Information Processor in Chief?

In less than a week, the USA will begin life under our first “wired” president–one who, unlike his predecessors, has actively communicated in the virtual world of the internet. For those who want their leaders “connected” with the people they serve, that could only be good, right?

I have posted elsewhere how Obama’s victory was abetted by the great organizational power his campaign harnessed through instant messaging, emails and “open sourced” materials for spreading his message of political empowerment for social change. Will he stay connected, though?

It’s worth asking what effect becoming President will have on Barack’s independent information gathering. Will he be allowed to read and follow information on his own? Does he not risk attenuating himself from the people otherwise?

No, Mr. Obama has not been an I-phone carrier, but a Blackberry devotee, something a lot of lawyer types I’ve seen carry. A New York Times article about our new president’s information technology was referenced in a Pushback posting I read.

The Times report says that the Secret Service will no longer allow him to answer his own e-mails. It’s not supposed to be secure enough. Letting Obama visit Second Life, the Twitter-verse, or any other social network seems to be out of the question. That’s too bad if you ask me.

Remaining in communication with the people seems essential to any leader’s job in a democracy or even a republican democracy. Would Abraham Lincoln, whose 200th birthday is being celebrated all year long in my state, not be allowed to read his mail and communicate with his people? The idea would have seemed absurd as he began his presidency. He had secretaries who would read his correspondence and then pass it on to him. Lincoln wrote some great letters to normal American citizens. And he might have been the first “wired” president when one considers the way he would hang around in the telegraph offices at critical times in the Civil War, hungry for the “raw feed” of information so that he could make the best decisions.

Can we trust the likes of Ray LaHood to correctly inform our new president? Will Obama’s cabinet members and advisors not want to stay in the virtual world, where they can interact with real Americans?

To serve others, one needs to understand them. And nowadays, one gains understanding of Americans from the “virtual street,” Too bad for us if we over-filter it out of our lives.

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