Friday, February 22, 2008

Does John McCain Know the Difference Between YouTube and MySpace?

The blogger-friendly John McCain held a conference call this afternoon with us "ankle-biting pundits." After reading Garrett Graff's excellent op-ed in the Post a couple months ago, I prepared the following question:

I’m sure most of us would agree, as a recent op-ed in the Washington Post observed, that the Internet, “probably more than any other force, will drive and define the nation's economic success and reshape its society over the next 20 years.”

Yet many politicians get a pass on technological literacy. For instance, last year, answering a campaign-trail question, Mitt Romney didn't seem to know the difference between YouTube (then the fourth most popular Web site in the world) and MySpace. This seems like not knowing the difference between Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, and Pakistan, the sixth most populous. Or the difference between Chevron, number four on the Fortune 500 list, and General Electric, number six.

This is bad enough in itself, but when you consider the congressional debates about taxing the Internet and net neutrality, I hope you’ll agree that our economic future and security require that we hold our leaders to higher standards.

Accordingly, can you tell us the difference between YouTube and MySpace?

Alas, I'm still having trouble mastering the *1 combo—the Jeopardy inequivalent of pressing the buzzer—so I didn't get the chance to see if McCain is any smarter than his fellow ignoramus senator, Ted "Tubes" Stevens (R-WTF).

Update (3/4/08): I'm a few days late, but I have exciting news to report: On February 28, I got to ask John McCain how YouTube differs from MySpace. He began his answer fitfully, but once he got his thoughts straight, gave a lengthy and accurate response. Here's a condensed and rough transcription:

MySpace is a social network ... People come up and do the communications with one another, establish relationships and all that ... YouTube … carries videos.

McCain also noted, as Michael Goldfarb put it, that

YouTube is reservoir of embarrassment—"John Edwards can attest to that (click it, you know you want to watch it again)." McCain would later remember that his campaign has a MySpace page.

Related: "John McCain: I Invented YouTube."


Garrett M. Graff said:


I'm thrilled you liked my op-ed and got inspired to ask a question—as I blogged tonight, let me know if you get a chance to ask McCain or anyone else the question...


Michael said:

I really would not expect candidates to embrace the internet, when Bret Farve gets more diggs than political corruption or the war in Iraq.

Ron Paul embraced the internet to his credit, however his online support never materialized at the polls.

Rob Bluey said:

I was glad you asked the question. However, I'm not convinced McCain really understands the difference between YouTube and MySpace.

I've been on enough of these conference calls to know when he's talking from the heart. This clearly wasn't one of them. It sounded to me like someone slipped McCain a piece of paper explaining YouTube and MySpace, which is why his answer was so choppy and drawn out.

I could be reading it completely wrong, of course. If someone has the audio, it would be interesting to hear it again.