Alaska editorial: 'Tubular Ted' and slips of the tongue

Posted: Tuesday, July 25, 2006

This editorial appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

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So, Sen. Ted Stevens says the Internet is "a series of tubes."

And, says the senator, these tubes get filled up with lots of stuff. And trying to shove all that stuff through those tubes real fast means that, on the other end, nothing is really going to come out very fast at all.

Sen. Stevens, speaking at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in late June, said he has proof of this, too. His staff sent "an Internet" that took a couple of days to arrive due to all that stuff being crammed into the tubes.

OK, maybe not the best of word uses here from the senator, but for these small slips the man who is one of the most senior and knowledgeable members of the United States Senate is a dolt?

Go figure.

Commentators and comedians make a living criticizing the speech of elected officials. That's just what they do. They make us laugh, and we love it. Sometimes they get a bit carried away in pursuit of laughter and ratings and Web site hits, but, in general, the zingers are OK as long as the audience can recognize the barbs as plain ol' good humor.

Things get a bit out of whack, however, when people take a misstep of speech and conclude that the person doing the speaking has an empty head on the topic. It's OK to point out when elected officials don't know what they are talking about. That's vital, but the claims need to be proved when the aim goes beyond simple comic performance.

So, what proof do the people yukking it up over Sen. Stevens' semi-clumsy word choices have that the senator is, in the words of one quite popular blogger, nothing more than an "unfrozen caveman senator"?

Not much. Just a couple of bungled references.

Anyway, how can "tube" be such a problem when "pipe" appears pretty often in Internet talk? Alaska Communications System had an Internet service it called the "DSL Pipe." In fact, "DSL Pipe" is a fairly common name around the country for some Internet services.

How much difference can there be between a pipe and a tube, really? Aren't they both sort of round on the outside and hollow on the inside?

Maybe someone can send us an Internet to let us know.

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