Dover Bitch

Friday, June 15, 2007

Gore on the Internet

Last year, DB had the pleasure of going to hear a speech delivered by former president Bill Clinton. While I gave the speech high marks overall, I was very disappointed with one aspect:

He spent most of his time discussing the Internet in terms of its other benefit: the ability to raise money. He mentioned the huge amounts raised on the Net by both Republicans and Democrats in 2004. He talked about the money raised for both the tsunami relief and Katrina.

All true, but Clinton came up terribly short here, and in the same manner as all the D.C. Democrats. Essentially, his only examples of Americans using the Internet to have a positive impact on the world involved a citizen typing in a credit card number or handing over $50.

No mention of the effect of the netroots. No mention of the unique opportunity for the public to use the Net to hold the government accountable. No mention of the Net as an incubator for thoughts and movements.

While I was away this past week, I read Al Gore's Assault on Reason. It is an outstanding book. Anybody who reads blogs regularly will already be aware of much of the book's examples from recent history. But Gore puts our recent decline in collective thought as a nation into a much-needed context.

One of the things that stood out to me was this refreshing conclusion:

In fact, the Internet is perhaps the greatest source of hope for reestablishing an open communications environment in which the conversation of democracy can flourish. It has extremely low entry barriers for individuals. The ideas that individuals contribute are dealt with, in the main, according to the rules of a meritocracy of ideas. It is the most interactive medium in history and the one with the greatest potential for connecting individuals to one another and to a universe of knowledge.

An important distinction to make is that the Internet is not just another platform for disseminating the truth. It's a platform for pursuing the truth, and the decentralized creation and distribution of ideas, in the same way that markets are a decentralized mechanism for the creation and distribution of goods and services. It's a platform, in other words, for reason.

Al Gore gets it. He always has.

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