03:17 - Source: CNN
How comedians made net neutrality matter

Story highlights

Dean Obeidallah: Video with porn stars mocks Ted Cruz's position on net neutrality

It makes point that Cruz got donations from Comcast. It opposes Obama regulation plan

He says pols should use comedy to reach voters. Obama did with "Between Two Ferns"

Obeidallah: Young people made big difference in 2008, 2012. Cruz, you should try comedy

Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a columnist for The Daily Beast and editor of the politics blog “The Dean’s Report.” He’s also the co-director of the documentary “The Muslims Are Coming!” Follow him on Twitter: @TheDeansreport The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

CNN —  

Ted Cruz is in for the fight of his political career. I’m not talking his possible run for president in 2016. I mean his fight with two far more formidable opponents: comedy and porn stars.

This battle started last week after President Obama called for the FCC to back “net neutrality” for the Internet. As Obama said, at its core net neutrality means that Internet providers cannot act as “a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online.”

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

Cruz responded, via Twitter, that “net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet.” This is nonsense, of course, but you have to give Cruz points for trying to conflate the unpopular Obamacare – which, by the way is so loathed that it has exceeded its goal and has signed up 7.3 million people for health insurance – with net neutrality. Although on the other hand, I’m surprised Cruz didn’t claim that net neutrality is something supported by ISIS.

You would think that Cruz, as a member of the Senate’s Communications, Technology and Internet subcommittee, would offer up a more reasoned objection to net neutrality.

Traditionally, the debate over an issue like this would’ve been conducted in the wonky realm of policy makers and politicians. Unfortunately for Cruz, however, it has entered the world of naughty pop culture.

On Friday, “Funny or Die,” the comedy website co-created by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, released a video titled “Porn stars explain net neutrality.” It features adult film stars Alex Chance, Mercedes Carrera and Nadia Styles discussing the issue in a funny, accessible and provocative way.

Did I mention that they’re naked?

They explain that ending net neutrality would mean not only slowed down social media, it also would result in, “slower porn.” Says Styles: “Ted Cruz doesn’t want me to get naked for you.”

Mercedes Carrera then adds a kernel of info that is both poignant on a personal level, and significant politically: “Unfortunately, Sen. Cruz – who is not sexy! – has taken countless donations from telecom giant Comcast and wants to end net neutrality.”

That video, my friends, is political satire at its best. It uses humor to entertain as well as explain the issue.

Now some might dismiss the FOD video as “just comedy.” Really? This video, per the execs at FOD, was viewed by over 1.4 million people as of Monday. This video has clearly reached audience far beyond those who tune in to watch Sunday morning political talk shows or who religiously read political websites. And for that reason, I’d say Cruz is going to lose this battle.

There’s a lesson here, not just for Cruz, but for all candidates thinking of running for president in 2016 (and there are a lot of you.) You should use nontraditional methods, like comedy, to reach voters.

This is more important than ever. Why? Well, have you ever seen more people turned off to politics than there are today? Just look at the lousy turnout for midterm elections two weeks ago: just 36%. That was the lowest number since 1942, and back then the country was in the middle of a World War!

And if you doubt that comedic videos can have an effect on your chances, then look no further than the President’s March appearance on the FOD online show, “Between Two Ferns” hosted by Zach Galifianakis, where Obama urged people to sign up for Obamacare. That six-minute video, which has been viewed over 27 million times, caused traffic to increase to healthcare.gov by 40% within 24 hours of its release, and caused a spike in people signing up for Obamacare.

Yes, I know some political pundits will tell you that these types of comedy videos only reach young people and younger people tend not to vote. These people are wrong for two reasons.

First, younger voters in the 2008 and 2012 elections comprised close to 19% of the electorate; that’s a sizeable voting bloc. In fact, if Mitt Romney had just split the 18- to 29-year-old voters in 2012, as opposed to losing them by 37% to Obama, he would’ve won the presidency.

Second, political comedy – even FOD videos – aren’t just consumed by people under 30. Want to guess the median age of “The Daily Show” audience? 21? 30? Nope, it’s 41 years old. And the median age of Stephen Colbert’s audience is 42.

But here’s a little tip to political people thinking of using online videos: Have professionals help you. For example, Cruz released a video Monday night to counter Sen. Al Franken’s recent charge on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Cruz doesn’t understand net neutrality.

The problem with this video, however, is that it’s nothing more than a badly lit Cruz speaking directly to the camera. Cruz, to his credit, did use props (an old telephone), but besides that the most interesting aspect of the video was the bizarre robot image on the wall behind him and the person standing off to Cruz’s left unintentionally photobombing him. The best chance Cruz has of this video reaching beyond his base is if it inspires comedic memes mocking it.

The world will feign outrage over the “revelations” cited in the newly released Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report.

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