The U.S. Capitol building in Washington, DC. (photo: EPA)
25 October 13
n an impressive white-knuckle performance on live television today, members of Congress spent several hours in a hearing room pretending to understand the Internet.
Beginning this morning, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee devoted four hours to grilling Web-site contractors about site architecture, Web traffic, software, and other I.T. concepts about which their ignorance is nearly complete.
"As members of this committee, we are supposed to have a deep understanding of the technology involved in the health-care Web site," said Chairman Fred Upton (R-Michigan). "So it was absolutely imperative for us to fake that we do."
For the duration of the hearings, the Web contractors offered detailed testimony about "end-to-end testing," "enterprise identity management," and other technical concepts to a group of elected officials who can barely use e-mail.
"I would say that, to a man, we did not understand ninety-nine per cent of that computer nonsense they were going on about," Chairman Upton said. "To me it was a whole lot of blahbitty-blahbitty-blah. I hope it wasn't too obvious."
Rep. Upton said that "looking serious and nodding our heads a lot" contributed to the illusion that committee members had even scant comprehension of what was being discussed.
"At the end of the day, a lot of it came down to not asking the questions you really wanted to ask," he said. "Like, ‘What exactly is a Web site?'"