In the future, every politician will have a mildly-to-extremely embarrassing video of themselves unearthed from their past, on the internet. And, because it’s the internet, we’ll have to sit through at least a couple hours of discourse unpacking and dissecting the video and whether it’s embarrassing enough to harm their standing as public servants.
That’s what’s happening now with a video circulating of congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing in a video from college. It’s gone viral because some right-wing Twitter accounts posted a version dubbed over with weirdly sensual drums as a way to shame her for... dancing, I guess, but the original is part of a 2009 dancing meme (think Harlem Shake) where people would gyrate wildly to Phoenix’s then-hit song “Lisztomania.” Here’s a dance troupe doing it:
The video was taken while Ocasio-Cortez was at Boston University. It’s not a scandalous video, or even embarrassing. It’s arguably pretty well done. But it doesn’t matter to people posting the right-wing dubbed version—it’s from forever ago so they think it should make her feel some shame.
Anyway, remember Eric Brakey, who won the Maine Republican nomination for US Senate in June 2018? And how his opponents dredged up some goofy video of him writhing in a Speedo from years earlier?
At the time, Motherboard wrote:
We’re on the cusp of a major generational shift in politics: The people running for office in the coming years are the first generation to be extremely online for most of their lives. People who’ve never known a time before the internet—yes, Millennials—are now running for political office, and that means their online histories are on display and preserved in a way no previous generation of politicians ever had to contend with.
As long as these online histories don't reveal the kind of bad judgment and character that can harm others (for example, audio of the candidate openly talking about sexually assaulting women) none of that should matter. We all have mistakes filed away online, after all. It’s where we grew up, and part of growing up is making a bunch of mistakes.
Ocasio-Cortez is 29. She’s solidly a Millennial, and by definition of being one, has probably made some questionable video choices, Facebook statuses, Myspace profile pictures or LiveJournal entries. It’s part of the territory of growing up online, in a time when you jumped into a meme video because you’re in college and it’s fun and harmless.
What we do online will never die—but as we all have these moments surface, we’ll (hopefully) give less of a shit about how awkward or silly those moments were.