Saturday, March 3, 2007

Blogpost #5 Gore and the Internet

Al Gore invented the Internet?

On March 9, 1999, in an interview with Wolf Blitzer of CNN, Al Gore said, "I took the initiative in creating the Internet." The news media took Gore's statement out of context creating an atmosphere where it became politically incorrect to mention the Internet in a public debate or campaign.

Two days after Gore's comment, Declan McCullagh wrote that the Vice President was taking credit for the Internet in his article on Wired News. Later, McCullagh called House Majority Leader, Texas Republican, Dick Armey and got this response,"If the Vice President created the Internet then I created the Interstate highway system." Then Michelle Mittelstadt wrote a story which appeared on the AP wire. It's title read,“Republicans pounce on Gore’s claim that he created the Internet.” In the article she said that Gore claimed to be "father of the Internet." Mittelstadt was guilty of "tendentious paraphrase" , changing the wording of a quote to make it more sensational. Shortly thereafter, Jay Leno added one liners about Gore inventing the Internet to his Tonight Show monologues. David Letterman also joked about Gore in June and December of 1999, with his Top Ten lists. Thus comedians, the news media and political adversaries began a two year campaign of ridicule which ultimately may have effected the outcome of the 2000 Presidential election.

Seth Finkelstein has compiled a chronology of articles which traces the written origins of the Gore/Internet story as well as those which debunk it. Of particular interest is the article by Richard Wiggins in First Monday. Wiggins thinks, "the cumulative effect of all the Gore Internet jokes is a diminution of the quality of real debate," over Internet issues. He feels that, "too many voters are satisfied with sound bite character assessment-and sound bite assassination." Many sources cited by both Finkelstein and Wiggins attest to the very real contributions Gore has made to the development of the Internet through his political activities.

Scott Rosenberg writes,"the next time you hear an "Al Gore, Internet inventor" joke, think about the strange twisted path a politician's words can take in other people's hands -- and be glad we can use the Internet to try to straighten it out."


Brian said...

Great post. This is the kind of thing I love seeing librarians do -- give a sense of the real deal by giving sources and tracing a path! Thanks :)

childlib1 said...

I really enjoyed reading your blog about Al Gore and the Internet. One of my pet peeves is the "sound bite." Anyone can get such wrong ideas when all you hear is a snipet of what was said. I appreciate the backstory on this one.