Obama Should Try iPad Before Criticizing It


I'm a huge fan of the president. I loved how his campaign used social media to help drive him to victory in 2008. I think he's generally a smart, well-informed and extremely articulate man, but today he said something incredibly stupid about the iPad and I have to say something. Mashable reports the president while speaking on misinformation in general blamed the iPad in part for the spread of inaccurate ideas:

“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.”

Let me say, he sounded downright foolish with this statement. First of all XBox and Playstation: They're used mostly for games, not for news, blogs and other information. Secondly iPods are used mostly for music, the Touch being an exception because you can access the App Store. Finally, it's clear he never used an iPad or he wouldn't have lumped it in with larger point he was trying to make.

Information is Power

If the president had taken five minutes to actually use an iPad, he would know that it is incredibly empowering. Yes, there is lots of information out there. Yes, it can be distracting and sometimes wrong, but he should look at the BBC app or the Guardian's photojournalism app or any number of choices that provide information at your fingertips just by opening the browser, many of which are coming from mainstream quality news sources. Is there misinformation out there? Absolutely there is, but to suggest that a beautiful piece of hardware is preventing freedom instead of encouraging it? Well, that's just not true and it's downright ignorant in my view to suggest it is.

He Sounds Like a Technophobe

When the president, a man who was known to love his Blackberry before taking office, makes statements like this, he is actually spreading the very same time of misinformation he is railing against. He doesn't help make his point when he lumps game boxes, mp3 players and media devices into one statement and then blames the hardware for the problem. The iPad is a tool when used correctly that could actually help encourage a more informed electorate. People who have stopped reading newspapers and magazines could actually get their news from a variety of (mostly) quality news sources and get more viewpoints than was ever possible without sitting in the library every day for hours and poring over the periodicals.

The president should really think more carefully, and understand what he's talking before he opens his mouth to criticize something he clearly didn't understand. When he makes statements like this, he comes out sounding foolish and misinformed. Maybe somebody should fork over the $600 and buy him one and he can see the beauty of the iPad for himself, but until he's tried one, with all due respect, he should just not say anything.

Photo by cyberuly on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

About the Author

I am a Freelance Technology Journalist, blogger, FierceContentManagement editor and Contributing Editor at EContent Magazine. I have been writing about technology since 1988 and publishing credits include InsideCRM, CIO.com, Streaming Media Magazine, eWeek, BusinessWeek SmallBiz and Network World. I have also written White Papers, documentation and training for a variety of corporate clients, big and small. I co-founded [url]www.socmedia101.com[/url] in 2009 and contributes regularly to its content. You can learn more by visiting my blog, by Ron Miller at [URL]http://byronmiller.typepad.com[/url].

I won an Apex Award for Publications Excellence in Feature Writing in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

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Constable Odo 0 Newbie Poster

I honestly think the president is talking about computing devices in general. Maybe that people spend too much time in front of computers instead of getting out and doing things in the street like getting involved in the community or volunteering at senior centers or the kind of activities that you're actually working with other humans face to face. That's my take. I'd rather spend all my time behind a computer than hanging out with humans. It's more comfortable for me to be at a keyboard. Probably not as rewarding as helping others directly, but that's just how I am and I'm sure a lot of others feel the same way.

So I don't think the president was criticizing the iPad, per se. I'm guessing he just thinks Americans spend too much time with tech devices, in general. There's no way any person that talks as much as the president does, is not going to make mistakes in the things he says. Just hopefully, whatever he says, it only offends a small amount of people at a time.

Techwriter10 42 Practically a Posting Shark

I'm the first one to defend the president, but I don't think that's what he was saying if you read the quote. He blamed hardware for the spread of misinformation. People can get plenty of misinformation face to face too, although I grant you getting out and meeting and helping people is valuable and necessary for society. But, I have met and become friends with many people through online social networks, so there is value to that too. Ultimately, just blaming machines for any problem is wrong-headed and blaming them when you don't really know what you're talking about is just not very smart.

Thanks for your comment.


DavidAKnopf 0 Newbie Poster

I think you're being way too literal here, Ron. Obama is commenting that people are increasingly confusing the act of being entertained with the act being informed. Surely he is right about that. "iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations." like every other internet-attached device, play a part in this. He's not making a specific criticism about any of the devices, as he makes plain by saying he has no idea even how to use them.

Techwriter10 42 Practically a Posting Shark

I don't think so David. He says, "...information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.” Games are not a form of information. MP3 players don't for the most part provide information. He's making a blanket statement about these devices without having used any of them and having no real understanding of them. Let him use the iPad and tell me it isn't a great information device. He's the president for goodness sakes. Don't make statements unless you know what you're talking about. In this case, he clearly doesn't.

