The Viral Obama Web Cycle Barack Obama's speech on race was one of the most viewed videos on YouTube Tuesday. We examine bloggers' reaction to his comments.
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The Viral Obama Web Cycle

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The Viral Obama Web Cycle

The Viral Obama Web Cycle

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Cohen.


I'm Alex Chadwick. Coming up, firsthand accounts of the invasion of Iraq, now a mini-series.

COHEN: But first, in his speech yesterday on race, Barack Obama made reference to the power of the Internet and its ability to disseminate information and shape opinion. Little surprise that the Web is buzzing today with reaction to Obama's lengthy speech. Here's a little sampling of some of the video responses you can find on YouTube.

(Soundbite of YouTube video)

Unidentified Man #1: What we've just witnessed is Barack Obama in his finest hour.

Unidentified Man #2: Wow, what a speech.

Unidentified Man #3: I think a person like Barack Obama can really bring this country together, and hell, maybe even the world.

Unidentified Man #4: I've experienced the racism in this country when somebody climbs up on the back of the fence to throw apples at you, to throw rocks at you in the middle of a baseball game.

Unidentified Man #5: It was coming from somebody who has the potential to take a big step at healing this country.

COHEN: And here now with a survey of what's out there online is NPR's Robert Smith. He's been covering the Internet and its effect on presidential politics. Hi, Robert.


COHEN: So the speech, it has gone pretty viral on the Internet, wouldn't you say?

SMITH: Yeah, I was amazed, because most of the stuff that goes viral on the Internet is, you know, 30 seconds, a minute long, and...

COHEN: Right, not 45 minutes.

SMITH: Exactly, 45 minutes, a serious speech on race. When I watched it last night on YouTube, 200,000 people had watched it, which is pretty good for a speech of Barack Obama. When I got up this morning, it was close to one million views, overnight.

I went to get coffee, got breakfast, came back, it was at 1.3 million views, and there's a certain irony to this because really Obama got in hot water in the first place because of the Internet. It was viral videos of his reverend, Jeremiah Wright, and some of the controversial things that the reverend had said; really those taken out of context and spread around the Internet was what made Barack Obama have to stand up and do the speech, and so I think they're waiting to see if the speech itself can have that sort of effect on the Internet.

COHEN: This speech has been talked about a lot, it's been dissected on TV, here on NPR. What are people saying about it online?

SMITH: Well, it's interesting. I mean, one of the first things that I saw online was sort of a dissection of the dissection. There's a great thing called a tag cloud, where somebody analyzes the words that are used most often in a speech.

And they analyzed the speech, and they said, well, what words were used most often by Barack Obama in the speech? And obviously the word black, American, community, story, talk, racial - those kind of words.

And then they did the same analysis of major editorials and newspapers, and what they found was that the editorials and newspapers used words like political and anger and bitterness and condemn and Reverend Wright.

So immediately they saw this disconnect between the speech and what people were talking about immediately, which was what is the political effect of this speech? And really people's analysis of the speech sort of depends on where they already were. What they already thought of Barack Obama is the lens through which they view it.

COHEN: It seems to have really amped up this discussion among people online. It seems to be getting even more heated than it was before, if possible.

SMITH: For conservatives, they were really focusing on the political dilemma of Barack Obama. Did he answer the question of why this man was his pastor? And they conclude very strongly that he did not and are using terms like that he lied in the speech, that there's a sense of racial righteousness. That's from

And interestingly enough - what I found most interesting was the African-American Web sites who really - who are really talking about this in a way that they'd never seen anything quite like this in terms of somebody really navigating these difficult issues that they talk about all the time.

And there was one, Carol McDonald from the African-American Black Opinion Web site, and she said that the forgive Barack Obama if he has to speak gingerly around the subject of race. She said, Obama, my friend, you do what you gotta do.

COHEN: There is, of course, more presidential candidate news out today that seems very ripe for the Internet crowd. Thousands of pages of Hillary Clinton's scheduled activities from when she was first lady have been released today. What's the Internet buzz on that?

SMITH: Well, already the New York Times blog has given a link to these schedules online and told their readers go look for something, go look for anything interesting you bring out. This is known as crowd-sourcing, which is there's thousands and thousands of documents. No one reporter could go through them, so online people are going to be pouring through these.

I have to say I looked quickly through it, and I found the Easter egg hunt and an interview with NPR that Hillary Clinton did. So not very controversial stuff on first glance. These were public documents anyway. But if there's something in that, the Internet will find it.

COHEN: NPR's Robert Smith, thank you so much.

SMITH: You're welcome.

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