This Republican Idea to Rip Off Buzzfeed Will Restore Your Faith in Republicans

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 4 2013 2:49 PM

This Republican Idea to Rip Off Buzzfeed Will Restore Your Faith in Republicans

Yesterday, after work, I grabbed some drinks with reporter friends and talked about the subject that fascinates our ilk: The predictable tastes of readers. One friend had cobbled together a story he was pretty proud of, involving well-sourced reporting and some diplomatic history on North Korea-U.S. relations. He'd also filed a quick story about the president's P.R. stunt, handing back 5 percent of his salary in solidarity with the people suffering from sequestration. (There's no average sequestration salary cut. Some people are getting furloughed; some people are getting pay cuts up to 27 percent of income.)

The North Korea story did okay. The silly Obama story did 10,000 Facebook shares in an hour.

Advertisement

The point of that anecdote is that this National Republican Congressional Committee initiative is going to do just fantastic.

Staffers at the National Republican Congressional Committee are finishing up a site redesign that'll likely be rolled out this weekend. The new NRCC.org does away with all the typical features of a political website, emulating instead the style of the Web juggernaut whose top headlines currently include "10 Easter Bunnies Straight From Hell" and "14 Photos Of George W. Bush Touching Bald Men's Heads."
Yes. The committee that elects Republicans to the House is taking BuzzFeed's advice to heart... by copying BuzzFeed itself.

It's going to work, because quick-fix Internet readers only share the stories that make them feel something. If they laugh at it, they share it. (This NRCC meme got 12,000 shares in a hurry.) If they're outraged, they share it. If they're amazed by how stupid it is, they share it. And a lot of government spending sounds really stupid. Polls show us that voters wildly overestimate how much of their tax dollar funds government waste and foreign aid. Highlighting the stupidest-sounding spending has been a trope for decades, ever since the "Golden Fleece" awards of the 1980s, on to the Citizens Against Government Waste "Pig Books," on to John McCain tweeting the 10 dumbest-sounding items in the stimulus bill, etc. The NRCC had been sending out sort of bland emails asking Democrats to defend "robotic squirrels" and other goofiness, but only reporters see those emails. Memes? Listicles? That's how you make this stuff famous. (Gerritt Lansing, the NRCC staffer cited here, came there from the office of Rep. Paul Ryan. Before that he was at the Heritage Foundation. He's seen a lot of these "check out that waste" campaigns sort of plateau for lack of virality.)

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The Simpsons World App Is Here, and Nearly Perfect

Science

“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.

Politics

The Right to Run

If you can vote, you should be able to run for public office—any office.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 2:05 PM Paul Farmer Says Up to Ninety Percent of Those Infected Should Survive Ebola. Is He Right?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Education
Oct. 22 2014 4:45 PM Welcome to 13th Grade! Several Oregon high schools are offering a fifth year of high school. Every district should consider it.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 4:10 PM Skinny Mark Wahlberg Goes for an Oscar: The First Trailer for The Gambler
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.