All bad media ideas centered on "hip" technology and gadgets share the same two features. First, they are generally conceived of by people who do not use those technologies and gadgets (or, as a corollary, they are pitched to people who do not use them by people who do). And second, they arrive very late in the adoption curve of the technology, misuse the technology, or both.
CNN has a new interview with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) using Snapchat, a messaging platform popular with the younger voters to whom Paul hopes to appeal. It unquestionably meets the second criterion above; I would bet one Blizzardmobile that it meets the first, as well.
Look. We here at the Fix, and me, Philip Bump in particular, are not averse to being gimmicky in service to making the 2016 contest interesting. It's still approximately 30 years away, features zero actual viable candidates, and is a popular topic for readers. So we come up with angles. It's how it goes. And social media tools are terrific, fascinating to explore and, often, unclear in their long-term implications.
However. The "CNN exclusive: Historic Snapchat Interview with Rand Paul"? Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooof. All you need to do is watch it to see that it misfires.
And it's actually more baffling than it seems.
Snapchat is a private messaging system that originally focused on messages that automatically self-destruct, pitched as a response to the eternality of internet communications but then usually referred to as a tool to facilitate sexting. Since, thanks in part to little tools that let you draw on the screen and add emoji and all the things that real-life teens like to do, it's become a bulwark (if, perhaps a fading one) of the young-person-communications arsenal. (Warning: I am not a young person and maybe they all use it differently now, who the hell knows.)
For what it's worth, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) made his debut on Snapchat about a year ago -- a lifetime in the context of gimmicky social media adoption. This was his first "snap," as they are known. The "5" in the corner is the amount of time in seconds before it self-destructs. (If you screenshot a snap that self-destructs, the snapper (?) gets an alert.)
OK, but back to the CNN thing. Here is a secret that I will let you in on: They could have done this without Snapchat. Did you notice that both the CNN interviewer and Paul are being filmed by actual cameras, in addition to "snapping" with their phones? This is like calling your mom over Facetime and watching as she holds the phone to her ear to talk to you. Maybe that doesn't happen? (My mom didn't do that, to clarify.) But you get the point.
The truly rough thing, though, is that the actual conversation is remarkably trivial. "do you like drones y/n" "lol I will shoot yer drone" "do you like the white house y/n" "haha y" "clinton is rich omg" "i know omg" "do you like your opponents" "maybe I dunno" "do you like bikes" "obvs also america" Paul's not innocent here; his corny dad-jokes have to do extra work because they're the only thing that might hold the conversation together. The problem is that they don't.
CNN and Paul presumably figured that this was a good appeal to young people, in the way that #brands tend to do. It will not be, because, for some reason, the human ability to sniff out phoniness is the first thing to be fully developed post-puberty.
Look. Be gimmicky. But if you're going to be gimmicky, be true to what you're about and then commit to the bit. Trust me. This is a realm I know.