Obama iPhone App Bad For Democracy, Says Obama
In a commencement address to Hampton University on Sunday, President Obama said the following:
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.
Putting aside the ridiculous notion that the President doesn’t know how to operate an iPod (even Dubya knew how to use an iPod), this is a cheap and misguided attack against new forms of delivering and receiving information.The devices the President targets are simply messengers for whatever information the user seeks. It is not as if political information is difficult to come by through an iPhone. The New York Times is still available, as are any of the other major news outlets. If anything, it is quicker and more efficient to pull up the latest news through such a device than it would be to find and read through the morning paper. An iPhone simply allows someone to check the news and then move on to their other interests. Their interests may not be what the President would like them to be, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a distraction.
Look, the President’s frustration with getting his message across is understandable, but technology is not the problem. Sure, technology has provided a freedom of choice that would have been unfathomable just a few years ago, but is this really a bad thing? The problem is not with the amount of information available or with the technological device it is delivered through, but rather with the actual information delivered. Look no further than the 24/7 news channels. No format provides a better opportunity for an issue to be discussed in depth over an extended period of time, after all they have 24 hours. The problem is that these networks instead choose to hammer home the same three to four basic points incessantly over the course of a day or longer. One could write a dissertation on the ability of these networks to discuss the health care debate over the course of a year without ever really discussing the actual legislation. In order to find the truth behind the chatter, it became necessary to seek out alternative sources of information-even if this meant reading a blog (*gasp*). Would the President rather we paid attention only to the 24/7 channels who did little more than give us odds on which side would “win?”
There is also a certain level of hypocrisy in the President’s attack. We’re talking about a man who has used technology to his advantage in ways no other political candidate could have dreamed of. A large portion of his base likely receives their information predominantly through the very sources he rails against. If the President is serious about the damage inflicted on democracy by the iPad, then why is his very own “The White House” application still available through the Apple App Store? Does he regret his use of the “Organizing for America” app which raised untold amounts for his 2008 campaign? Somehow, I doubt it. I also do not doubt that there will be some backtracking from the President’s statement in the next couple of days.
Update: Video of Obama using an iPhone
Written 5-9-10 to post 5-10-10