494: Secretary: Part 1

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Secretary: Part 1
The blueprints for the Department of the Internet offices call for Ceiling Cat-themed sprinkler heads.
Title text: The blueprints for the Department of the Internet offices call for Ceiling Cat-themed sprinkler heads.


The President of the United States is the chief executive of the United States of America.[citation needed] Since this comic was released in October 2008 and the presidential election was in November, it was then unknown which of the candidates would become president by the time the comic was set (Spring 2009). This is why the president in the comic is out-of-panel and therefore not revealed to us. As it would turn out, the president inaugurated in January 2009 was Barack Obama, who has gone on to demonstrate a tactical use of the Internet (including the more frivolous aspects of it) for public relations purposes. The suppositional president in the comic is less savvy.

This series was released on five consecutive days (Monday to Friday) and not over the usual schedule of three comics a week. It may be a continuation of the comic 493: Actuarial, in which Black Hat demonstrates great power over even Internet trolls via his sociopathic ways. This would explain why Black Hat was nominated as Internet secretary. These are all the comics in Secretary series:

The tubes being clogged is a reference to the, now deceased, Alaska Senator Ted Stevens who, during a congressional debate on net neutrality, described the Internet as a series of tubes (be sure to listen to the audio clips in that Wikipedia page, and you'll see why he became a big hit with the Internet). Ted Stevens also gained notoriety for backing a proposal to build a bridge to nowhere using federal funds. The question "What are they a-Twitter about now?" refers to the website Twitter, which is a microblogging and social networking site.

Cats are notorious for being hard to herd, thus the idiom "herding cats," meaning an extremely difficult task that can very quickly get away from anyone undertaking it. Lolcats are pictures of cats, usually in humorous poses, that have insipid captions on them. The conflation of lolcats and the herding idiom escaped the president (who is presumably somebody not familiar with the former term). The title text refers to Ceiling Cat, a lolcat parody of God. As with cats, Bloggers are an ideologically diverse bunch, and they are hard to get to go in a single direction. The proposed "Secretary of the Internet" would likely be a new position on the President's Cabinet, which currently consists of the heads of 15 executive departments and are, with the one exception of the Attorney General (who heads the Department of Justice), titled "Secretary of Department."


Spring 2009— The new president faces a crisis...
[Cueball is talking to an unseen Mr. President, who is sitting behind a desk.]
Cueball: Mr. President, the bloggers are restless.
Mr. President: What are they a-twitter about now?
Cueball: It's the tubes sir. They're clogged. We put too much stuff on them.
Mr. President: How bad is it?
Cueball: The internet could be inoperative within days.
Cueball: We can't let a crucial resource go unshepherded.
Mr. President: Go on.
Cueball: I recommend you appoint a Secretary of the internet. Someone to impose some orders on this mess.
Mr. President: Ordering bloggers around? Doesn't sound easy.
Cueball: No; it's like herding lolcats.
Mr. President: What?
Cueball: Nothing.
Mr. President: Do you have someone in mind for the post?
Cueball: I know just the guy.
Phone: Ring
[Black Hat looks away from his computer at the ringing phone.]

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Having black hat as the secretary of the internet is humorous in how bad of an idea it is. Beanie (talk) 14:13, 26 March 2021 (UTC)

He may be able to have power over trolls and suchlike, but otherwise a bad idea. Beanie (talk) 14:14, 26 March 2021 (UTC)