For better or worse, YouTube is the new soapbox

A.M. Costa Rica montage Clockwise from upper left: Girls featured in a Yako video, Bruce Werner, Teletubbies coming from the General Cañas crater, President Chinchilla and Pope Benedict and Dora the Explorer.

Never before have individuals enjoyed free speech as they do today.

The phenomenon of YouTube makes everyone a video star if they can muster up a bit of technical expertise. This is the 21st century version of a Hyde Park soapbox where persons express their views without censorship.

The popularity of the 7-year-old video service is not without pitfalls for Costa Rica. From Yatsel Domínguez, known as Yako, singing about cheap marijuana and hookers to expats telling their stories of squatters, viewers get highly personalized versions of life here.

Lately, the arrest of environmentalist Paul Watson in Germany on a Costa Rican warrant generated dozens of YouTube videos. Most favored the anti-whaling captain, but several were critical. As a whole, Costa Rica does not come off very well as a land where justice prevails. YouTuba also holds a version of “Sharkwater,” the movie in which Watson participated.

Bruce Werner, a resident of Hatillo on the central Pacific coast, may be among the first to describe his real estate problems on YouTube. He did so first March 7, 2011, in a sequencetitled “Costa Rica corruption.” There was no intent to make a balanced report, and Werner gave a chilling description of his problems in trying to hold on to a choice piece of property.

Werner began with a Web page and then turned to video. He and his wife were the subject of news stories in A.M. Costa Rica after banditsinvaded their home and threatened them with death in 2009.

Sheldon Haseltine probably has had the most negative impact on Costa Rican real estate. He is the expat who has been fighting in court for 16 years to hang on to valuable central Pacific land against what he characterizes as a conspiracy at the highest levels of Costa Rican society. Hisseven-minute video has been played around the world.

For every negative video there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of highly positive video sequences promoting life in Costa Rica.

The staff of Laura Chinchilla appears to have recognized the value of YouTube because there are dozens of sequences of  the president, including one with her and Pope Benedict during her visit to Rome.

The video was made by most likely with permission.

YiouTube has made deals with a number of producers to put full movies in the data base. There also are thousands of short movie and television segments that YouTube viewers posted for various reasons.

Pilar Cisnero, the editorial voice of Teletica is there, including her famous “Bla Bla Bla” editorial where she said there was nothing concrete in the much-touted Laura Chinchilla security proposals. In one video a news presenter reads a Casa Presidencial rebuttal to another editorial by Ms. Cisneros.

Channel 7 Teletica is well represented on YouTube, including a sequence that gives a look at thehumorous aspects of the 2010 presidential campaign.

The collapse of the westbound lanes of the General Cañas highway prompted a series of videos. Onereceived just 585 views.  Despite the currency of the hole in the highway, a video of the cartoon character Dora exploring the strip clubs of San José received nearly nine times the number of views.

And that points out the weakness of YouTube.
Videos will draw few viewers unless they are accompanied by some kind of promotion, perhaps emails.

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