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Roger L. Simon

Al Gore’s Digital Utopia

March 11th, 2013 - 12:16 am

Al Gore was apparently the hot ticket at SXSW (South by Southwest) over the weekend, attendees “turned away in hordes” for his discussion with AllThingsD editor Walter Mossberg, according to TechHive.

The website’s report on the colloquy concludes with a portentous statement from the former veep, which is getting a fair amount of play: “We need to move everything to the Internet as quickly as we possibly can. If we do that, the future will belong to a well-informed citizenry.”

Let’s leave aside for a moment all our preconceptions about Gore and examine this Internet millennialism.  Of all people, as co-founder of PJ Media and a relatively early adopter blogger (2003), I should applaud this optimistic view of our digital future.

And yet I have qualms.  To begin with, the sentence about moving “everything to the Internet as quickly as we possibly can” seems bizarre.  Isn’t just about everything already there?  Or have I missed something? Within months, it seems, we’re all going to be walking around with the Internet in our eyeglasses.  There will be no escape.

But whatever the case, the nub of Gore’s argument is in his second sentence: “If we do that, the future will belong to a well-informed citizenry.”

This is something I fervently believed in the early part of this century.  Now I am not so sure.

Indeed it’s true that the access to information is exponentially greater, but the selectivity and bias with which we inform ourselves, at least on political matters, which I suspect is what Gore had in mind, has probably increased. A strong argument could be made that the Internet is further dividing an already divided country.  We have been digitally Balkanized. Or, more precisely, we digitally Balkanize ourselves.

I’m certainly guilty of it. I will sneak a peek at the other side, but I won’t stay long.  (I might get a headache.)  While there are exceptions, my Twitter feed is made up mainly of libertarians and conservatives (and a few sports stars I enjoy following).  The same is true of my Facebook friend list.

I talk and write frequently about the dangers of preaching to the choir, but I am one of the preachers and one of the choir, not as much of a hypocrite as Al Gore perhaps, but a hypocrite nonetheless.

So this is clearly a complicated matter.  Many new sources of information have indeed opened up because of the Internet, a huge number, and many of them I am particularly grateful for.  But the opportunities for propaganda and disinformation have grown significantly as well, possibly equally.

Simultaneously the mind’s ability to concentrate may have been negatively impacted.  Gore’s utopian “informed citizenry” is actually approaching a citizenry of A.D.D., reaching for their mice and remote at the slightest flicker of boredom.  The consequence of this is an inability to reason through things.  Everything just moves too quickly.  Deep thought is boring or too time consuming.

I am exaggerating here, of course.  The Internet is a fabulous thing and we all love it.  We can’t live without it.  Most of us are “always on,” as the saying goes. And I’m not a Luddite and not about to become one. If I’m not the first person on my block with the Google Glasses perched on my nose or an iWatch on my wrist, I’ll be among the first. I’m hooked.

But when it comes to an “informed citizenry,” caveat emptor. The Internet is a weapon that can cut many ways. It can be an instrument of totalitarianism as much as anything else. The major role of intelligence agencies, Ion Pacepa has told us and he should know, is disinformation, not espionage. If there ever was a case of “Trust But Verify,” the Internet is it.

Gore’s words (I will resist saying “as usual”) are to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.  But let’s not jump all over the guy.  We can’t blame him for hyping his invention.

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Top Rated Comments   
Without the Internet, I would not have been able to see some of the highlights of Bobby Jindal's Gridiron speech, however.


"This of course is the night for the Washington press corps and the President to kick back, share a few laughs, not take things seriously and just generally enjoy each other’s company.

Kind of like the President’s interview on 60 Minutes.

The Gridiron Dinner used to be known as the night the media and the administration set aside their differences — back in the days when they had some.

Great to see the new Senator from Massachusetts – Elizabeth Warren. My staff tells me we’ve got a lot in common.

Well from one Indian politician to another, I want to wish you all the best in your new job.

I see Eric Holder is with us tonight. I actually heard a rumor that due to sequestration, the attorney general can only afford to ship a couple hundred illegal guns across the border this year.

I saw a bumper sticker on the way over here that said, “Honk if you’ve been released by Janet Napolitano.”

I understand that to save money – the President’s Secret Service detail is being replaced by Joe Biden with a shotgun.


You know, a lot of people warned me that if I voted for Mitt Romney, a Wall Street robber baron who hid his money in secretive Grand Cayman bank accounts would end up running the U.S. Treasury.

I see Jack Lew is here tonight. Good thing that job went to you instead, Jack."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Al Dore said: “We need to move everything to the Internet as quickly as we possibly can. If we do that, the future will belong to a well-informed citizenry.”

Some information is better in searchable, hyper-linked HTML format. Contrast trying to follow federal regulations in text on paper vs. the same information rewritten in HTML. This aspect of the internet makes it much easier to dig for more information, but few people make the effort. Simply doing a Google search before forwarding a message helps avoid the embarrassment of spreading false information, but lots of blindly repeat what they hear without even seconds worth of checking.

