Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer and current Trump-appointed FCC Chairman hell-bent on ending net neutrality, decided to take on his many critics with content marketing in the form of a short YouTube sketch. It’s essentially Jimmy Kimmel’s Celebrities Read Mean Tweets, except instead of celebrities reading mean tweets we just get Ajit Pai. Go ahead, see how far you can make it through this cringe-inducing mess.
We’ve written a bit previously about politics and content marketing (specifically, how content marketing can work during elections). Content marketing can be a useful tool for political messaging. So what went wrong here? Well . . .
Ajit Pai is no Samuel L. Jackson
Jimmy Kimmel’s Mean Tweet series regularly pull in millions of views because the celebrities reading said mean tweets are charismatic, interesting, and funny. Pai is none of these things. Or, at least, he isn’t enough of these things to pull off a video. Maybe he’s funny in person. But he’s nowhere near as funny as the people he’s imitating.
The Mean Tweets format relies heavily on choosing tweets that are inherently funny while being extremely mean. The sentence “Casey Affleck is the real life version of Billy Bob Thornton’s character in Sling Blade” is already pretty funny; Casey Affleck reading it is icing on the cake.
By contrast, the tweets Pai reads aren’t especially funny. For example, “@AjitPaiFCC go back to Africa were you came from!” is a nasty thing to tweet at Pai, but it isn’t terribly funny. And it seems to have been selected just so Pai can make a lame joke about the guy not being able to speak English properly. That’s the other thing that makes Mean Tweets a funny format: celebrities and other mean tweet readers usually pretend to be hurt or sad instead of attacking the tweeter. That’s part of the joke. Why would Ryan Gosling or Bette Midler actually care what some random tweeter says? Pai, by contrast, cares very much.
Ajit Pai has misjudged his audience
A vast majority of FCC filings support net neutrality (that is, once spam has been removed). The internet audience familiar with Kimmel’s Mean Tweets format tends to be pro-net neutrality. This isn’t terribly shocking; of course an internet audience is in favour of a free internet.
So, all this said, what’s Pai’s game?
With their own version of a Mean Tweets video, Ajit Pai and his staff are playing a dishonest game.
Pai and the FCC have not responded to comments in favour of net neutrality from the Internet Association, which is a trade group whose members include Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and about 40 other major internet companies.
Pai has also ignored an open letter from around a thousand internet start-ups, investors, and entrepreneurs.
But Pai, in making a Mean Tweets video, has highlighted opponents who’ve made badly spelled personal attacks. This is his attempt to mischaracterise the opposition he’s facing while he plans to gut the internet. And maybe Pai will gut the internet—but he won’t win any support with crappy content marketing like this.