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McCain models tech policy on our oh-so-successful energy policy

Words Not in McCain’s Tech Policy

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McCain has delivered his tech policy. And it’s clear: This election will determine whether America willfully becomes a third-world participant in the online economy and culture.

Much of the McCain policy is the expected stuff about public-private partnerships, educating the workforce, and providing incentives to reach under-served populations, etc. But he shows his hand on three issues:

1. He’s flat against Net neutrality.

2. He wants to see copyright extended and enforced more vigorously.

3. He thinks the current infrastructure only needs a couple of tweaks.

In sum, our Internet policy should be the same as our energy policy: Hand a key resource off to big corporations whose interests are fundamentally out of alignment with ours as citizens.

Let’s assume that this is not because McCain is a tool. Let’s assume he has the best intentions and that his policy accurately reflects how he thinks about the Internet.

To McCain, the Internet is all about business. It’s about people working and buying stuff. There is nothing — nothing — in his policy statement that acknowledges that maybe the Net is also a new way we citizens are connecting with one another. The phrase “free speech” does not show up in it. The term “democracy” does not show up in it. What’s the opposite of visionary?

Further, the Internet to McCain is a set of tubes for delivering content to an awaiting public. Jeez, does he not have anyone on staff under the age of 25 who could have clued him in on what the Net is about?

It gets worse. Even if we ignore the cultural, social, and democratic aspects of the Net, even if we consider the Net to be nothing but a way to move content to “consumers” (his word), McCain still gets it wrong. There’s nothing in his policy about encouraging the free flow of ideas. Instead, when McCain thinks about ideas, he thinks about how to increase the walls around them by cracking down on “pirates” and ensuring ” fair rewards to intellectual property” (which, technically speaking, I think isn’t even English). Ideas and culture are, to John McCain, business commodities. He totally misses the dramatic and startling success of the Web in generating new value via open access to ideas and cultural products.

The two candidates’ visions of the Internet could not be clearer. We can have a national LAN designed first and foremost to benefit business, and delivered to passive consumers for whom the Net is a type of cable TV. Or, we can have an Internet that is of the people, by the people, for the people.

Is it going to be our Internet or theirs?

Go Obama! [Tags: ]

Obama’s campaign’s response:

“Senator McCain’s technology plan doesn’t put Americans first—it is a rehash of tax breaks and giveaways to the big corporations and their lobbyists who advise the McCain campaign. This plan won’t do enough for hardworking Americans who are still waiting for competitive and affordable broadband service at their homes and businesses. It won’t do enough to ensure a free and open Internet that guarantees freedom of speech. It won’t do anything to ensure that we use technology to bring transparency to government and free Washington from the grip of lobbyists and special interests. Senator McCain’s plan would continue George Bush’s neglect of this critical sector and relegate America’s communications infrastructure to second-class status. That’s not acceptable,” said William Kennard, Former Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

Someone just pointed me to the back and forth between Kevin Werbach and Michael Powell. Powell (former FCC head) drafted McCain’s tech policy, and Kevin (former FCC person) is an Obama supporter: 1 2

Harry Lewis at BlownToBits points to some of the flat-out contradictions in the McCain policy statement.

27 Responses to “McCain models tech policy on our oh-so-successful energy policy”

  1. This is enough of a reason not to support McCain, but I believe there are some others as well! It is an interesting question about the age of his staff, given these policies and ideas. I think I “get it” better than McCain does and I am well over 25 (actually 63), but I have the benefit of hearing my brother’s thoughts.

  2. Out of ‘regulate neutrality’ and ‘enforce copyright’, the latter is far more preferable.

    Compare to ‘red flag laws‘ vs ‘flogging a dead horse’.

    The former impedes progress. The latter can impede progress no further, and might even give the whip a clue.

  3. […] For an even more intemperate response to this long-awaited policy, read David Weinberger’s blog.  […]

  4. And if I remember correctly, this is nothing new. I believe Senator McCain was behind the initial COPPA legislation, right?

  5. […] McCain models tech policy on our oh-so-successful energy policy (Joho the Blog) McCain: against net neutrality, pro copyright extension, all by "tweaking" the Internet infrastructure. Not a net candidate. (tags: 2008 election mccain technology policy) […]

  6. McCain was at the D Conference a yearago talking to the tech execs. It was clear that he knew very little about the subject. He made noises like he would aim to recruit CEOs like John Chambers and Steve Ballmer. “I know who the smart people in America are,” he said, implying that, you know, even if he was an ignoramus about the Web, he’d surround himself with people who weren’t.

