Donald Rumsfeld: "Pods are there"

UPDATE, 2/21/08: I was sent the audio of this speech, and Rumsfeld does not say “pods,” he clearly says “blogs.” My apology for the error. The point about lumping email and talk radio still stands.

After lying low for a while America’s premier linguist is back. Here he is, as quoted by Sharon Weinberger of Wired’s defense blog, Danger Room, speaking at a conference on network centric warfare:

“There are multiple channels for information . . . The Internet is there, pods are there, talk radio is there, e-mails are there.”

Yes, the pods! Seed pods, perhaps. Connected by a series of tubes, no doubt. Lumping talk radio together with email, all I can think of that unites these things is that they transmit words, and require electricity. By that measure we might as well throw in intercoms and bullhorns. All of this makes more sense when you remember it’s coming from a 75 year old man who apparently doesn’t have an email address.

The quote is part of a talk in which Rumsfeld proposes a successor to the U.S. Information Agency (now part of the State Department) and the ill-fated (and ominously named) Office of Strategic Influence. The full Wired post is worth reading.

This one is making the rounds; perhaps my favorite commentary so far is by Spencer Ackerman of the recently-launched Washington Independent.

3 thoughts on “Donald Rumsfeld: "Pods are there"

  1. Perhaps he has in mind the Greek stem for ‘foot’ (as in tripod), i.e. delivering messages on foot. Showing he’s equally in touch with both recent and traditional technologies of communication, you see.


  2. Or else he was actually talking about “multiple channels for information” like he said he was. There are swaths of places across the globe where radio is an important means of communication. Just because it’s not transmitted in bits doesn’t mean it’s less important.

  3. I didn’t say anything about the relative importance of the channels he mentioned. Radio is certainly the most common form of mass communication in big swaths of the world. He should have mentioned cell phones as well, which in many places are more important than email or computers.

    It still doesn’t follow that email and radio and, er… pods… should be lumped together. By doing so Rumsfeld reveals a misunderstanding of media in general, and specifically the degree to which it can or should be manipulated. He has a heavy-handed, top-down mindset that is antithetical to the way modern communications work. Which was evidenced by the fiasco that was the Office of Strategic Influence. We spent millions of dollars to embarrass ourselves and reduce our strategic influence. It didn’t just fail, it set us back, and that failure justifies skepticism at this latest proposal. I don’t necessarily disagree with the goal, but Rumsfeld has proven that he’s not capable of meeting it.

    But mostly I was just making fun of the word “pods.” This is Wordie, not Foreign Affairs.

Comments are closed.