Disinformation about Disinformation: L. Gordon Crovitz's Information Age

When one spouts disinformation about disinformation, does it make it information? No, it's L. Gordon Crovitz's "Information Age," the weekly poorly informed and poorly reasoned blather about information policy in the Wall Street Journal.

Recall that Crovitz recently wrote about the invention of the Internet and online privacy. I wrote about these last two columns, and this week in the Journal Crovitz tries to backpedal, with the standard trope that his "Who Really Invented the Internet?" article was controversial—"It [became] for a time the most read, emailed and commented upon article on the Journal's website, with more than 1,000 comments." It was popular in the same way that reality stars enjoy popularity.

Crovitz tries to explain that he was reacting to President Obama's recent speech about government and business. Crovitz responds that:

• Government alone didn't create the Internet.

• Government didn't help build the Internet in order to create commercial opportunities.

• Companies that succeed on the Internet do not succeed because of government.

Of course, this is not what Crovitz said last week. He said:

If the government didn't invent the Internet, who did? Vinton Cerf developed the TCP/IP protocol, the Internet's backbone, and Tim Berners-Lee gets credit for hyperlinks.

But full credit goes to the company where Mr. Taylor worked after leaving ARPA: Xerox.

Full credit. Not shared credit.

To Crovitz's second point, government builds a lot of things that have secondary uses in the commercial market. The many inventions of NASA, for instance, were first developed to execute space travel, and these technologies find their way into the commercial sector.

To Crovitz's third point, companies do succeed on the Internet because of government. There is plenty of interaction and cooperation between high tech companies and government, and that is why high tech companies are not libertarian. If high tech companies were severed from the government gravy train, innovation would suffer. We'd have fewer drones and other wonderful technologies.

More fundamentally, so many internet entrepreneurs came from America's college and university system, where big government funding helps develop leaders like Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Steve Wozniak and others.

This tech libertarian "I am an island" meme is fully debunked by Paulina Borsook's Cyberselfish. In that book, Borsook lampoons arguments of Crovitz's sort: "The most virulent form of philosophical technolibertarianism is a kind of scary, psychologically brittle, prepolitical autism. It bespeaks a lack of human connection and a discomfort with the core of what many of us consider it means to be human. It's an inability to reconcile the demands of being individual with the demands of participating in society, which coincides beautifully with a preference for, and glorification of, being the solo commander of one's computer in lieu of any other economically viable behavior…"

But back to Crovitz:

Supporters of big government don't want to hear about the private-sector contributions to the Internet…

What is Crovitz's basis for this crazy talk? This is an unhinged straw man argument. Any sensible person recognizes that private-sector contributions are critical to all sorts of ventures.

…but today the Internet is defined by individuals using it for their own purposes—communicating, accessing social media—and critiquing opinion columns. Many innovations are via free, open-source software. Perhaps we can all at least agree that the Internet boom began in the mid-1990s when the government shut down its remaining role, leaving the Internet to the power of the people.

The government never shut down its role in the internet. Has this guy ever heard of the Department of Commerce and ICANN? Or the NSF?

How did this guy get this column and is there no one at the Journal that recognizes it for what it is, or is this a case of crank magnetism?


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Dude, it's the Wall Street Journal. He got his column because that's exactly the sort of bullshit they specialise in.

There are few creatures more hypocritical than the cyber-libertarian, who uses the military-created, government-run Internet to cry and howl about the evils of government spending and government meddling in business. I guess this sort of bullcrap should be expected, since it's the only way the libertards can hide from their most basic hypocricy.

Supporters of big government don’t want to hear about the private-sector contributions to the Internet…

And haters of any kind of government don't want to be reminded that the private sector didn't do shit unless, and until, they got that big push from public need, public interest, public mandate and public money.

IF you want to take credit for inventing something, then you'd better give credit to whoever else suggested the idea and/or provided any fraction of the resources that made the invention possible.

And if you don't want to live in a place where gummint gets any credit for anything, move to Somalia.

By Raging Bee (not verified) on 01 Aug 2012 #permalink

One thing:

The most virulent form of philosophical technolibertarianism is a kind of scary, psychologically brittle, prepolitical autism. It bespeaks a lack of human connection and a discomfort with the core of what many of us consider it means to be human.

I appreciate her point, but I have Asperger's Syndrome and comments like this dehumanise Autistics.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 01 Aug 2012 #permalink