My girlfriend knows all things Kardashian, but lacks all but a basic understanding of civics. She has a masters in Computer Science and is generally smart, but she's completely uninterested in politics and public policy. She has vague positive feelings for Obama the celebrity, but doesn't put much thought into what a President should do in his day job. Our votes count the same.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You say that the internet may effect the mind's ability to concentrate. I agree. There was a time, not so long ago, when I could read a book in a couple of sittings. No more. I can not concentrate that long on anything. Maybe it is the fact that I am getting older, but I do not think so. I think that I have lost my ability to remain focused because I am used to getting a lot of information in a short span of time. I have also began to wonder just how much of that information is false. The internet has become one big beauty parlor of gossiping old ladies. Sad but true.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (44)
All Comments   (44)
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Who in the Bloody Hubs of Hell listens to anything AlGore The Putz, has to say?
What,... the noobs at SXSW in Austin,... Ann Arbor with lots more heat, sand and a slogan ?? {"Keep Austin Weird"}
The ninny has been shown deficient more times than anyone has the time or caring ability to tally, but yet he just keeps it up in yet another venue , blathering on for yet more of those just like him. [or pale, even-less intelligent replicants, as the case may be]
There's a lesson here , close to the surface , and you're sure to see it if you got a little minute.........
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sure! Let's move everything to the web and make it all hostage to EMP.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is a bizarre thing to say, but my boss is the one who introduced me to the internet some 10 years ago. I'm a government contractor and the job I had was definately a feast or famine job. I was DYING for something to do until the next feast and he showed me the ropes. I've been hooked ever since.

The biggest thing I can say about peering into the ether-world is that I discovered I wasn't alone in how I thought or believed. I had felt VERY isolated before that with what I was seeing around me and nobody being allowed to talk about it out loud.

This thing that I felt is also the biggest problem with the internet. Perverts/child molesters also found this outlet. Where once they felt shame and were inhibited in their behaviour they found like minded people who NORMALIZED it for them and many acted upon their impulses when shame would have halted their actions.

That being said, I've noticed how people all stare at their phones and can't put them down. I've been slowly backing away from the technology since.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
“We need to move everything to the Internet as quickly as we possibly can. If we do that, the future will belong to a well-informed citizenry.”

I have the same fear as you when reading his sentence- a future of dis-informed fully indoctrinated utopian Obots.

"All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and re-inscribed exactly as often as was necessary."
George Orwell; Nineteen Eighty-Four; 1949.


1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Perhaps old Al G. should be careful what he wishes for considering there are reports that Joe Biden's SSN and Credit Reports have been hacked and are available for viewing on-line as well as the former Secretary of State Ms Clinton along with other so called A-List celebrities. (I'll not give the link but it's quite searchable now)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
convenient means to re-write history. I know of several instances its been done, and given the rate of change in technology for archival storage, and backward compatibility issues, it's pretty darn foolish to not have a traditional paper archive (maybe it should be hemp, it has a longer shelf life.)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
my Twitter feed is made up mainly of libertarians and conservatives (and a few sports stars I enjoy following). The same is true of my Facebook friend list.

Not true here. I'm active in music, and most of my Facebook friends are far left - strikingly more so than in their everyday conversation. Perhaps even more so than in their daily deeds and activities. They exceed the mainstream media in their extreme comment positions, and from my own observations of their words vs their deeds, I'd conclude that they're testifying or signifying, much as 'holier than thou' sorts do in church meetings, as a competitive exercise. So what benefit do they think they're accruing, with this 'extremer than thou' talk? Something tangible for the future like a Commissar appointment, or just cheering each other on as members of a lynch-mob-to-be would do in front of the jailhouse? The comments do not at all resemble statements of folks who take responsibility for the government of all of us, despite that their preferred party now owns the White House and Senate.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Without the Internet, I would not have been able to see some of the highlights of Bobby Jindal's Gridiron speech, however.


"This of course is the night for the Washington press corps and the President to kick back, share a few laughs, not take things seriously and just generally enjoy each other’s company.

Kind of like the President’s interview on 60 Minutes.

The Gridiron Dinner used to be known as the night the media and the administration set aside their differences — back in the days when they had some.

Great to see the new Senator from Massachusetts – Elizabeth Warren. My staff tells me we’ve got a lot in common.

Well from one Indian politician to another, I want to wish you all the best in your new job.

I see Eric Holder is with us tonight. I actually heard a rumor that due to sequestration, the attorney general can only afford to ship a couple hundred illegal guns across the border this year.

I saw a bumper sticker on the way over here that said, “Honk if you’ve been released by Janet Napolitano.”

I understand that to save money – the President’s Secret Service detail is being replaced by Joe Biden with a shotgun.


You know, a lot of people warned me that if I voted for Mitt Romney, a Wall Street robber baron who hid his money in secretive Grand Cayman bank accounts would end up running the U.S. Treasury.

I see Jack Lew is here tonight. Good thing that job went to you instead, Jack."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Why no say "as usual"? The Goreacle is a serial liar, may as well say so.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think it was Joseph Epstein who called the internet the vanity press of the demented. Worth a thought!!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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