“technology shouldn’t be such a laughing matter”

From the Washington Post:

In fact, technology shouldn’t be such a laughing matter. As a nation, we wouldn’t tolerate such ignorance about any other area of policymaking. Would we be amused if it came out that Joe Biden, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wasn’t clear about the difference between Shiites and Sunnis or couldn’t find Sudan on a map? How about if Chris Dodd, the chairman of the Senate banking committee, wasn’t entirely sure what the term “subprime mortgage” meant? You can be sure that if Susan Collins, the ranking Republican on the Senate homeland security committee, fumbled over what a “dirty bomb” is, pundits and pols on both sides of the aisle would have her head. So why is it so funny that the octogenarian Stevens, the top Republican senator on the committee that regulates the Web, doesn’t know the difference between the Internet and an e-mail? (Some of this stuff is technical, but really now.)

We may not expect that all of our politicians understand technology, but we should at least expect them to be embarassed by not understanding. (HT: TLF.)

9 thoughts on ““technology shouldn’t be such a laughing matter””

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  2. Maybe I’m just more willing to believe the best of McCain, but I think that column blew what McCain said way out of proportion. We have no evidence that McCain’s knowledge of IT is anywhere near as low as Stevens’s knowledge. I don’t see it as anything other than acknowledging that he doesn’t know everything and that he’d do what he could to have a well-rounded ticket, which is a fairly natural thing for a presidential candidate to say.

  3. I agree that the picking on McCain was a little unfair (and at least he claims to want a tech-savvy VP, which is more than you can say about most), but that doesn’t damage the overall point.

  4. Sure. Sadly, I think it may be a little too much to expect any candidate to express embarrassment over any lack of knowledge during the election cycle.

  5. There is that. Still, though… if a candidate went out there and said ‘I don’t understand health care’ they’d be pilloried. Which is sort of sad, actually; health care is hugely complicated, and we wouldn’t expect our kids to know how to do it. We do expect our kids to know basic things about the internet, and yet candidates can get away with saying ‘I don’t do email’ without getting hammered. Frustrating. Anyway…

  6. To tell the truth, I’d prefer a politician who is honest about their limitations rather than one who tries to bluff. The latter will likely make bad decisions while the former will hopefully get some advice on the issue.

    Of course, this isn’t to say that incompetence is okay (we want the best person for the job) — just an admission that no one is an expert on everything.

    You can pretty much always find a topic that will trip up a politician, as can be seen in the Pursuit Trivia segments on the Chaser (http://youtube.com/results?search_query=pursuit+trivia)

  7. Well, considering the fact that the NY Times did an informal survey of Bush administration officials on the difference between Sunni and Shiite (more on the lines of who’s what, like “is Hizballah Sunni or Shiite? Is Al-Qaeda?”) and most officials failed miserably, why should we be surprised that somebody doesn’t know the difference between Internet and email?

  8. I don’t think anyone is surprised, JustAGuy; but everyone agreed that those officials should be embarassed by their lack of knowledge of the middle east, and most people don’t seem to think anyone should be embarassed by the lack of knowledge about software.

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