Top 10 Politico Tech Blunders, From the Internets to the Google

politicians and the Google

Who would you elect as our most tech-savvy politician? Our tweeter-in-chief Barack Obama? Think again.

Arizona senator (and 73-year old senior statesman) John McCain has the highest "Digital IQ" in the Senate according to a new joint study by George Washington University and NYU. John McCain. The guy who can't remember how many houses he owns. That One.

In what GW and NYU are calling the "definitive benchmark for online competence," researchers combed through politicians' social media accounts, and calculated their Digital IQ based on the frequency of their YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook use and popularity.

If John McCain has the highest Digital IQ, what does that say about the rest of the Senate? Politicians are notorious for their blunders and ignorance of all things tech-related, and this study--while not exactly using the most scientific metrics to determine tech-savviness--may just be a blunder in itself. Here we present our top 10 politico gaffes that show just how low our elected officials' Digital IQs actually are.

10. Ted Stevens. In 2006, during a committee meeting on net neutrality, the late Alaskan senator Ted Stevens became a Web sensation for his description of the Internet. "The Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck," he said. "It's a series of tubes." The Internet is "a series of tubes"? And this from the guy in charge of regulating the Net? Stevens quickly became viral fodder for his comments, and gave Jon Stewart material for weeks.

9. Jacques Chirac. We're mostly focusing on U.S. politicians on this list, but we did want to point out at least one blunder overseas to show how non-American candidates are plagued by this problem too. In 1997, then-president of France Jacques Chirac attended the opening of the country's new national library. There, as The New York Times reported, "Mr. Chirac discovered the computer 'mouse' for the first time and gazed at it in wonder." Yes, in 1997, when computers and mice were damn-near ubiquitous. If that's not bad enough, Chirac also dismissed the Internet as "an Anglo-Saxon network."

8. George H.W. Bush. Along the 1992 presidential campaign trail, Bush 41 was blown away by a barcode scanner during a grocery store photo-op. The one-term president stared in awe at the machine. "You cross this, this open space?" Bush asked, curiously passing a milk carton through the barcode scanner, as if it were from the future. He said later in the day that he was "amazed by some of the technology" he had seen.

7. Sarah Palin. As more politicians jump on the Twitter bandwagon, it's getting harder for candidates to maintain polish. Sarah Palin certainly knows this. She recently tweeted, "Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate." Grammar aside, what the heck does "refudiate" mean? The invented word went viral, especially once discovered she used it again in a television interview. Quickly, Palin deleted the tweet, but followed up with: "English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!" Soon @ShakesPalin--an account devoted to Shakespearian Palinisms--started trending on Twitter.

6. John McCain. During his recent bout with Obama for the highest office in the land, a McCain advisor claimed the senator invented the BlackBerry. "He did this," said McCain's top economic advisor, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, holding up his BlackBerry to reporters. "Telecommunications of the United States is a premier innovation in the past 15 years...so you're looking at the miracle John McCain helped create, and that's what he did." The McCain campaign was quickly lambasted for the Gore-like claim, and soon issued a correction that called the statement a "boneheaded joke."

5. Al Gore. The robotic VP got hammered for his perhaps taken-out-of-context claim that he "invented the Internet." Wolf Blitzer, who stumbled on the flub during an unrelated interview question, said "it wound up being a devastating setback to him" along the 2000 presidential campaign.

4. George W. Bush. During his 2004 race against John Kerry, Bush 43 responded to a question about a possible military draft. "I hear there's rumors on the, uh, Internets," he said. The Bushism became an instant meme, with parodies showing up on SNL and The Colbert Report. Bush used the word two other times, once in 2000, and again in 2007: "Information is moving--you know, nightly news is one way, of course, but it's also moving through the blogosphere and through the Internets."

4a. Barack Obama. In all fairness, Bush isn't the only politico out there adding S's inappropriately. President Obama has made the same mistake, and it's perhaps more surprising given his reputation for tech-know-how and social media savvy. Speaking with Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, Obama said: "And during his visit to Silicon Valley this week, he visited the headquarters of Twitters, where he opened his own account. I have one as well, so we may be able to finally throw away those 'red phones' that have been sitting around for so long." The Twitters and the Internets. Aw shucks, don't we find these mistakes endearing?

3. Joe Biden. In launching the government's online stimulus spending tracker, the Obama administration was attempting to prove its commitment to transparency. There was just one problem: Joe Biden didn't know the address, er, whatever you call it. During an interview with CBS, Biden leaned toward an aide, and asked, "Do you know the Web site number?" If only he knew how to dial up the Internets.

2. George W. Bush. Technology Bushisms are the best--he deserves this second spot on our list. In an interview with CNBC, Bush was asked whether he ever uses Google. His response was astoundingly awesome. "Occasionally. One of the things I've used on the Google is to pull up maps. It's very interesting to see--I've forgot the name of the program--but you get the satellite, and you can--like, I kinda like to look at the ranch. It remind me of where I wanna be sometimes." Honestly, I wish the search engine's logo actually read "The Google."

1. John McCain. Mac or PC? That was the question posed to Republican candidates Mike Huckabee (PC), Ron Paul (PC), and Mitt Romney (Mac). But when the question came to McCain, his response was rather blunt. "Neither," he said. "I am an illiterate that has to rely on my wife."

And this politician has the highest Digital IQ in the Senate?

Add New Comment

4 Comments

  • Wes Carter

    #1 Blunder...your time spent on this "article"...this reminds me of the letters you write because you're mad at your best friend...except you write it, get it out of your system and then throw it away...Mr. Carr, you forgot the most important part...throwing away. Austin, if you have paid any attention to the last few months, Barry and Biden could easily fill ALL TEN!!!!!!!!!!!Fast Company started out as a really good resource about what's going on in the business world that alot/most people didn't know about...NOW...left wing crap...Stick to the business guys and girls and leave the political refudiating to those journalists more biased...I mean informed...

  • 3Scooby7

    This article should be listed as #1 of tech blunders. None of these are tech mistakes but are language mistakes. Can we get this political shite off the net. Am thinking to drop my FastCompany subscription given it seems to be going political.

    What does number 7 got to do with "Tech Blunders"? Using the word "refudiate" while made up (and mind you a great idea to get your message to go viral), has nothing to do with tech savvyness (oh no a made up word!).

    And #2? Using the word "The Google" is incorrect, unless he had dropped a word like "One of the things I've used on the Google "WEBSITE" is to pull up maps."

    This was a waste of 10 min of my time.

  • Alan Rosenblatt

    #8 has always been taken out of context. The barcode scanner Poppy Bush saw demoed was able to scan barcodes even whent he barcode was damaged or folded. He had seen regular barcode scanners before, but not his new advanced one.