Is Herman Cain the first Transmedia candidate?

I usually don’t write about politics here, even though I love politics and especially U.S politics. But I recently went through a very intriguing video posted on the MSNBC website, where Rachel Maddow, host of the eponymous show, presents one of the Republican candidate – Herman Cain – essentially as a fake candidate. Initially dismissed by mainstream media, Cain unexpectedly surged in Republican primary polls in October 2011, and became one of the leading candidates for the nomination. Last august, during a Fox presidential debate he quoted a poet in his last statement (which are known to be prepared in advance). Watch the video below, the interesting quote starts at 00.14s.

Now, watch this one!

The poet in question quoted by Herman Cain was actually Donna Summers who’s singing “The power of One“, an exclusive song part of the soundtrack of the Pokemon Movie. At that time no one really noticed the trick, including Maddow and other high level journalists, nonetheless, Cain indicated on his blog that he heard the song during the 2010 Olympic games ceremony (which is not possible, the song has never been played anywhere else but in the Pokemon movie). It turned out there was more to come.

Last October, I remember that my eyes was caught by this headline on the Huffington Post: “Herman Cain 999 plan: Did it come from Simcity?“.
I’ve spent my childhood playing Simcity, then Simcity 2000 & 3000, and I’m still a Simcity4 player. The HuffPo post was fun to read, and the analogy was certainly well done, but I couldn’t believe that Cain was actually proposing a serious economic plan based on a non so serious city-building game.In her segment, Maddow goes on and put the light on another troubling fact. In the chapter 9 of his book “This is Herman Cain!”, the Republican candidate explains how the number “45” is special to him. Indeed, according to his Wikipedia page the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza was born in 1945.

The list of what could be called c”gaffes” goes on and on, but recently, in a Koch brother event in Washington D.C, Herman Cain declared this: I’m the Koch Brothers’ brother from another mother! (watch the video, it starts at 01.03).

It seems we’ve actually seen that before… in Rush Hour 3!

I think you get the point and I suggest you to watch the full explanation from Rachel Maddow here.

There’s no doubt in my mind that, if this is all true and that Cain is actually some sort of fake candidate, there’s a genius behind this campaign! Sure, the potential effect of such campaign could be devastating for the political class, especially in these time when only 30% of American people votes and when 75% of the population don’t trust politicians. It would be a shame for such candidacy to be part of a race which could lead to the vice-presidency of the United States (especially since Rick Perry, who shot himself in the foot in the last Presidential debate, left a huge space for Cain to be the only “statistically credible” candidate for a vice presidency among the remaining candidate).

In the other hand, if we look at it from a storyteller point of view, it takes a lot of technical skills to stay under the radar that long without anyone noticing. It’s even more remarkable when Cain makes references to pop culture phenomenon such as Pokemon or Rush Hour 3, making it easier for hard core fans to detect the trickery. The last developments regarding the alleged sexual harassment are even more troubling, if we consider for example, the date of the settlement between Cain and one of the plaintiff (September 1999 or… 9-99).

This whole campaign seems too be constructed as a transmedia project where the main narrative is riddled by rabbit holes, leading to the actual story: the journey of Herman Cain as an art performance. The use of different channels to leak what could be evidences of the  fictitious nature of the Cain campaign and the real performances of Cain himself (acting like doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he refers to rush hours 3) reveal a strategy which is really close to a transmedia strategy.

We’ll see what happens to Cain and if he’s able to get out of this political scandal without loosing his chances to get nominated for 2012 (which is doubtful), but so much converging evidence about the unlikely truthfulness of his candidacy will probably make of Herman Cain an interesting study case for the years to come. What’s your thoughts?


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