I was fortunate enough to have a beloved aunt who passed away a couple of years ago in her eighties. When I tried to explain what I did for a living to her at a family reunion and mentioned the internet, she said, “Oh yes, I’ve heard tell of that internet. Well that’s good baby. You keep on with that. Might amount to something someday. I hear you can make some good money workin’ on them computers.” Aunt Myrtle didn’t have much experience with either computers or the internet. But in her rural North Carolina town, she was “aware” of them.

I was at the Personal Democracy Forum this week where Mark Soohoo, internet director for the John McCain campaign said in defense of his boss’ recent admission that he doesn’t use a computer:

“You don’t necessarily have to use a computer to understand how it shapes the country” and
“John McCain is aware of the internet”

Yeah, you can hear the laughter, hoots and catcalls from the audience yourself in response. It’s pretty hilarious.

The bottom line is that if a candidate for president today can say that he or she doesn’t use the internet, then she or he is out of step with the majority of Americans. According to the State of the News Media 2008 report, 3/4ths of Americans are online today. Even when you factor in McCain’s senior status/advanced age, about 1/3rd of older Americans had ventured online as of 2005 if you believe the Kaiser Family Foundation, distancing McCain from a large (and growing) segment of his peers.

My aunt wasn’t wealthy and wasn’t well-educated. Thus she fit the profile of the new digital divide which not cuts less across racial nor ethnic lines these days but those of education and income. John McCain is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Aunt Myrtle — unlike most Americans, he lives in a privileged bubble where he doesn’t have to get online to do his job, connect with colleagues, book airline tickets or share photos with friends and family. He has a staff, servants and apparently his wife Cindy to do it all for him. The multi-millionaire’s life of luxury and complete oblivion must be nice. Do we really want a man so far out of touch from the lives of ordinary Americans to lead us as President? I mean, if it scares you to think of my dear sweet Aunt Myrtle planning innovative strategies employing new technology for energy independence, national security and defense, climate change, healthcare, net neutrality, etc, then McCain should probably kinda scare you too.

Kudos to Tracy Russo, formerly of John Edwards’ team, for taking McCain to task.

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