's a sheep. Damien the Sheep is a demon sheep.

There have been exclamations about how talented the makers of this video are. (Yes, they were also behind the excellent and highly successful video suggesting that Barack Obama was rather like Paris Hilton.)

You see, this little opus has, as they say in media circles, gone viral. At the time of writing, more than 400,000 people have slipped onto YouTube to see what all the fuss is about. But what kind of virus is really being spread here?

Many believe that the apogee in so-called virality is when a video is passed on to millions. The mere fact of something being seen by a lot of people, in their mind, makes it victorious. But a lot of people saw Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah's sofa, and I am not sure that the incident increased their belief that Cruise was a human being with whom they'd like to break bread--or even break silence.

A lot of people also saw Virginia Sen. George Allen using that charming word "Macaca," and that didn't seem to do too much for his political career.

When it comes to politics or, indeed, life, people are lazy, dumb, preoccupied, and bored. Political consultants tell candidates that they have to jolt people out of this state and make them feel something.

Yet when you put out a video that looks and sounds like it was made by folks who chose the music and did the edit after ingesting a particularly gruesome crop of mushrooms while watching snuff videos on an adjacent screen, it's still worth wondering what impression you have virally created for your candidate.

It may well be that Carly Fiorina will make for an excellent California senator. It may well be that her advisers are slapping her (and themselves) on the back because they have finally got her name out of the morass of apparently faceless politicos who are vying for the honor of failing to corral the psychedelic state.

But it also may well be that they have propelled an image of Fiorina as something of nasty nutbag who shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the steering wheel of a Prius, never mind that of a state whose recall may have been total, but whose politics should be totaled.

Going viral is not necessarily a mark of success if, as is already happening, people are creating Twitter pages such as Twitter.com/demonsheep, whose stated location is the "fiery depths of Gehenna."

It will be interesting to see whether her campaign's follow-up might suggest that all other Republicans, regardless of whether they are running for the U.S. Senate, are somehow evil fiends.

Perhaps it will be a video depicting former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who is running for California governor, as a crazed woman in a black hat, who, having made a fortune by persuading people to buy things they don't need and may never receive, flies around on a broomstick, selling poisonous candy door-to-door, while hissing like Dick Dastardly.