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Obama’s Al Gore Moment

Posted by cann0nba11 on July 19, 2012

There is lots of talk this week about President Obama’s bizarre comments about entrepreneurs and who gets credit for being successful. Here’s the quote if you missed it:

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

Reading it doesn’t do it true justice. For the full effect (and context) watch the video to hear the mindless out loud group-think going on as he said this.

Plenty has been written about the “you didn’t build that” comment, so much so that it has become the latest internet meme. But that’s not what I want to focus on today. The last two sentences of the above quote are being ignored, probably because the preceding content is so absurdly asinine.

“Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

What? That is not true at all. If it were true, the president would be against the internet because it enables companies to get greedy and make profit, right? But I digress.

Fact of the matter is that the Internet began as a military command and control systems research project. What most people think of as the internet is actually a byproduct of something created specifically for governmental use. (To be even more specific, what most people think of as the internet is actually the worldwide web. The internet is the network that people surf the web on.) The public internet was never the initial goal. It was started by the government for the government. During the 1960s the government enlisted the help of universities and corporations to play key parts in creating the hardware and software needed to make it work (the “roads and bridges” of the Internet).

As Obama so eagerly points out, business owners didn’t do their own work. They didn’t work those hours and lose sleep and stress out and bust their butts to achieve success. Credit goes to teachers and people that built bridges and roads, blah blah blah. Well, lets apply that same concept to the birth of the Internet. The Internet? You didn’t build that, Mr. President.

Let me be clear. The public was never part of the original internet plan. Here is a brief timeline to help clarify (for some great detail on the birth of the internet, give this a read):

  • 1958 – ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) was created in response to the Sputnik launch.
  • 1969 – ARPANET goes live in 1969 (about three months after we landed on the moon). This is considered the birth of the Internet.
  • 1970-ish – Just like in the movies, the Department of Defense steps in and takes over control of ARPANET, it becomes known as DARPA.
  • 1971 – First email application is written by Ray Tomlinson at BBN (a private corporation)
  • 1973 – DARPA shuts down because most of the traffic on the network is private and university related. The project is handed over to the National Science Foundation (NSF).
  • 1983 – NSF deploys NSFnet, the first TCP/IP network. It included five super-computing centers that greatly increased connectivity between universities (at a whopping 56Kpbs). According to the NSF’s charter, only government and organizations receiving government research funding were allowed to connect to the NSFnet.
  • 1984 – NSF contracts out the management of this network to Merit, a private company, that then upgrades the network to meet growing demand.
  • 1985 – NSFnet is allowed to communicate across commercial telecommunication networks.
  • 1989 – HTML, the markup language used to create web pages, is created by Tim Berners-Lee.
  • 1991 – Three companies – IBM, MCI and Merit – create a non-profit company to take over management of NFSnet. This same year Internet privatization initiatives are launched by Congress.
  • 1992 – The Information Infrastructure and Technology Act opens the Internet to commercial traffic.
  • 1993 – Mosaic, the first web browser, is released. The web is born.

To summarize, the Internet was created for military reasons, private companies developed the hardware and software needed to run it on, universities full of private citizens were tapped to help test and design this technology, and private companies repeatedly stepped in when the project grew beyond the capabilities of various government agencies. Yet the president said “Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

To be fair, yes, the government started the project. But it was as a reaction to Russia kicking our ass in the space race. (interesting how we have come full circle on that, huh?)  Only because of the private sector and private citizens did this project became the essential technology that we love and depend on today. Never in the development process was a government official saying, “come on guys, we need to get this thing running so that all the companies can make some money.”

So the president’s embarrassing quote is even more ridiculous than most people realize. The first part is so laughable that people don’t need to keep reading. Of course, nobody cares about the Internet part. But, I’m probably just being to picky, or racist, or divisive. No, I’m pointing out one of the hundreds of stupid things our president has said because the press is still drinking the kool-aid and ignoring gaffe after gaffe after gaffe. The media is busy trying to make up more stories about Mitt Romney’s wealth and following the president’s lead in stirring up class warfare imagery. Actual issues are off limits, as is any attempt of rational news reporting or investigative research. Why? Because Obama loses in a landslide if people actually do the homework and learn how awful this president has actually been, and that goes against the beliefs and desires of the vast majority of media members.

One last thing. The press is trying to tell America that Obama never said what he actually said. They are making up stories to make it look like conservatives are really the ones making this divisive stuff up. So let’s use this incident as a chance to clear up a similar situation that conservatives continue to erroneously bring up.

Al Gore has taken a lot of heat about his famous internet quote. While I’m not a fan of his global warming fetish and carbon credit scam, I do give him credit for his understanding and support of technology. To be clear, he never said “I invented the Internet.” His actual quote reads:

“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 and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.”

He is 100% correct about this, he just said it in an awkward manner. Gore played a major role in seeing that the Internet project DARPA was retained under the National Science Foundation instead of getting canceled. This led to the creation of NSFnet; NSFnet ultimately became the Internet we know and love today. Furthermore, Gore cosponsored the Information Infrastructure and Technology Act of 1992 which opened the Internet to commercial traffic. Without this, we would never have had the dot-com boom.

I’m not giving him credit for that thought. We all know Bill Clinton deserves those kudos.


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