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Friday, March 7, 2008

YouTube Is Racist! (Or, Re: Re: The Politics of Color-Balancing)

posted by on March 7 at 14:35 PM

Attention all you people who got up in arms about the Clinton campaign allegedly darkening Obama’s skin and widening his nose in an attack ad. (Including, sort of, me—although, if this is any defense, I was just linking, not fuming.)

Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly has a must-read explanation of why the “Hillary is a racist who will stop at nothing!” meme completely misses the real culprit: the sinister forces of YouTube compression.

Over the past few days there’s been a huge fracas over accusations that Hillary Clinton’s campaign deliberately darkened Barack Obama’s face in an ad they ran in Texas. It started with a post over at Daily Kos on Tuesday and has been spread far and wide since then.

The problem is that it’s impossible to compare color tones using YouTube clips because their compression process doesn’t preserve color fidelity. However, got hold of a high-quality recording of the ad as it appeared on station KCEN in Waco, Texas, and then compared it to MSNBC’s streaming version of the debate from which the clip was taken… In the ad version, Obama’s face has been desaturated (i.e., there’s less color tone) but it doesn’t look any darker than the original. Nor has his face been widened to make Obama’s nose more prominent, as the original posters also suggested. That was yet another YouTube artifact.

From, here’s the YouTube clip:


Here’s the ad from the media player on Clinton’s web site:


And here’s the ad as it appeared on television in Texas:


RSS icon Comments


Sorry Hillary, I guess we can cross that one off the LOOOOONG list.

Posted by UNPAID BLOGGER | March 7, 2008 2:36 PM

i have a feeling there are going to be a few comments to this post.

Posted by infrequent | March 7, 2008 2:36 PM

Hillary Clinton does not accept apologies!!! She will not be happy until Kos and Eli Sanders and YouTube are off the Internet forever!!!!!!

Posted by guess who i am | March 7, 2008 2:39 PM

"Never assume malice when stupidity will suffice."
-Hanlon's Razor

YouTube compression=stupid.

Posted by greg | March 7, 2008 2:54 PM

The one who really should apologize is John Aravosis. His shrill non-stop attacks have literally ruined Americablog for me. The whole thing was stupid, and I think it just goes to show that it is not Hillary who is tearing the Democractic Party apart. The party is tearing itself apart because it can't seem to get a hold on its more zealous participants. Every Republican talking point leveled against Hillary hurts our party. Every Rovian negative campaign strategy used also hurts us.
That's why I wish the rabid anti-Hillary people would just shut up and go away. Obama and Hillary ARE our party, so if you really hate either one of them, you aren't a democrat. Vote Nader or whatever histrionic thing you want to do, but go the fuck away already.

Posted by snail mail | March 7, 2008 3:05 PM

silence.......... where are all of the apologies?

Posted by sorry | March 7, 2008 3:13 PM

I remember reading about some senator who took silver nitrate supplements (or colloidal silver, I can't remember which) and ended up dying his skin gray over time. The TV image kinda has that look to it (Zombie Obama!...Huurghh...)

Posted by Mr. Joshua | March 7, 2008 3:16 PM

Do you guys have pics of Sen Clinton wearing a full habib and veil?

I mean, I knew she was a Muslim, but I didn't know she was a terrorist-supporting Muslim ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 7, 2008 3:25 PM

this is dumb. Nothing looks the same from print to TV to computer monitor.
Let it go.

Posted by -B- | March 7, 2008 3:26 PM

it may have been intentional, or it may have been stupidity. eh? when you start to see what looks like a pattern, you start to think it is intentional instead of defaulting to stupidity.

comparing a recording from one tv is not fair, as that changes the contrast. the original comparisons were used using the clip from clinton's web site compared to youtube vids. if youtube=automaticallyDarker then comparing youtube clips should still show the same darkness. you cannot say but youtube made it darker, but youtube only made one of the two darker.

i still think it might have been unintentional. i just don't think the "new" reasoning convinces me.

Posted by infrequent | March 7, 2008 3:29 PM

snail mail, the biggest knock I have is that Hillary could end it right now if she would just stop running. it doesnt make sense for obama to do the same because he is leading the race.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | March 7, 2008 3:35 PM

i'm sorry for posting. this is a non-issue. it might be true, but following obama's example, i don't think we should focus on something like this any longer. a breath of fresh air is needed.

Posted by infrequent | March 7, 2008 3:38 PM

An old engineer's joke: "NTSC = Never The Same Color". The U.S. analog video format makes no attempt at color fidelity. That's why there are those knobs on analog TVs that allow you to adjust the color balance from yellow/green to blue/black.

Posted by David Wright | March 7, 2008 4:01 PM

snail mail--amen to that. i've been reading aravosis since the days of "the list" and ablog has been my homepage for several years, but his hillary-bashing has reached irritating levels. what's his deal, anyway?

