I have a theory, which is mine, that there is a huge divide in America between people who “get” the internet and people who don’t. We saw an example several years ago when George Allen turned to a young man who was filming him and entertained the campaign crowd by laughingly calling the young man “Macaca.” Why did that young man stand there and keep filming? Because he understood YouTube and Allen didn’t.
Today’s blockbuster is a Mother Jones release of Mitt Romney talking to a group of “his peeps” at a “private” fundraiser. He says things that he’d never say in public. Romney, like Allen, doesn’t “get” the internet. He doesn’t understand that someone in the audience with a cell phone can record everything he says and release it to Mother Jones, who will release it to the internet, from whence it will show up in millions and millions of Twitterfeeds. It’s kind of like magic.
I’ve seen this before. Years ago, I worked for a guy who was considered the very best lawyer in his field. He knew everyone, knew every case and statute like he knew his own hand, and could strategize his way through anything. Plus, he was just plain brilliant and he had a folksy manner than made everyone sure that he would take care of even the worst pickle. He refused to learn email. And, at first, it kind of added to his cachet. Old X, he’s too important to send emails. You want his advice, you jump through his hoops. But, eventually, he realized that, by the time he’d had his secretary print out his emails, he’d read them, and he’d dictated to her the response to send, the case had moved on and people were no longer discussing the initial question. He hated it, but he learned email.
Literata and I were talking last week about the idea, and I apologize for not remembering who said it first, that the real illiteracy of the 21st Century is going to be the inability/unwillingness to re-learn systems. I sympathize with the illiterate; it bugs the googlygoddess out of me when my firm “upgrades” our word processing system. But it’s true: those who won’t or can’t learn new systems and new technologies are doomed to fail.
Some politicians, and it seems to me that it’s often Republican politicians, don’t get “the internets,” as George Bush famously called them. They think that they can deny saying things that they said or that there is such a thing as a private fundraiser.
Those days are over. Time to learn.