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
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
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 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.