Howard Dean's scream: TV screwed him

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

It's eight years too late for the one-time Democratic presidential front-runner, but that manic scream Howard Dean screeched after losing January 2004 Iowa caucuses didn't happen the way TV showed it. In fact, it was drowned out by cheering Dean fans, according to an exhaustive new study of the much-mocked yell of "Yeaaah."

The journal Media, Culture & Society has determined that the sophisticated microphone Dean had in his fist was built to filter out surrounding noise for news crews filming the event, and by doing so unfairly broadcast his scream minus the building crowd chants the former Vermont governor felt compelled to yell over just to be heard.

Without the context of that crowd noise, said the journal, all TV news captured was Dean's rant.

"Through the medium of television, Dean's speech exhibited a man seemingly out of control," said the journal. "His voice and energy level rising higher and higher, he seemed to shift from intense to borderline manic, finally reaching the peak of a crescendo in what sounded like an inappropriately enthusiastic scream." And, the journal added, the result was media ridicule that killed his presidential chances.

A separate video of the event, said the journal, showed that Dean could barely be heard when he yelled "Yeah" after listing the states he would take his campaign to next. That video camera relied on a built-in microphone, not the direct feed from Dean's mic. Several other crowd videos are available online.

The video, shot by Dean supporter Joe Jensen, was radically different. "Dean's voice could be heard in the context of the surrounding sounds of a throng of supporters whose voices rose like a swelling tide. As his voice lifted in intensity, the audience in attendance matched his enthusiasm. Finally, when he reached the point of his infamous yell, the crowd was so loud it was barely audible through the supporter's camera microphone. The crowd had drowned out the man on stage," said the journal.