Presidents and Computer Literacy
Jane Hamsher wants to know, “If You Can’t Use a Computer, How Can You Be President?”
I chuckled when I saw the story at memeorandum since, after all, it’s unlikely that any president before Bill Clinton could “use” a computer in any meaningful sense. (Maybe Jimmy Carter, who was a nuclear engineer in a past life, could, too, but proficiency with punch cards probably didn’t come into play very often during his stint in the White House.)
Clicking the link, I see that Jane is echoing an idea put fort by Tracy Russo, who served as John Edwards’ chief blogger. Mark Soohoo, John McCain’s deputy e-campaign manager, who recently said, “You don’t necessarily have to use a computer to understand, you know, how it shapes the country. … John McCain is aware of the Internet.”
Jane summarizes Russo’s retort: “Tracy said most emphatically that you do, and that someone who is going to be expected to lead the country through the social, political, economic and communication upheavals that are happening as a result of the changes in computer and online technology very much needs to be able to use one.”
This strikes me as nonsensical. I’d venture that 99.9 percent of daily computer users have no clue whatsoever about said upheavals and that some tiny fraction of those who do has any idea what public policy responses, if any, would be appropriate.
It’s a rare day that I don’t spend twelve hours in front of a computer. Furthermore, studying politics is my livelihood and I’ve been at it for more than a quarter century now. While I’m by no means a power user, I’m on Fark, Digg, Reddit, Facebook, LinkedIn and various other social media outlets more than most. And I’m something of an amateur sociologist, interested very much in cultural changes. Yet, I wouldn’t pretend to any especial expertise in analyzing these “upheavals” of which Russo speaks.
Going out on a limb, I’d also guess that Russo’s in the same boat. She’s a communications professional, field organizer, and fundraiser. I’m guessing that she’s not on the short list for the National Security Council.
Photo: Assistive Technologies