Ben Carson in Detroit as he officially announces his bid for the Republican nomination. (Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty).
Late Sunday evening, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson went on a local Ohio television station to let the world know that he’s seeking the Republican nomination for president. Whether the world was listening is a whole different story.
That’s because Carson is mostly known for his prominent career in medicine. Though he’s spent the last several years as an author and writer, the Detroit native has never before run for public office. And even if Carson is well-known in conservative circles, his low name recognition nationwide will require him to fight for attention, both within the Republican Party and among the general public.
There may be no aspect of Carson’s campaign that screams political newbie more than his website, a digital campaign center that looks more like a hopeful job applicant’s résumé than a future leader’s vision for America. Below, in the latest edition of RevURL, we evaluate his online presence.
Look and feel
Carson’s homepage resembles a punchy magazine spread. To the right of his logo, against a dark backdrop, Carson appears seated on a wooden chair. His usual glasses are off and he’s dressed in a very nice suit, leaning forward with his hands clasped together, his very nice watch peeking out from underneath his sleeve. Give him a glass of scotch and surround him with grabby headlines about how to cook a steak, and he could be Esquire’s May cover dude.
In this case, however, his image floats against a sparse backdrop. Carson’s right side is flanked by that red “Donate” button that we’ve come to know so well, along with a few links to his social media pages. To the left, beneath his logo, is an all-caps tagline that reads “Heal Inspire Revive.” The text is so disproportionately thin and small that it’s lost in the surrounding blank dark space. Though that may have been a design strategy to make the top of the page look sophisticated and modern, it comes off like he doesn’t have anything of substance to share.
Scroll down, and it turns out he really doesn’t! Earlier this morning, under a section dubbed “Meet Ben Carson,” we saw a few paragraphs of Calibri text, spaced out like an 11th-grader’s last-minute history report. Even more painful to observe was the four-minute video of Carson awkwardly standing against a white backdrop (which is still on YouTube), taking an eternity to explain that “with the launch of this website, I formally establish what is called a presidential exploratory committee to examine whether I should become a candidate for president of the United States. In so doing, I very much need and look forward to your feedback and help.” Leave it to a longtime academic to overcomplicate a statement as simple as “I’m running for president, and I need your help.”
I should also note here that Ben Carson failed to reserve the .org website address for his name — as did Carly Fiorina for her own. But unlike Fiorina, he’s not well-known enough to have anyone care to use the URL to launch an attack site: www.bencarson.org is just a placeholder page containing spammy candy-related links. It may as well be sad face emoticons.
Ben Carson’s logo is, in my humble opinion, fugly. He opted for shapeless, thick block letters in tan and blue that spell the phrase “Carson America,” which doesn’t actually make much sense. Does he mean Carson’s America? Or Carson for America? Unclear! Anyway, the “A” in “America” is wrapped in a U.S. flag. Presumably his designers added this flourish for pizzazz, or something. But it almost looks as if the “A” is being smothered by one of our nation’s great symbols.
Prior to Carson’s morning announcement, his website read like a long résumé. You were told that he has had a very successful life and won many important awards. Heck, Cuba Gooding Jr. even played him in a made-for-television movie based on his book, Gifted Hands.
But when it comes to policy, it’s clear that Carson has more to say about his honorary doctorate degrees than he has ideas for how to help America. Even in the most recent update to his website, he replaced his biographical information with one simple quote that reads “Through hard work, perseverance and a faith in God, you can live your dreams.” Policy proposals are TK, apparently.
Carson’s social media presence is tonally much more personal than those of his fellow Republican candidates. Among Instagram photos of him giving speeches and meeting constituents, there are also images of him posing next to stuffed alligators or walking up to a New York hotel with a suitcase for no apparent reason. His Facebook account is similarly intimate, his most recent post apologizing today for a canceled event so that Carson can visit his ailing mother.
It’s refreshing to see someone who hasn’t hired an army of social media minions to advertise bumper stickers and sweatshirts all day long. But it might also indicate that Carson is far from ready to compete against the teams of frantic social media managers that surround someone like Rand Paul.
One awkwardly wrapped American flag “A” out of five. It’s rare that I feel this bored on the Internet.