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Sarah Silverman and the Comedic Political Internet Campaign

Those familiar with Sarah Silverman's comedy may have noticed her recent ventures into online comedic activism. Silverman's comedy has always been political in its content, but her first internet campaign, "The Great Schlep," was a more ambitious attempt, using comedic appeals through online channels to promote community action. See: http://www.thegreatschlep.com/. To summarize briefly, her 2008 "Great Schlep" video asked young, liberal northeasterners to visit their elderly Jewish grandparents in Florida (a highly contested swing state), and convince them to vote for Barack Obama. While the video is humorous, the site is also useful, providing talking points, explanations about the importance of the 2008 elections, and tips for connecting with grandparents.

Looking ahead to the 2012 elections, Silverman has issued a new internet video campaign: http://scissorsheldon.com/, this time directed towards Sheldon Adelson, a 78-year-old billionaire casino magnate who has donated $100 million to the Mitt Romney campaign, vowing to do "whatever it takes" to defeat Obama. The recent Supreme Court Citizens' United decision allowing unlimited campaign donations, and a political atmosphere of lobbying and moneyed influence makes donations like these highly contentious matters. Silverman's video urges Adelson to reconsider  his donation in an unconventional manner (let's just say the title speaks for itself) -- bringing attention to the issue of campaign finance corruption and activating viewers who can sign a petition. 

With this video and website, Silverman is hailing a young liberal audience, particularly the Jewish community, as she references Adelson's hostility towards Obama on race-based birther contentions, meddling with international affairs, and supporting big business by buying influence in politics. Unlike "The Great Schlep," "Scissor Sheldon" is an awareness-based campaign directed towards initiating discussions about money and power, as well as the presidential candidates' ethical stances as  the election nears. Other than signing a petition, users can learn facts about Adelson's political activities, including his political views and past funding efforts, but are not otherwise invited to take individual action. 

How effective are these efforts? Do comedic messages translate to heightened awareness or varied voting outcomes? I am particularly wondering about the automatic filtering of those who receive these messages -- who must be actively linked to sites like Huffingtonpost or TheDailyBeast, or Funny Or Die, which publicize current sites like this one. These links are likely spread on Facebook, but perhaps it's unlikely that they reverberate into conservative or moderate circles. 

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