Another Time Mag. McCain Computer Smear


By: Warner Todd Huston

I thought this whole McCain as Computer illiterate meme had finally faded, but Time Magazine comes to the rescue of this pointless attack once again. The last time we saw this attack it was by the chief geek over at PCmag.com, Lance Ulanoff. This time it is Lev Grossman from Time Magazine in one titled “The Off-Line American.” Painting McCain as “behind the times” and “way behind” Grossman also takes the occasion to link McCain with “recently indicted Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.” Lots of slams yet much ado about nothing. But, anything to try to make McCain look bad, of course.

First of all, it is a bit humorous that Time and Grossman’s goal is to make it look like McCain is Internet illiterate, yet with the very first use of the word, in the first sentence of the very first paragraph of the story, Internet is misspelled by splitting it into two words.

It’s hard to tell exactly how much or how little John McCain knows about the Inter net.

Time publishes an article about the Internet, calling it the “Inter net,” and they have the gall to make fun of McCain, or President Bush for saying “The Google”? Now THAT is irony.

Next, Grossman tries to link McCain to one disgraced Senator and a president he assumes is disgraced even though it really has little to do with the story.

On the grand scale of wired politicians, he’s probably somewhere between recently indicted Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, who famously described the Internet as a “series of tubes,” and our current President, who once proudly explained to CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo how he uses “the Google.” (As for Obama, he’s well known to be a BlackBerry addict.) What exactly does it mean that the next President of the U.S. might be a newbie?

That was merely a way for Grossman to try and tarnish McCain as much as he can it should be realized. It certainly does nothing to further the story.

Anyway, McCain has confessed that he doesn’t e-mail and that he relies on his wife for computer help and in this piece we get the same old nonsense we have gotten elsewhere several times from those scoffing at McCain’s computer illiteracy — the main criticism being that he will not be able to understand the upcoming Net issues that the country will have to deal with, most likely soon.

What’s more worrying is the idea that McCain is disconnected from the social, cultural and economic realities of the Internet. We are way past the point where we can treat the Internet as if it were some kind of nerd Narnia only tangentially connected to the real world. In the next few years, the President is going to have to make decisions about Internet surveillance, Net neutrality, cyber warfare (which, after years as an urban myth, has become quite real) and online privacy, just to name a few issues.

While even Grossman here understands that on a practical level McCain’s computer illiteracy is a “nonissue,” he also assumes far too much of computer literacy and the presidency.

First of all, the president will not be much involved in these computer issues because it is really an issue for Congress. Grossman seems unaware that a president doesn’t write legislation. But, even on this practical level, there is no reason that a president cannot rely on his advisors to guide him in unfamiliar territory. After all, it has been reported that Barack Obama literally has 300 foreign policy advisors showing that Obama has absolutely NO foreign policy knowledge, yet I don’t see the Old Media beating him up for that.

In fact, Obama’s lack of foreign policy knowledge would seem just a tad more dangerous to the country than the fact that McCain doesn’t e-mail, wouldn’t you say? Yet not a word has been spoken against the ranks of the 300 foreign policy advisors Obama is forced to employ while we’ve gotten a half dozen of these articles attacking McCain because he doesn’t e-mail.

Talk about focusing on a “nonissue” while ignoring a real leadership deficit on the other side!

Finally, I have to reiterate an important point that every single one of these McCain/computer articles has ignored. And that is the fact that no president will be using email anyway. At least not until the over litigiousness and enmity between the presidency and Congress comes to an end. Here was my point from July in reply to the Ulanoff pice:

But, let’s face reality about computers and the president, any president. Thanks to the over use of the attack dogs called “special prosecutors,” and the overweening interference of the Executive Branch by Congress, no president is even going to bother using e-mail and computers very much.

Last May, Bush even claimed that he looks forward to using e-mail to contact friends and family again after he leaves office. In a report on the president’s remarks, a New York Times blog reported that “Mr. Bush stopped e-mailing when he entered the White House, citing security worries, and the Oval Office does not have a computer in it.”

We will see this reticence to use email continued by most future presidents faced with the buttinskis in Congress. So, in the end, it really doesn’t matter a hill of beans if McCain likes e-mail or not because as president he won’t be using it anyway.

It seems that this Grossman piece was little else than a McCain attack piece disguised as an article.

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