retail news in context, analysis with attitude

First, let me be clear about the following rant.

It is not political in nature...

President Barack Obama said one of the dumbest things of his presidency the other day while giving a commencement address to Hampton University.

He was talking about the enormous amount of content available to people via various venues, and why it is important to differentiate between substance and noise. He’s absolutely right about that. But here is the dumb part:

"With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, -- none of which I know how to work -- information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation," Obama said.

First of all, I find it hard to believe that Obama - who has two young children - does not know how to work an iPod. It is almost inconceivable. This is, after all, a guy who hardly was seen without a Blackberry during the 2008 campaign, and an iPod is a lot easier to work.

Second, he may never have used an iPad, but he knows how to use one. Trust me on this. Obama is a very smart guy, and the iPad is incredibly intuitive.

The real problem isn’t Obama’s facility with technology. The real problem is that he apparently - and surprisingly - has something in common with a lot of people who take a kind of idiotic pride in being uninformed about certain things. Like the people who seem to think it is a badge of honor to never have learned to program their VCRs.

Come on, people. Much of this stuff isn’t that hard. And if it is, could we at least feel a little sheepish about not knowing how to do it.

The list of things I cannot do is far longer than the list of things I can. For example, I do not know how to work on a car engine, I cannot build things, I cannot speak a language other than English and I don’t get opera. But I believe these are all character flaws, not things to be proud of.

Stupidity is not a badge of honor. It is just stupidity.

Too many people in this country see education and intelligence as somehow suspicious.

There are simply too many people on the planet who take pride in their own lack of knowledge, their own closed-mindedness, their own ignorance. I’m shocked that Obama, for at least a few moments, cast his lot as one of them.

In 2010 and beyond, one’s facility with technology ought to be a job requirement if you are going to be in any sort of political, governmental, or business leadership position. Be conversant. Be experienced. And be proud of it.

Obama should have realized that iPods and iPads are tools of empowerment as well as means of distraction. What matters is the mindset of the person is using them.

His message should not have been the implied one of “iPods and iPads can be a distraction.” His message should have been, “Go out and create the next iPod or iPad.”

End of rant.
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