If democracy ever fails, it seems that you can blame your iPad. At least that seems to be what President Obama is saying.
On Sunday, May 9th, President Obama gave a commencement speech at Hampton University that caused a bit of a stir in technology circles. To listen to what has to say, the iPad is one of the greatest evils to ever come along in this country.
“And meanwhile, you’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter. And with iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.”
The irony here is rather thick considering this is coming from a man who famously fought with the Secret Service and White House officials over the right to continue to use his BlackBerry once he entered office. There were numerous issues over security and the requirement that all presidential communications must be recorded, but he absolutely refused to give up his beloved BlackBerry.
So, the President admits he doesn’t know how to work the very devices he is condemning, but he is positive they are putting pressure “on our country and on our democracy.” Well, that’s all well and good, but how do you know this if you’ve never worked them? I understand what he is saying at the heart of his argument, but it is so very easy to condemn that which we do not understand.
Take Twitter for instance, a social media service that works on almost all of the afore mentioned devices. Would you like to go and tell the citizens of Iran who famously protested last summer, and got word of their plight out to the rest of the world via Twitter, that these sorts of things are putting pressure on democracy? I dare say they would tell you it did the exact opposite.
Yes, that is just one example, but you get the point.
The problem is, as I pointed out above, that this comes from a man so addicted to his BlackBerry that he couldn’t give it up when multiple sources were telling him he had to. This is a President who raised a record amount of money via grassroots online campaigns. His campaign launched a YouTube channel which he continues to embrace as a way to distribute speeches. Did we mention he has a Twitter stream? Did you know his office still sends out occasional text messages to those who signed up during the campaign?
You can’t embrace technology and condemn it at the same time. Those things that you mentioned as being a problem (honestly, how is an iPod a problem when its main purpose is to play music?) are also methods by which you are getting your own message out.
For as long as there have been politicians, they have been quick to damn what ever the newest trends are. It is always a quick crowd pleaser to say, “And [insert latest trend/fad] is a danger to this country’s [morals and/or children].” It makes people think that the politician is ‘hip’ and aware of what is currently going on in their lives.
Course, it helps if you aren’t using similar items to those things you are damning.