A funny thing happened when Newt Gingrich visited Second Life. According to at least one newspaper, the first thing he saw was “a lovely young digital lady” — who was completely naked!
But the truth turned out to be much more complicated…
As Gingrich spoke, he endured some “cyber-heckling,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “A small group of protesters gathered in the neighboring sims,” reports the Second Life News Network, “and shouts could be heard during the press conference.” In an online video, CNN notes that Gingrich’s Second Life audience included “sundry protesters — and people generally flying around.” And in the front row of Gingrich’s audience sat a giant cat wearing a Barack Obama t-shirt.
“I had heard that it went smoothly — well, by SL standards,” said one Second Life user.
Newt’s virtual security team says the nude woman reported was actually wearing a sexy French Riviera-style bikini, and even CNN’s reporter acknowledged that by the time Newt showed up “she put on a little bit more clothing.” Another user named Musa Ni suggested that reports of nudity may get overplayed for another reason. “Materializing nude just moments before your clothes are rendered on the screen in Second Life is just as likely to be a software glitch as a deliberate act.”
There were positive moments too. Even CNN’s reporter acknowledged that the virtual Gingrinch avatar looked “somewhat more dashing the original.” Gingrich gamely fielded a question about virtual fundraising and its role in campaign finance reform, according to the Second Life News Network. (“Nobody yet understands the extraordinary collapse in cost of being able to communicate, interact and know each other in an Internet-based system.”)
They also report that Gingrich arrived in Second Life with some news. IBM will create a “Legislative Life” area in Second Life for America’s state legislators, giving them a place to network. “This would dramatically expand the rate of innovation,” Gingrich argued, “and the rate of new ideas.” He promised his “American Solutions” advocacy group would be exploring the benefits of virtual interactions.
Protesters complained they were limited to just five avatars, according to reports about a Second Life activist named Ruby Glitter, who was “very frustrated” about the new restrictions announced moments before Gingrich’s arrival. Of course, Gingrich’s apperance also drew sympathetic proponents of down-sizing the government. (“No to fascism, no to federal control,” read one sign…)
Gingrich told the audience that technology like Second Life could return “a real dialogue” to America, “where we talk with each other, and we have a chance to pull together good ideas…in my judgment, that’s the key to the future.”
And then his audience went home. Including the giant cat.