Al Gore. He invented the Internet. You know he did.



4 responses to “Al Gore. He invented the Internet. You know he did.”

  1. I made the drawing on the left a few months ago. The WIRED cover is this month’s issue (May 2006).

    The origin of the “Al Gore said he invented the Internet!” story is murky, but basically it goes like this: Al Gore said, in a 1999 interview, “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.” Probably not the best choice of words, but he was absolutely correct to present himself as the government’s leading advocate and supporter of information technology innovation in the late 70s, the 80s, and the 90s. While the Internet itself obviously existed before Gore ever held office, it was no more wrong of Gore to claim that he “took the initiative in creating the Internet” than it would be, for example, to say that JFK “took the initiative in putting a man on the moon.”

    After this interview, WIRED magazine published an article ostensibly critiquing Gore’s assertion. From a geeky accuracy perspective, of course, Gore’s statement is pretty silly — though Internet founding fathers the likes of Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf pretty much gave Gore the credit he claimed (writing “Al Gore was the first political leader to recognize the importance of the Internet and to promote and support its development.”). Nonetheless, some Republican liar (Dick Armey, apparently) soon morphed “created” into “invented”, and the smear caught fire. Soon, even legitimate journalists accepted and repeated this spoon-fed GOP lie as truth, and we all know where this eventually led.

    (for a full debunking of this story, check here and here)

    The Huffington Post’s Eric Boehlert calls for an apology from WIRED. At the time, WIRED may have simply thought it was being clever. At the time they even seemed to think — get this — that the Clinton Administration, and Gore especially, had a terrible track record on electronic privacy issues. They suggested that perhaps a Bush Administration might even be better for technology and privacy issues than the Clinton Administration. Can you beleive that? The mind boggles at how much people projected their own ideas on the blank slate of George W. Bush, imagining him to be some kind of civil libertarian or fiscal conservative. Boy were they wrong; deeply, profoundly, and tragically wrong. It is with great sadness that I compare the technological and economic innovations that occurred in the USA between 1993 and 2000 with those that have occurred so far under Bush, and I wonder how much more might have happened under more competent leadership.

    This month’s WIRED’s cover story opens with “He invented the Internet (sort of)”, which is a step in the right direction. And recently WIRED’s online affiliate HotWIRED ran about as much of an apology as we can expect from them (dodging the issue by saying “the author and editors of the articles in question left Wired News long ago, taking their political opinions with them.”, which is a tacit admission that the original article had a political intent.)

    I was not crazy at all about John Kerry (I knew he was shallow and overcautious even before the primary), but he would have been a profound improvement on Bush, in particular in waging this mistake-ridden war. But Al Gore’s activities and speeches during the six years since the 2000 election, from his graceful exit from the recount fight, to his 2004 un-endorsement of his former running mate, the foolishly hawkish Joe Lieberman, to his repeated excoriations of the President’s war and national security policies, to his ongoing climate awareness battles — culminating in his upcoming movie on global warming — have only further reinforced my conviction that he’s still, even now, the best President America could have.

  2. you never realize how much that statement / spin affected gore’s political capital, until you think about your own reaction to the line.

    i heard it when i was at tripod in ’99 (while i was still a registered dem) and bought the spin hook, line and sinker. i remember being in the tech department, laughing with developers over the ridiculous claim this life-long politician made…

    i still voted for him in 2000, but thanks to the spin, i didn’t realize *just how forward-thinking* gore actually was until the last few years…

    media does matter.

  3. Sean: Your reaction is precisely why this story is so tragic. Lots of left-leaning tech people really took offense at the purported claim, and it added a lot of fuel to Gore’s admittedly-somewhat-deserved reputation for exaggeration. Still, as they say, it’s not bragging if it’s true.

    And exaggeration works both ways. It has recently come out that, in fact, George W. Bush does not speak “fluent” Spanish at all, something that every journalist also simply accepted at face value.

  4. george bush doesn’t speak fluent english at all… how the heck could he consistently conjugate verbs in a foreign language?

    as for gore, i’d rather see him keep building things like than become handcuffed and frustrated in office… though i really can’t think of a better candidate for president.