Emailing a President into the White House

Obviously, if you’re reading this commentary, you’re one of millions who are Internet savvy to some degree. You’re also one of the millions who are exposed to Internet rumors and false emails every day of the week, and you know that in large part, the integrity of this Presidential campaign has been set right here on the Internet.

Both Obama and McCain have fought vicious Internet rumors for months now. We’ve all seen them; we’ve all debated them here at Sarah Palin has been hit with enough force to knock down a lesser person – she’s ignited an absolute feeding frenzy for Internet sharks.

It’s interesting to me that the rumors that gain the most celebrity are those that are circulated by people who don’t have the courage to face the American public with them. Take Ms. Kilkenny, for example – one well placed phone call to the media would have gotten her an international audience. Instead, she chose the anonymity of the Internet to spread what we now know was false rumors about Palin. This is the same tactic that has been used by nameless assailants of Barack Obama on subjects such as his religion and his citizenship. Doctored photos and documents run rampant across cyberspace. The situation has become so serious that both Obama and Palin has been forced to create websites just to debunk the Internet rumors.

There’s an old saying that goes “If you tell a lie three times, you will believe it yourself”. A large Internet sector hiding behind the anonymity of their computer screens are well aware of this, and wield the copy and paste function on their keyboards like a sword to make certain that the lies are repeated far more than the required three. The Internet is solidly divided on the right and left, and venom spews from both sides on blogs, Internet news sites (and I use the term loosely with some of them), and the mountain of mass emails that clog my inbox on a daily basis. The candidates themselves are catering to us – releasing ads that you can only view if you’re among the Internet elite. YouTube users and abusers are filling the bandwidth with videos that are neither factual nor interesting in many cases. We make wild accusations against each other behind the cowardly anonymity of Usernames that we otherwise would never dare to say were we face to face.

The Obama campaign is certainly the most Internet savvy of the two camps, and they proudly tout that fact as the mantra of their success. I’m on both the McCain and Obama email lists, and while I get email from the McCain camp four or five times a week, I receive as many as four or five a DAY from the Obama camp. When Hurricane Gustav was on the move, Obama even offered up his email list to help. Internet savvy they certainly are, mass emailing their sharpest propaganda only to the select elite with Internet access.

Perhaps this is what inspired Obama to release a new ad this week taunting McCain as “out of touch” for not using computers or email. Apparently Obama – and many others – equates computer skills to superiority of intelligence.

Too bad Obama didn’t do his homework before approving that commercial, though. Surely he is not so crass as to belittle a man who doesn’t possess the physical dexterity it takes to master the practicalities of a computer keyboard or blackberry because of injuries sustained during his years of torture. Surely he was unaware of that fact. Or was he? Did he think it was OK to poke fun at a person with physical disabilities, and will this be the next backlash against Obama? I hear – on the Internet – it just might be.

Let’s say – just for the sake of argument – there wasn’t a physical handicap, and McCain just doesn’t “do” computers or email by choice. Does this indicate a lesser intelligence, and how will that insinuation play with Americans who also don’t “do” computers? Believe it or not, millions don’t. There is still a large sector of people in this country who believe in turning on the 6:00 news to get their daily fix of world events, and actually pick up the phone when they want to communicate with another human being. Does Obama realize that in poking fun at McCain’s lack of Internet skills he has just poked fun at a sector of America that he is trying desperately to win votes from?

It’s the saddest commentary of our time that the cable news channels regularly begin their programs with either the harsh exposure of or the gleeful endorsement of the latest Internet rumor. The Internet is driving this election cycle as it never could before, and its quickly spiraling out of control. Careers can now be ended on the Internet, and people’s lives ruined by anonymous robotic demons. One can only imagine what the Internet, as it is today, would have done to John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe in 1960. It could have changed the course of our history forever.

What kind of human beings have we become in this Internet society? Has the anonymity of cyberspace brought out the darker and colder side of us all?