Posted by Acolyte | March 7, 2008 4:04 PM

Hillary photoshops Obama, Hillary is responsible for robocalls to Obama supporters in WA with the wrong caucus date, etc., etc. Seems like the anti-Hillary crowd on Slog take any small chance to assume that Hillary is pure evil, rather than waiting for the facts to emerge.

Posted by mscanard | March 7, 2008 4:06 PM

The Obama mob seem to be getting increasingly shrill and frenetic. And annoying. It's a shame 'cos he's a great candidate. The mob seems to have more in common with the Hillary they hate than they do with Obama.

Posted by blank12357 | March 7, 2008 4:28 PM

Wow. Well now I'm even more pissed that Aravosis continued and gave credence to the whole "black is bad" meme without even talking about the meme itself.

Posted by arduous | March 7, 2008 5:27 PM

@ 8, Jesus Christ. What the hell is wrong with you people?

Yes, I've seen Senator Clinton wearing traditional Indian clothing. And you know how I felt when I saw that? Proud.

Proud that in AMERICA a politican could wear the clothing from my homeland.

I'm just so freaking tired of the flip way that so-called liberals are dealing with this. Like because it's an election, it's totally cool to cater to racists. Well the racists don't like the hijab, so Clinton shouldn't wear one. Or Obama shouldn't wear native garb in wherever the hell he was because American racists won't like it.

Posted by arduous | March 7, 2008 5:41 PM

Arduous, Will in Seattle is not "you people". Unless he's been slacking on his medication again.

Posted by Fnarf | March 7, 2008 6:25 PM

dude, the aspect ratio on the bottom one is totally incorrect. As for the colour contrast- maybe we should get a 'true Obama skin colour' comparison sheet, so everyone can keep it straight.

Posted by stiletto | March 7, 2008 7:46 PM

The vid at issue was NOT a random vid off YouTube. It was the vid produced by the Clinton campaign and put on their own website.

Then when challenged on it, the campaign lied denied it was their video, but it was right on their website.

Why the lie?

I think Clinton ville is looking more and more like a Rove campaign. Say what ever you want at the useful time and then deny it til death once it is too late to do anything about the lie's effect.

In five weeks I have completely turned around on Clinton.

I poo-pooed and argued with coworkers who said she was willing to do anything etc. etc. Not any more.

Posted by cracked | March 7, 2008 10:18 PM

I'm sorry, but this is just so fucking ridiculous.

Posted by Kristin | March 8, 2008 6:40 AM

The people at Americablog went absolutely nuts about this and called Hillary every GOP epithet ever created. There are a lot of bridges being burned by the Obama supporters in their zeal to demonize Hillary.

Posted by Keith | March 8, 2008 8:15 AM

John Aravosis apologize? His panties are in such a tight wad over Hillary's wins in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island, it has chocked off the oxygen to his vocal chords, the poor fella is speechless.

His wild rants have caused me to never, never, never click on his sight again, he gives new meaning to "BIAS".

Posted by Kudzu | March 8, 2008 8:50 AM

This is a terrific reminder of the fact that the most vocal political blog commenters filter reality through a haze of self-induced paranoia and hysterical partisanship.

Multiply this stupidity by a generally profound ignorance of technical issues (compression artifacts, information losses, rendering artifacts, differences in monitor types, the effects of player settings, etc.) and you have a stampede of self-righteous cretinosity that is awesome to behold.

Its not just the wingnuts who are prone to this kind of idiocy.

Posted by grepthis2000 | March 8, 2008 10:42 AM

Assuming the Clinton camp did knowingly and willfully darken and broaden Obama... who cares? Everyone knows he's a man of color. Would looking 'more black' really be that hurtful of his chances? That's the same as saying he's only doing so well now because he comes off as 'more white'.

Politics are a dirty, nasty, mean business. But not every single thing is someones fault or decision. Compression messes with color and ratio. Put the same video on five different uploading sites and you'll come up with at least three distinct variations. Should they have made the original ad lighter and narrower to compensate? Frankly, I hope there's other things on their minds.

If everyone could stop looking for hidden jabs and insults and focus on the facts and issues at hand we might end up getting somewhere and could possibly even elect the candidate who will do the best job to get this country somewhere near the track again, whoever that may end up being.

Posted by Arisma | March 8, 2008 11:13 AM

This isn't the first time for this stuff. Bad video compression was also responsible for generating the supposed "floating cross" hovering behind Huckabee in his x-mas ad last December.

Remember how the 24-hour news channels couldn't talk enough about the "subtle Christian iconography subliminally placed" within the ad. When in fact, it was just a bookcase they were viewing -- through an over-compressed video codex via U-Tube.

(You'd kinda think at least the TV journalist should have understood a thing or two about the basics of their own craft, after all!!!)

Posted by Timrrr | March 8, 2008 2:09 PM

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