Thanks as always for your comments, David.


Member Avatar

Ummm, if Obama's quote was from the Press Club (roast) Dinner, he was trying to dial down the wars over politics. Lots of people tune into their favorite cable news channel, or jump onto their favorite blogs, to stock up on zingers about why [insert official here] is a jerk and ought to be run out of Washington on a rail.

I didn't watch the dinner; I usually look for the YouTube if I hear it's good, as Colbert's was several years back (despite stunned silence by the audience). Today's NYT op-ed by Frank Rich told me not to bother. (Leno irrelevant & unfunny.) The article focussed on the fruitlessness of Obama trying to unify the country through platitudinous speechifying.

(Its main line, which supports the president's point: Fox commentators nattered recently about how the Pres was yucking it up with the Press Club while the Times Square incident was happening. However, Rich said, it's hardly the President's job to rush in and defuse dud bomb efforts, and none of the networks picked up the story until way later -- because they were carrying… the Press Club Dinner, which used to be only a C-Span thing. So they were kinda ignoring their own responsibility to report the news to New Yorkers and the country.)

In that example, Obama's right: many (myself included!) turn to the web for Politics As Sport, and some (not myself) claim it's information when really it's just blood sport, part of the divisiveness that the corporations are pushing so they can sell beer or cars or expensive, illegal-to-advertise "ask your doctor" drugs to you. Likewise, some turn to games as a way of dropping out.

It wasn't really about iPads. Chill.

AmgedOsman 0 Newbie Poster

Ron Miller.... i dont think what obama said is stupid!
u obviously did not understand the quote ONE BIT!

Techwriter10 42 Practically a Posting Shark

This wasn't from the press club dinner roast. It was quoted in a report on Sunday (yesterday).

As for your other point, I understand it was in a larger context, and I acknowledged this in my post, but the president really should have some clue about the technology he lumps under this umbrella before he goes after it in this fashion. I don't think he did himself any favors by showing a lack of understanding.

Thanks for the in-depth comment. I appreciate you taking the time to share you thoughts with me.


Techwriter10 42 Practically a Posting Shark

Thanks for the comment Amged. I don't think it was stupid per se, but I do think it was ignorant to lump technology he doesn't understand to make a broader point.


Chaotic Lucidit 0 Newbie Poster

How is information from the internet any different from getting information from news television or a newspaper? Can these devices, that can be used for other purposes than just getting information, be used as a form of entertainment. Yes of course, I'm not seeing how that can be seen as a negative aspect. Surely he wouldn't replace "Ipods and Ipads" (Which to me seems like he's just trying to say any internet enabled device) with "newspapers and books" and make the same statement, yet you can get the same information from both.

Techwriter10 42 Practically a Posting Shark

Exactly right. The medium doesn't really matter does it and in some senses, it can actually give you more varied points of view than you would get from traditional print sources.

Thanks for your comment.

BestJewSinceJC 700 Posting Maven


I agree with your point that the president's statement was foolish. The president implies that information is a distraction and a diversion. He ignores the key point that the devices he lists (and others that he alludes to) are a means to spread information, and do not control how that information is consumed or how it is interpreted; they only make it possible to spread and view information. In fact, it almost seems like he is personifying these devices, an abstract thing: "Information becomes distracting and a diversion", as if the devices themselves logged onto facebook and posted "Obama wasn't born in America!" rather than a person using the device. Frankly, it is a hypocritical thing for Obama to say, considering that much of his campaign benefited from devices like the ones he mentioned, and that he portrays himself as the 'younger, more savvy president'. I would think it more likely for the opposite statement to come out of his mouth. I'm borderline offended that he said it.

That being said, I have to disagree with you about the Ipad. I don't think he was targeting the Ipad in particular. He was making a sweeping generalization that, while untrue and stupid, was only untrue and stupid because he attributes faults to a device that is incapable of faults...

Just my two cents.

Techwriter10 42 Practically a Posting Shark



That being said, I have to disagree with you about the Ipad. I don't think he was targeting the Ipad in particular. He was making a sweeping generalization that, while untrue and stupid, was only untrue and stupid because he attributes faults to a device that is incapable of faults...

Just my two cents.

I agree he wasn't targeting the iPad per se, but he was lumping it in with other devices including game machines and MP3 players, and by doing so, he was equating all of those devices. To me, they are distinctly different, and in most cases, not used to gather or disseminate information. The iPad on the other hand can and is often used to gather and consume information. That's why I concentrated on the iPad over those other devices.

Thank for your comment and for your regular contributions.


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