Dvorak: Both Parties Are Equally Clueless About Technology

Last week, the otherwise sane Washington Post rolled out a "wishful-thinking" article, claiming that Democrats are surging ahead of Republicans when it comes to Internet savvy. And, this will, supposedly, save the party — somehow.

I'd like to ask these folks: "In what dimension of the space-time continuum are we speaking?"

The fact is that few members of either party at the national level have the time or the inclination to catch up to Web 1.0, let alone Web 2.0.

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The general public can barely keep up. The only people who do seriously keep up are the kids and young adults ages 10 to 25. Of them, only a few are of legal voting age, and most skip the process as a futile waste of time.

Does anyone think that Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy could do a better job than Republican Sen. Ted Stevens ("It's not a truck. It's a series of tubes") of explaining the Internet?

Here's something I'd love to see: Each member of Congress should be asked to tell us how the Internet works and what it does. Then they would tell us how they use it. This would be some of the funniest material ever!

You might go one step further and ask about Linux and the importance or relevance of the open-source movement. I'd love to see the stuttering.

If even 10 percent of our Congress knows how to use a computer with any expertise, I'd be surprised. Seriously, I would be.

The funny thing is that it wouldn't be a bad idea to ask about some of this.

These are important issues, aren't they? Does anyone ever bring up a question about open-source at a presidential debate? No, because the newsmen who get to ask the questions are as clueless about this sort of current event as are the candidates.

So as a further comedic challenge, I'd love to see Jim Lehrer or Brian Williams or Katie Couric explain the Internet or tell us about open source. Ted Stevens could probably do no worse.

But don't get me started on media-bashing. Back to the parties.


That House Minority Leader John Boehner uses Twitter — the idiotic "here's what I am doing now" sub-blog software — is proof that someone in the Republican Party knows something about trendy software.

I have a hard time believing it is Boehner who actually does the postings and not some nutball staffer who talked him into it.

All of this did get me to thinking about when we will actually have a president and Congress (and Supreme Court, for that matter) who are all computer-literate and genuinely Internet-savvy. I can assure you that they are not now, and it shows.

By my calculations, the first generation of kids who were totally immersed in the computer age was born somewhere between 1984 and 1995.

This is debatable, I know, but 1995 would be a reasonable, albeit conservative, bet.

Let's use that and then assume that people get into national politics when they are around 40.

That means it will probably be 2035 before we can be sure that everyone in Congress and the courts, as well as the president, will be savvy about computers, the Net, and whatever else comes around.

We have to wait until 2035? Geez, what's plan B?

There is no plan B. And there's no way to get people to catch up with what's new and cool.

You'd have to be a full-time geek, and even then there probably aren't enough hours in the day. I can barely keep up, and I've got nothing else to do except try to keep up.

That's what nobody seems to understand. Nobody can keep up.

The best you can do is try to be in the scene and absorb what you can. Nobody in Congress, I can assure you, is in the scene.

Even that might not be enough. How many readers of this column, I wonder, have ever heard of, for example, Twitter? Twitter is perhaps the hottest thing going on right now, and it probably deserves a column of disdain.

The problem is that I wrote columns of disdain regarding blogging when I should have been blogging, and I wrote columns of disdain about podcasting when I should have been podcasting.

Now I do both, and I see that I would have been better off jumping on the bandwagon earlier.

In fact, it is sometimes hard to tell why something is important or popular at first glance, since so few people can actually explain the phenomenon. Take MySpace for example. How did that become what it is?

So, with this confustication factor alone, it is hard to imagine that the Democrats are magically pulling ahead of the Republicans in Internet awareness and skills. It's just not possible for any one group to do this under any circumstances.

Nice try.

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