You know something that bugs me about viral campaigning? I have no idea how to tell the difference between hyped-up, reductionist campaigns like KONY 2012, and stuff that looks legitimate but might be just as bullshit like this video, "Campaign for Local Power," from Colorado:
The thing is, I can't think of any conventionally structured video content that doesn't come across as deeply, aggressively full of crap.
A year ago, I would have said that I just don't think video is a capable format for disseminating information. But then I spent the last year watching YouTube videos, and now I'm somewhat more convinced that it's possible to create informational, and even educational, content with video. The Vlogbrothers make a lot of videos that seem perfectly clear and not at all misleading. So does VSauce, MinutePhysics, CGPGrey, and ViHart, along with many others.
And since this is the first time I've seriously thought about this subject and not concluded that film is a bullshit medium, here are my aggressively underthought hypotheses:
Traditional documentary and ad for mat involve an anonymous narrator over video of actual stuff. That's mostly not what happens in YouTube videos: usually you get to directly see the person talking, even when we're supposed to take what they're saying as uncontested fact. And, it's pretty much always the same person. And, it's usually the person who did the research, and they're around in some capacity to answer questions and engage in discussion about the topic of the video.
Infographics: when these channels do jump away from straight video of the person talking (which some of them do at all times) the content they jump to is usually some kind of animation of diagrams, graphs, math, etc. Stuff that, while it's manifestly not actual, real things in the world, are somewhat less inherently biased by the context.
The YouTubers I follow might just generally cover the easier topics. They certainly second-guess themselves, a lot, on camera, when they address the bigger questions that are harder to get clear answers about, like environmental reform.
They aren't doing some of the things that conventional video does all the time: Get a dozen people to say the same thing, to create the illusion of widespread agreement; feed information in audio format while throwing up moody, or energetic, or otherwise emotionally charged imagery to appeal to your emotions; end with specific calls to action; beg for money or deliver their viewers' eyeballs in maximum quantity to advertisers.
The thing that frustrates me most about this train of thought is that the only place I can really settle is "Yeah, it's basically impossible to trust any sort of explanation of information other than your own, personal, direct grasp of things, which is susceptible to your own errors and prejudices, instead of those of whoever's doing the explaining."
I still feel like there are uniquely manipulative things about video, but I'm still totally unable to put my finger on what they are. Maybe it's just that the people who established the conventions for video in 20th and 21st century culture were so awful at objectivity that it's totally outside the sensibility of anyone with a camera to present information fairly.