Obama: “Information Becomes a Distraction”


President Obama delivered a truly bizarre commencement speech at the traditionally all-black Hampton University on Mother’s Day. The overall speech was standard graduation day fare with a perfectly fine upbeat message. Go forth and contribute! However, the president somehow managed to insert two disturbing paragraphs, which effectively negated the speech’s positive message. They clanged jarringly in direct opposition to the main theme of the speech, revealing the paranoid thought processes of him and his inner circle. The first of these two paragraphs basically warned of the dangers of computers and the Internet. The second warned of the dangers of cable television and talk radio. He seems to believe a highly open and competitive marketplace of ideas is a new danger that, from his perspective, is an unfortunate distraction that must be overcome. These are distinctly undemocratic ideas and instincts.

The most remarkable of his comments was the following:

“And with Ipods and Ipads; and Xboxes and Playstations—-none of which I know how to work—information becomes a distraction, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than a means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and our democracy”.

I don’t think Hugo or Fidel could have said it any better.

Does our president even know what Ipods or Playstations are? Remember when candidate McCain was hammered for his admission he did not use e-mail? He was considered a technological dinosaur. What can one call a 48-year-old president who brags about technological ignorance? Ipods, Ipads, Xboxes, and Playstations are computers. They are forms of technology that have a variety of uses, from game playing and music to information storage and delivery. Along with traditional laptop and desktop computers they allow for remarkable access to unlimited amounts of information, the fundamental basis for an articulate democracy. Obama is specifically saying these are anti-empowerment tools and explicitly states are dangers to our freedom that we must struggle with to overcome. How does a president think this way?

Later on in the speech, he hammers home this theme further with his familiar anti-cable/talk radio lament:

“With so many voices clamoring for attention on blogs, and on cable, and on talk radio, it can be difficult, at times, to sift through it all; to know what to believe, to know who is telling the truth and who’s not. Let’s face it; even some of the craziest claims can gain traction. I have had some experience in that regard”.

I assume he meant his birth certificate attacks, but not his claims about Obamacare.

There is an obvious sense from the president that these are unfortunate developments. He seems to long for the good old days when Walter Cronkite’s view of the Tet Offensive could go unchallenged. Or that Dan Rather’s “fake but accurate” portrayal of George W. Bush’s military service would just be accepted at his word. I am sure he also wishes that he could just assert Obamacare will insure more people and cost less without all those clamoring voices disagreeing with him.

You see, when you are smarter than the rest of the world, as he clearly is, ignorant portrayers of inaccurate information are simply dangers to your freedom. One wonders what he would like to do to correct the situation. The Obama FCC’s desire to “regulate the Internet” should be something to worry about.

Editor’s Note: Michael van der Galien also discussed this issue here.