pretty much everyone who runs for president, Sen. John McCain
said a lot of stupid stuff during his campaign.
McCain’s stupidest words, by far: “I am very pleased and very
privileged to introduce to you the next vice president of
the United States, Gov. Sarah Palin.”
In my opinion, those are the dumbest words uttered by a major-party
nominee since President Ford’s infamous 1976 gaffe, “There
is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never
will be under a Ford administration.”
Another McCain head-scratcher occurred when he told supporters
at a September 2008 campaign rally that “the fundamentals
of our economy are strong.” Never mind that the collapse of
financial markets had just sent the world economy into a death
I know I just ruined it by devoting 150 words to make fun
of him, but I actually bring up McCain this week to praise
him and acknowledge he was right about something very important.
One year ago, McCain denounced Russian military advances in
the Republic of Georgia by declaring: “We’re all Georgians
At the time, I considered it a gaffe. “We’re all Georgians
now?” I thought. “Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was
dumb enough to take on the Russian army, so now I have to
join the fight?” I don’t even like my home state Georgia enough
to defend it from Russian troops. I’m sure as hell not eager
to stick my neck out for the Republic of Georgia.
But McCain wasn’t really saying he wanted me to my grab my
guns and get ready to play Red Dawn 2: Suck My Caucasus.
Blinded by my dislike for his campaign tactics, and the fact
that one of his top policy advisers was a paid lobbyist for
the Republic of Georgia, I missed part of McCain’s meaning:
that far-off wars matter to us whether we like it or not.
The subtle correctness of McCain’s remark became apparent
on Aug. 6, 2009.
That’s when what appears to have been a cyber attack aimed
at a lone Georgian blogger crashed not only Twitter, but also
Facebook, leaving millions of Americans with no public forum
to wax poetic about the perfect egg-to-chorizo ratio in their
organic breakfast burritos, or to repeat that funny thing
Gary said in the elevator.
The targeted Georgian blogger’s online name is cyxymu. His
real name is Georgy Jakhaia. He’s a 34-year-old economics
professor living in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi. He is also
one of an estimated 22,000 refugees of the Russian-Georgian
war. Cyxymu is the Cyrillic alphabet spelling of Sukhumi,
a town in the disputed Georgian region of Abkhazia.
What did cyxymu say that allegedly spurred Russian hackers
to take down Twitter and Facebook?
Honestly, I’m not sure. His blogs mostly use the Cyrillic
alphabet, which I can’t read. He did tell The Times
of London, however, that he’s harshly critical of Russian
policies vis-à-vis Georgia and that he’d received many threats
from Russia in response to his comments.
In an attempt to shut him up, Russian hackers are believed
to have generated millions of spam messages designed to look
as if they were coming from cyxymu.
So many messages were generated in such a short period, however,
that Twitter and Facebook’s servers choked for several hours.
Does the inconvenience of a short Facebook/Twitter crash mean
that Americans are victims of war on par with the estimated
2,000 people who died in the actual fighting last year?
Of course not.
But it does demonstrate that our increasing reliance on electronic
communication networks makes the United States vulnerable
to attacks in ways we never before imagined. The military,
police, doctors, hospitals, ambulances, traffic signals, farmers,
and egg-and-chorizo breakfast burrito rollers rely on electronic
communication to do their jobs.
If Russians can knock out Facebook and Twitter by accident,
it makes you wonder what they could do on purpose.
We’re not all Georgians now. But we’re all cyxymu.
Nouraee is a columnist for Creative Loafing Atlanta,
where this piece first appeared.