I don’t much care about a politician’s stance on technological issues. Do you?
Sure you do. The net? Gotta keep it neutral! Excessive penalties for minor copyright infringement? Joe Biden’s proposed legislation that would force electronics makers to ensure that the government could have access to any encrypted communications? Take my key and shove it, komrade Biden!
John McCain is against net neutrality legislation (not the idea of net neutrality, mind you, just the idea of legislating it. He’s super free-market, despite the fact that the free market can’t thrive where there’s no competition. How many broadband providers can you choose from, again?) Barack Obama, the geek’s stalwart, is all hat, no cattle, when it comes to punishing the evil telecoms and protecting you from warrantless wiretaps (I don’t worry too much, I just set my Twitter account to “Private” and don’t add “US Government” or “NSA” as a friend on Facebook. Plus, I totally jailbreak my iPhone That should solve it, right?)
All of this stuff is really important. Right? That’s what we say… until we get in that voting booth. Then, our pragmatic side finds that little things like national security and the economy are just a wee bit more important. It’s a natural reaction – in the grand scheme of our lives, having a sound economy and taking out the bad guys du jour are always going to trump our need access ESPN.com in 30 milliseconds instead of 90 milliseconds, or our fear about whether or not we’ll be ponying up a couple of grand because we swiped a copy of Bring it On 2: Bring it More On off of the Pirate Bay. It’s easy to support net neutrality, it’s another to shrug off short term worries in order to support it, especially when your candidate of choice may not be on the right side of the issue.
It’s a shame, (and here comes the pessimism) because net neutrality will be one of those topics that we look back and ten years from now and say “if only we had held lawmakers responsible back then, we would have something other to do on the net than tune to the Sports Portal (sponsored by ESPN), the New-o-Tron (CNNBCFOX), and LOL Cats Central.” But it also means that, when CNET publishes a story on McCain’s VP pick that’s as brutal as the story they published on Biden, you won’t have to fret too much if you’re a McCain supporter, because a bad tech record isn’t going to mean anything when you close the curtain to vote November 4.
Update: Ziff-Davis’s Larry Dignan covered this as well.