Monday, October 15, 2007

Al Gore never said he invented the Internet

Thomas Fleming, president of the paleonconservative think tank The Rockford Institute, was on local radio this morning disdainfully spreading the durable myth that Al Gore claims to have invented the Internet.

In the past few days, we've been hearing a lot of that nonsense from the global warming deniers who are upset at Gore having won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The reality is that Gore never made any such claim about the Internet.

In an interview on CNN in 1999, Gore, who was then the sitting vice president and a candidate to succeed Bill Clinton in the White House, said this by way of reviewing his record:

“During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth, environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.”

Notice that Gore took credit for leadership in Congress in creating the Internet. He never said he "invented" the Internet. Was his claim to such leadership legitimate? Well, here's what Republican Newt Ginrich said about that:

"(I)n all fairness, Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet, and the truth is—and I worked with him starting in 1978 when I got [to Congress], we were both part of a 'futures group'—the fact is, in the Clinton administration, the world we had talked about in the ’80s began to actually happen."

Way back in 1988, The Guardian, a British paper, reported this:

"American computing scientists are campaigning for the creation of a 'superhighway' which would revolutionise data transmission. Legislation has already been laid before Congress by Senator Albert Gore of Tennessee, calling for government funds to help establish the new network, which scientists say they can have working within five years, at a cost of Dollars 400 million."

Years later, when Gore was vice president, computer scientist Vinton Cerf, widely known as the Father of the Internet, had this to say:

“I think it is very fair to say that the Internet would not be where it is in the United States without the strong support given to it and related research areas by the vice president."

History shows that Gore's claim to leadership in congressional action regarding the Internet was ignored by the media and not distorted into a claim that he invented the Net until the Republican Party cooked up that falsehood a few days later.

A useful chronology of the controversy can he found here (you have to scroll down a little to get to the good part).

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