It's the first day of 2008, and outside of Iowa and Pakistan there's not much news and not much to worry about. Kick back and click the "play" button as reason editors and friends of the magazine remember the most striking, funny, historic, stupid, or impactful videos of 2007.
Update on January 2: Due to an editing error, some video picks were not included in the original posting of the article. Submitted for your viewing pleasure are three new selections:
reason senior editor
I'm nominating the lot of police brutality and taser videos. The most popular this year were probably the "Don't Tase Me, Bro" video from a John Kerry event in Florida (see below) and a Missouri teenager's recording of an abusive police officer who had pulled him over. The genre as a whole is the result of the mass democratization of technology, and represents an important shift toward transparency and accountability in law enforcement. More than a few abusive police officers have lost their jobs after a video went viral, which likely wouldn't have happened were we still in the pre-Internet age. Mass watching of the watchers is a good thing, and we ought to be encouraging more of it, both to weed out bad cops and to protect the good ones from frivolous claims of abuse.
reason science correspondent
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez' weekly television talk show, Alo Presidente, infamously runs on for hours. In September, 2007 viewers were treated to more than eight hours of presidential bloviation. Chavez' hero, the notoriously long-winded Fidel Castro, has never even gotten close to that record.
In November at the Ibero-American Summit, Spain's King Juan Carlos told Chavez, "Why don't you just shut up!" Juan Carlos' words have been turned into a popular ring tone. I nominate it as the "best" video of 2007 because it was way past time that someone told Chavez to just zip it.
I continue to laugh every time I watch the meeting of minds between singer-songwriter John Mayer and Justin Long (the Apple Computer guy) outside an L.A. nightclub. Mayer–drunk on booze or maybe just strict construction of the Constitution?–goes on a pro-Ron Paul rant that is magical not just for its intensity and heartfeltness but for its very existence in the first place. Years ago in reason, we excerpted Tyler Cowen's What Price Fame?, a study in how contemporary celebrities are impotent puppets we pay astronomical amounts to entertain us (Cowen's piece is not, alas, online). This is true, even when we agree with them. It's a great world where this sort of footage is widely available.
reason associate editor
This mashup of the classic Apple 1984 ad and Hillary campaign footage ends with Obama's website address but wasn't approved by his campaign. When the maker's identity was feretted out by the Huffington Post, he said: "This ad was not the first citizen ad, and it will not be the last. The game has changed." Ne'er were truer words spoken in 2007.
reason online columnist
A perfect creation of ad hoc media—found it via Fark.com, builds on a previous YouTube upload of Hubble telescope images set to the Tool song Lateralus—and adds immense value, meaning, and insight, all because some guy—philriehl—decided to do it. The 9:24 vid—that number is important—illustrates and explains a Fibonacci number sequence clearly enough for everyone to feel their inner gnostic stir. Beautiful, powerful, and inspiring.
reason managing editor
Who is the YouTube candidate? It might be Ron Paul, thanks to his ability to inspire hundreds of homemade videos, some of them gloriously weird. But Mike Gravel is the guy who makes weird videos, or at least sends them out with his stamp of approval. My favorite is this Lennonist rap featuring psychedelic animation and clips from Duck and Cover.
incoming editor-in-chief of reason
I can never tell whether this surrealist attack on/celebration of John "Walnuts" McCain was based on any particular knowledge or point of view, or whether it was just a one-time burst of inspired guesswork, but I do know that it only gets better—and creepier—on the 200th viewing. "I want to help people… in their lives" may yet go down as one of the most chilling predictions of the 2008 presidential campaign.
author of Discover Your Inner Economist
The best video clip I saw this year was John McLaughlin playing "Cherokee."
author of Nanny State
My favorite video of the year:
The Huckabee parody ad. Nothing captured better the absurdity of the GOP's entire field.
editor of Spiked Online
Mia Farrow in Second Life talking about Darfur: It's not my favourite video of the year. But in capturing the naked narcissism of celebrity activism, it's one of the most startling. Mia Farrow's young-looking, sexy avatar addresses a virtual audience of students, activists and lizards in Second Life. Like most Save Darfur activists Farrow says precisely nothing about the politics driving the conflict in Sudan; instead she describes horrific occurrences and shows photos of distressed Darfurians. As Mahmood Mamdani wrote in the London Review of Books (Essay of the Year), activists like Farrow "obscure the politics of the violence and position [themselves] as a virtuous, not just a concerned observer." It's fitting that Farrow's speech takes place in the cartoon world of Second Life, since the aim of Darfur activists is not to get to grips with the reality on the ground in Sudan but to create a virtual plane of moral superiority that they can occupy. Darfur is a "defining moment for the human family," says Farrow. She's so vain she thinks somebody else's war is about her. Watch this vid to glimpse Kipling's colonialism updated: the Web Surfer's Burden.