Analogue John

June 24, 2008

Asked if he used a MAC or a PC, John McCain confessed to being a computer illiterate who depends on his wife for anything digital. Should we care?

I only recently became aware that John McCain doesn’t know how to use a computer. I suppose it’s not that shocking, a lot of people his age aren’t necessarily adept with newish technologies and a U.S. Senator is in a position to have his computing done for him. Still, I could see having some concerns about the leadership of someone who doesn’t use the dominant new technology of our time. Eve Fairbanks reports that Mark SooHoo, deputy e-campaign manager for McCain, had this to say on the matter at the Personal Democracy Forum:

    • 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.

I dunno. Do you have to use a computer to understand how it shapes the country? I think you might. If we had a president who didn’t know how to drive a car, that would probably strike us as pretty odd. But I think you could plausibly claim that you don’t necessarily have to have a driver’s license in order to understand how automobiles shape the country. But that’s because we assume that even someone who doesn’t have a license has still been in cars sees highways, onramps and offramps, parking lots, quiet winding roads, overpasses, bridges, etc.

Sure, I know, this is another way of reminding voters that McCain is a very old dude, but it’s a troubling point that a potential president doesn’t use the dominant technology of the day. (I almost wrote “doesn’t understand,” as if many people really do.) This is a little more serious than George Bush not knowing that grocery stores had price scanners. It would be like Abraham Lincoln refusing to ride a train or FDR disdaining that silly new thing called the radio. I’m amazed by people in their 50s and even 40s who have purposely let the digital revolution pass them by, especially considering people like my friend Betty Stein, who is in her 80s and took to her first computer like a kid in a toy store. I don’t expect McCain to stay up all night laboring over his Facebook or MySpace page, but can’t somebody for God’s sake walk him through the e-mail procedures?


2 Responses to “Analogue John”

  1. I don’t know. After all we didn’t elect Al Gore and he *invented* the Internet.

  2. Doug Says:

    That not electing Al Gore thing (via the electoral college, anyway) hasn’t worked out for us. The thing is, my Mom uses the Internet. She’s only 5 years younger than McCain. While my mom isn’t the latest of adopters, she’s certainly not an “early adopter” when it comes to technology. I’d say she’s pretty typical.

    McCain’s decision to remain aloof or ignorant or whatever you want to call it from computers isn’t primarily about age, I wouldn’t say.

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