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[ NNSquad ] The Right-Wing's "Big Lie" Attacks Against the Internet

          The Right-Wing's "Big Lie" Attacks Against the Internet


I don't usually discuss partisan issues per se in this blog.  While I
am much more likely to address political matters in other discussion
venues, I've generally avoided them here.

However, given the right-wing's new, incredibly dishonest and
fraudulent attack on the Internet, I no longer have the luxury of
keeping politics in a separate compartment in this case.  While both
main political parties indeed have dirt on their hands when it comes
to the election process, the GOP and its sycophants have driven events
to an anti-science, anti-reality new low.

I'm not an expert on their other areas of lies such as climate change
denials. I'll leave addressing those to professionals in the relevant

But if there's one thing I do know, it's the Internet and its history,
because that's where I've spent my life from the Net's very early days

The immediate issue began July 13th, when President Obama gave
a speech in which he correctly noted that we are all dependent on
shared resources and infrastructures, much of which is related to
government activities ( http://j.mp/Onkr2k [MSNBC] ).

Our interstate and most of our other road systems were massive
government projects that likely could never have been accomplished any
other way.  Obama noted this.  In the vast majority of cases your own
business didn't actually construct the road you use to drive in and
out -- you're using shared resources that are part of government
services.  Yes, we all contribute taxes toward this, but the point is
that these are community resources which normally wouldn't exist
without government involvement.

Obama also noted in that speech, again utterly correctly, that
government research created the Internet.  Yep.  That's true.  That's
history I know firsthand from back in my days at UCLA, at ARPANET (the
direct ancestor of the Internet) site number one.

Mitt Romney's attack machine saw Obama's speech as yet another
opportunity to deploy their particular brand of repeatedly twisting
words and dishonestly editing videos.  And the rest of the right-wing
propaganda machine (and if you don't believe these are all coordinated
with the Romney camp, there's a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell
you) jumped on the bandwagon.

Their attacks -- the current Romney "We Did Build This" campaign -- is
proceeding along several vectors.  First, they used third-grade
sensibilities to try interpret Obama's words to have been saying that
businesses did not build themselves -- when anyone with a modicum of
intelligence could clearly hear, with Obama's remarks in context, that
he was referring to the shared infrastructure resources of roads,
bridges, and so on.

For that matter, only someone who believed that Obama was a communist
(or is it fascist?) Kenyan national -- with a secret plot for an
Illuminati takeover -- would assume Obama didn't believe private
businesses didn't build themselves.  Of course they did.  Obama did
not say they didn't.  All he did say was that, in essence, no business
is an island -- we all depend on community, shared resources and

At one point in this saga recently, the Romney campaign started
trotting out small businessmen to loudly proclaim that they built
their own businesses.

This became embarrassing to Romney when one of the most visible of his
examples turned out to have benefited from well over a million dollars
of government contracts and loans ( http://j.mp/OnkDPp [Think Progress] ).

Since the "twisted words" approach didn't seem to be paying off as
well as the Romney team had hoped, they switched gears over the last
few days, and are now attacking "the context" of Obama's speech, with
Romney saying it is "foreign to the American experience."  No kissing
up to the "birthers" there, eh?

This attack on the reality that government has been a critical driving
force that has caused private industry to flourish, is pretty much
what I'd expect from a man who built his fortune not by creating
wonderful things, but by tearing down companies and stashing his
fortunes in complex investments and offshore tax havens.  Small wonder
he's so dogmatic about not letting us see the details, the expected
financial transparency of presidential candidates (including his own
father) notwithstanding.

To further the "government is the root of all evils" attack meme,
Romney and the rest of the right-wing decided it was time to do some
"revisionist" work on the history of the Internet, in the guise of
Gordon Crovitz's ludicrously biased and inaccurate "Who Really
Invented the Internet?" column in the "Wall Street Journal." 
(I refuse to give them a link to this -- it's easy enough to find.)

Virtually everybody who was involved in the Net's genesis fired back
that Crovitz was either crazy lying and/or crazy confused about this
(I assume politically-motivated both).

Articles immediately appeared in "Slate" ( http://j.mp/OnkZ8B ),
"Wired" ( http://j.mp/Onl4Jk ), "Scientific American" 
( http://j.mp/NQtACW ), and on and on, calling out Crovitz for his

This triggered a defensive reaction from forgettable minds like FOX's
John Stossel (once a respected consumer reporter, before he joined the
dark side), who spouted even more inanities, including the false claim
that only when ARPANET was declassified was it able to bloom.  Problem
there John -- ARPANET was not a classified network.  Oops!

The reality of course is that government, specifically the Defense
Department's Information Processing Techniques Office of the (Defense)
Advanced Research Projects Agency, most certainly did create the
Internet.  The key work was done under ARPA contracts with ARPA

That money went to research firms, universities, and a wide array of
other entities who spent many years building the foundation for what
is now the global Internet of today.

Without ARPA's involvement, this would never have happened.

At the time, the big telecom companies like AT&T wanted nothing to do
with this project.  They not only declined to participate, but they
literally laughed at the very concept of an "end to end" packet
switched network that could provide the kind of open platform that has
allowed the Internet to so grandly evolve.  AT&T and the like had
their own proprietary, monopoly era ideas, and while they didn't
exactly stand in our way, they certainly didn't try to cooperate
either -- and back then they were pretty much the only telecom game in

Without the government's involvement, you would not be reading these
words, at least in the way you are today.  There would almost
certainly be some sort of other data networks, but most likely very
much in the vein of the old monopolistic, tightly-controlled telephone
model, with highly restricted options and per-message charges to 
match -- with something like a "Bell System Property - Not For Sale"
engraving on every device.

Given that the actual history of the Internet is quite clear, why
would Mitt Romney's minions attempt to distort the truth in this area
so badly?

Simply because this has become part and parcel of GOP standard
operating procedure.  Today's GOP has become so anti-science and
anti-truth that they make their once 1960's standard-bearer, Senator
Barry Goldwater -- chastised as an ultra-conservative at the time --
look like a veritable liberal today by comparison.

We can stipulate that Mitt Romney and the GOP are faced with a serious
demographic problem.  Their core constituencies are diminishing in
numbers rapidly, forcing them to appeal to their ever more hard-core
(and frequently wacky) rightmost edge.

If the GOP and Mitt Romney have a lucid case to make that their
policies -- despite contemporary evidence -- would be better for this
country and all of us (including people without health insurance or
offshore bank accounts), then one would hope they could make their
argument without resorting to the tactics of tyrants such as dishonest
editing and falsified histories.

Because at least when it comes to the history of the Internet, we know
you are outright liars.

Lauren Weinstein (lauren@vortex.com): http://www.vortex.com/lauren 
Co-Founder: People For Internet Responsibility: http://www.pfir.org/pfir-info
 - Network Neutrality Squad: http://www.nnsquad.org 
 - PRIVACY Forum: http://www.vortex.com/privacy-info
 - Data Wisdom Explorers League: http://www.dwel.org
 - Global Coalition for Transparent Internet Performance: http://www.gctip.org
Member: ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren's Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com
Google+: http://vortex.com/g+lauren / Twitter: http://vortex.com/t-lauren 
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800 / Skype: vortex.com
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