    Only now we know what he really meant was, “I don’t know this subject at all but I have big contributorswho do, so I’ll let them dictate the policy.”

  7. Not too surprising, really… Remember McCain responding the question about which OS he used. His response: “Neither. I am an illiterate.”

  8. So when he enforces copyright more vigorously will he create an exemption for campaign materials? Or is he going to throw himself in jail?

    Sticky Fingers McCain

  9. OT–sorry, but when you asked what the opposite of visionary is, it got me thinking.

    I think the opposite of visionary is a wishing well, basically just staring into a dark hole, throwing money into it, and hoping for a miracle.

  10. To many, many Americans, the internet is still only a place to work and buy things. Sure, pockets of America use the internet for social interaction and connection, but even then, the ads and money exchanged because of the exposure is huge. Twitter is certainly a social site, but will monetize when the time is right. Everything on the internet will monetize when the time is right. The interpretation of the policies when/if laws are passed will be the most important part of the process.

    Personally, I don’t think either candidate should have a tech policy. Period. There are other things to concentrate on that deserve their attention – not a half-assed policy about the internet and its use.

  11. […] Weinberger, one of the smartest philosophers on the meaning of the Internet, compiles a list of words you won’t find in McCain’s policy. He points out that McCain sees the Internet as a broadcast medium, not an interactive […]

  12. […] it a read. One page of content, 7 pages blank. Nice one, McCain. Check out David Weinberger’s interesting breakdown of it. « Create your own ALA “Read” […]

  13. as someone over the age of 25 who nevertheless understands (and is one of the people helping to realize) the potential of the web, I found your statement about not having staffers under the age of 25 insulting and offensive in the extreme. Way to stereotype and alienate your potential audience.

  14. Wow, Mike, you are easily insulted and offended to the extreme. What would you have said if I’d posted something _really_ offensive? (As it is, I didn’t say no one over 25 understands the Web. I said instead that people under 25 do understand the Web. Of course, I was generalizing, which should be clear from the context.)

  15. Just curious but which candidate is receiving more contributions from the RIAA and MPAA or its conduits? Which candidate has the backing of major media companies? Movies studios, record companies, etc?

    This seems like a more interesting and telling data point than policy statements that are seldom read by the public at large and unlikely to influence votes one way or another. Anyone strong for Obama or McCain probably isn’t choosing on the basis of Net wonkery.

    Meantime, it seems to me that the ultimate source of funding for whichever candidate rakes in the most from the aforementioned interests is media consumers or people under 25, too many of whom have not grokked that patronizing an industry that sees its customers as thieves is counter-productive.

    But I’m sure this can all be fixed by voting for the right people…

  16. As a side note… Obama’s response blurb reads like some sort of spammy blackhat SEO content that is optimized for ‘lobbyist’, ‘special interest’ and ‘big corporation.’ I’m sure it makes the true believer feel better but it’s basically goop.

  17. […] on the left engages in “unserious technology fetishism,” says Dayton. His foil is Joho the Blog, who takes after Senator McCain’s technology policy thusly: There is nothing — nothing — […]

  18. […] Weinberger points out that McCain’s plan fails to use a whole bunch of words like democracy and free speech (and […]

  19. Excellent blog, thank you!

  20. […]… […]

  21. McCain and Wikipedia has vast comedy potential. (Feel free to propagate the picture.)

  22. […] As the US election continues to dominate the news agenda this side of the Atlantic, here is an interesting blog post looking at McCain’s technology policies […]


    Check out the site to help Obama’s brother and St. Judes at the same time.

  24. […] Weinberger, one of the smartest philosophers on the meaning of the Internet, compiles a list of words you won’t find in McCain’s policy. He points out that McCain sees the Internet as a broadcast medium, not an interactive […]

  25. […] public links >> davidweinberger McCain models tech policy on our oh-so-successful energy policy Saved by fsureference on Sat 25-10-2008 Cluetrain, Naked Conversations & Groundswell Saved by […]

  26. […] Weinberger’s take is more to-the-point: Much of the McCain policy is the expected stuff about public-private […]

  27. cool pics

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