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Rah! Rah! The Internet!

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I have come here to praise the internet!

In the course of a little exchange of pleasantries with MacDiva, I argued that
the internet has lead to a wider public discourse; that a greater variety of
opinions is voiced and is available on the internet than was ever dreamed
possible in the world of broadcast media and newspapers.

I argued that the internet is the product of something approaching true laissez faire capitalism. It is devoid of the sort of restrictions that the FCC places on speech and on bandwidth in broadcast media. Anyone with the wherewithal can blog for free. A home PC isn’t even necessary. One can go to the public library and use PCs and the net for free.

MacDiva was incensed and the gauntlet was thrown. The poor and so-called
working classes are not represented on the net, she claimed. I was challenged
to show that the internet has lead to more voices.

For the tiniest moment, I sat back. The sheer force of that MD vitriol can
bring rise to self-question. Is it possible that I am all wrong on this one? I
accept that the burden of proof is on me. It is not possible to demonstrate
that something does not exist, after all, but it is imminently possible to
prove existence.

So, here goes!

Is there any greater downtrodden class of people than the homeless? I’m not
sure. Yet, the homeless blog. Observe the results of one minute with a Google

The Homeless Guy Blog is written by a homeless man in Nashville, Tennessee.

Norsehorse’s Home Turf Blog is written by a homeless Vermont man who has a
deep pro-Green political interest.

Norsehorse’s blog had a link that led me to the Vermont Homeless Journal,
which links 18 other homeless advocacy websites for activists located across
North America.

There is an Indy Media rival called The Agitator, that reported on Ralph Nader’s cold shoulder for the homeless.

I even found a homeless page for Australia.

All this in one minute. A more serious, more comprehensive search would yield many, many more links.

What other topics shall we look at? The concept of the living wage? Another

cosy minute spent, another boatload of web pages. Among them:

The Living Wage Resource Center
The Universal Living Wage Campaign
Jobs With Justice, Portland OR page
A Living Wage for Indianapolis site.

The points of view MD champions are ABUNDANTLY represented, and as is shown with the blogs of the homeless, it isn’t merely advocacy groups disseminating information and opinion on the internet, it is the homeless themselves.

I defy anyone to show me a more egalitarian, more inclusive medium that
anyone, anywhere, at any time, in any society has ever produced, and I’ll buy
you lunch and wash the windows on your home.

MD also raised the issue of something she calls the Digital Divide. Her claim
is that “Forty-seven percent of Americans don’t have Internet access.” The
beauty of a fact-checking such a claim is that is that the internet offers an
immediate chance to do that.

I found that a report from the Progressive Policy Institute agrees with MD,
more or less. The report claimed that 46% lacked access. I wouldn’t quibble
about a 1% discrepancy. I would give her that… if the report wasn’t using data
collected in November 2001.

A Neilsen report dated March, 2004 found that 74.9% of Americans had access, that only 25.1% lacked it. That’s one hell of a closing of the gap, in addition to a throttling of the assertion. The report echoes something I had said in my earlier comments,

“In just a handful of years, online access has managed to gain the type of
traction that took other media decades to achieve,” said Kenneth Cassar,
director of strategic analysis, Nielsen NetRatings.

In fact, broadband access is now over 45%. Broadband! Report.

When you can check your facts in three minutes or less, it’s hard to imagine
why some people run their mouths prior to doing so. Oh well. Some people don’t like to let facts get in the way of good rhetoric.

The internet is a great tool, and the product of an absence of regulation. You
can post anything you want to. Your point of view will be represented on the
internet. It doesn’t work this way with broadcast media, and the FCC made it
so, and will continue to make it so.

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About Mike Kole

  • andy marsh

    Some people don’t like to let facts get in the way of good rhetoric.

    Nice line…that one made me laugh!!!

    What, may I ask do you use to check your facts…as in what search engine…

    Curious minds want to know…thank you in advance.

  • Andy- I did a Google search for the info I was looking for, read the blogs or articles, and added the links.

  • And likely most of those 25% of Americans without internet access simply don’t WANT it. Plus, as you said, they could go to a library.

    Also, there’s this diversity of viewpoints business. That’s not really what most people who use such phrases really mean. Unless your definition of “poor” means absolutely literally homeless, I would certainly qualify.

    Of course, to someone such as Mac Diva, I don’t count as representing the opinions of the poor. I’m not giving the correct specific diverse viewpoint that socialists demand.

    Likewise, to much of this same crowd, Clarence Thomas does not represent diversity, but is rather dismissed as an Uncle Tom.

    If there’s one thing the internet’s got, it’s diversity of opinion.

  • In other words, Mike Kole followed the advice I gave him to an extent. But, predictably, he still got things wrong. The Nielsen Report cited appears to have been prepared for clients — web portals. It may differ from objective studies because of that. Other oddities include measuring access only once per month and checking only the portals it is working for, apparently. Households that don’t have phone lines permanently or temporarily, are excluded. So are users of cell phones, which would include the poor disproportionately.

    Broadband is now used by about half of people who have access to the Internet. That says nothing about low-income and access to the Net. Furthermore, I cited the technology/speed hierarchy in my comments previously.

    I don’t understand why a few blogs said to be published by homeless men are supposed to be representative of the voices of the poor, most of whom are not men and not homeless. I gather that Mike Kole has so little grasp of the lives of low-income people that he does not know the difference. (Also, the Homeless Guy has been blogging for a long time. Surely, he can afford a small flat by now.)

    Recent research says the Digital Divide is still very much with us, though there has been some improvement:

    ~ Only 41 percent of homes where incomes are under $30,000 own computers.

    ~ Low-income households are connected mainly by dial-up. Upper-income households by broadband.

    For an overview of the Digital Divide, see thet ‘Falling throuh the Net’ site.

    To summarize, most low-income people still do not have Internet access at home. Indeed, the majority lack computers at home. The growth of computer ownership among lower middle-class people is encouraging.


    I’m surprised that MD didn’t point out that there were no minority female homeless bloggers cited in your article, you are hopelessly biased. 😉

  • I was going to email you about something, Mike, but I didn’t see a contact. I would rather not post what I was going to say here — it was not negative towards you, but merely an observation I made. Feel free to contact me if you wish to know. If you can’t get to my email from here, it’s on my blog. Damn spambots. Make us all paranoid. For good reason. I am so insulted that everyone in the world seems to think my (nonexistent) penis needs enlarging. (Okay, digression over.)

  • Eric Olsen

    I’m voting “yes” on the Internet referendum