This morning, the White House announced that it had joined Snapchat. In other words, there’s some twenty-something with an invented job at the White House who’s doing his best to stand out. And, lo: the White House’s first two Snaps bring nothing to the table. Not funny. Not intelligent. Not thought provoking.
All the more reason to overanalyze them.
The first snap begins with a close-up of a bowl of what look to be apples sitting on a table. As the shot zooms out, it is revealed to the viewer that this bowl of apples is sitting on a table in the Oval Office. It also becomes clear that the anonymous individual behind the camera is either nervous or had far too much coffee: They’re noticeably shaking.
The second snap in the story could’ve been a multiple-take ordeal. It seems a bit too rehearsed, put-together. But, then again, that could just be the particular shape of the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s gelled hair, a speaker who is all too familiar with, well, seeming rehearsed. Earnest ends his earnest speech. There’s an uncomfortable moment as three people filter past the camera into the press room: the anonymous filmer, heroic in his or her anonymity, doesn’t quite know what to do with his- or herself. He or she seems to think about filtering in behind his or her friends, but decides instead to remain in the safety of the backstage area.
There’s a sweeping motion as the camera pans left to focus on the television’s live broadcast of the press room, and an innocent is caught in the crossfire — we see a man sitting at a desk, looking at-best displeased to be on camera. The Snapchat mercifully ends, as does the first-ever White House Snapchat Story.
In the ensuing press conference, an audience member asked Earnest about the Snapchat announcement. His response demonstrates why social media and governance do not mix: “We have unveiled,” he says, stuttering, somewhat, “the White House” — another stutter, pause; he’s clearly considering how to say this in an intelligent way, not realizing that that it’s impossible — “Snapchat” — and a final pause, as he realizes he’s in deep water — “function.”
He goes on to say that the White House’s Snapchats will be archived, which, again, misses the entire point of the app. He also alludes to some agreement with Snapchat, which will, no doubt, lead to some tin-foil mad hatters:
Two further considerations: First, neither caption is impressive; second, the White House doesn’t have a geotag. The caption for the first Snap says: “👋Snapchat!” (With emojis, you can choose a skin color if you so desire. Whoever the mysterious filmer is saw it fit to choose a skin color.) Okay, though, we get it — the White House is trying to be relatable, trying its best to humanize itself, and perhaps the best way to do that is by employing emojis.
Which brings us to the next Snap’s caption: “We’ll do it live 🎤.” This is redundant, as the speaker in this video explicitly says “We’ll do it live.” We’re just happy they are passing along — maybe to a new generation — a reference to this amazing, infinitely rewatchable clip of Bill O’Reilly freaking out many years ago. “We’ll do it live!”
As to who’s behind the account, a few clues point to — as mentioned — a twenty-something with an invented job at the White House who’s doing his best to stand out. Joshua Miller, namely. He authored the post on whitehouse.gov, and, on his personal website, writes the following:
“Today [Sep. 1, 2015], I start in a new role at the White House serving as their first Director of Product. I’m as giddy, wide-eyed, and determined as ever. The White House has many digital products – from WhiteHouse.gov to the We the People Petition site. It’s a dream to be able to add to and improve this portfolio.
“… Wouldn’t it be great if your government had a conversation with you instead of just talking at you? … Imagine if talking to the government was as easy as talking to your friends on social networks? White House officials have started to regularly host Q&As on Twitter. These initiatives represent amazing progress, and there’s so much more good work to be done. [Like Snapchat!] I’m excited to apply what I’ve learned in the technology industry to the ideals of our democracy. As a mentor of mine likes to say, ‘It’s gonna be great!’”