“It isn’t often that you hear someone rave about a great congressional hearing they’ve seen online. Heck, outside of big national events, I’m going to bet you have never willingly watched C-Span.
But less than one year since she entered Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has represented New York’s 14th congressional district since January, has changed that.
AOC has shown a remarkable ability to extract energizing viral moments from stale bureaucratic meetings. She turns complex political concepts into snappy soundbites and boring old politics into much-talked-about spectacle.
This is exactly what happened on Wednesday during her questioning of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg about his early awareness of the disgraced political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which harvested millions of Facebook users’ personal information to influence the 2016 US election. The confrontation is uncomfortable to watch, with Ocasio-Cortez grilling Zuckerberg on key details about his knowledge back then – he denies having any – and then ending on the zinger:
“You don’t know? This was the largest data scandal with respect to your company, that had catastrophic impacts on the 2016 election. You don’t know?”
She is met with a squirming Zuckerberg and therein, a viral moment is made.
This wasn’t her first time capturing people’s attention with her line of questioning. In fact, it wasn’t even her first time that day…”
Just hours before she made Zuckerberg eat his own words, AOC attended a hearing with the oil giant ExxonMobil.
In the video, she shows Martin Hoffert, a consultant for the company, a graph he worked on from 1982 and asks him to describe it. Thus she gets him to explain how the company knew about climate change before she was even born – predicting its levels accurately until the present day.
The stinger comes at the end, when Hoffert testifies: “We were excellent scientists,” and she adds: “Yes. You were: so they knew.”
2. White terrorism
During this hearing, Ocasio-Cortez exposes an American double standard: that white supremacist acts of violence are treated as hate crimes, while similar violence committed by Muslims is treated as terrorism.
3. Corporate Pac money
Ocasio-Cortez achieves the seemingly impossible: turning a discussion about the intricacies of campaign finance into a clear and immensely watchable three-minute video. The clip, which was uploaded by the leftwing channel NowThis news, has been viewed more than 37m times, making it the most watched political video ever posted to Twitter.
She starts out with the proposition “let’s play a game” – and off she goes.
In this game, she is the self-interested bad guy, trying to make as much money as possible. She checks in every now and then with the panel of government watchdogs, to see how much she can get away with. The answer? Pretty much everything – playing into her point that of course the system is broken.
4. Green New Deal
After Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal failed to pass the Senate, she gave the GOP a supreme telling off by tearing down the presumption that only elites care about the environment. In the clip, she asks:
“You want to tell people that their desire for clean air and water is elitist? … I don’t think so.”
If she has already proven that she can act as a great game-show host and detective – here is proof that she excels in giving a lecture, too:
Her cunning ability to use the FBI’s own rhetoric against it is what makes it so watchable. She gets the bureau’s assistant director for counter-terrorism to describe terrorism in his own terms, and then repeatedly uses his own definitions as a stick to beat him with.