The Wall Street Journal
I presume that, at some time, The Wall Street Journal actually did perform some respectable journalism. However—and this might coincide with Rupert Murdoch’s acquisition of the institution—it seems that whenever I look at what they write nowadays, it’s a piece of politically slanted excrement.
Take, for example, this ludicrous article from 2008, in which columnist and WSJ Deputy Editorial Page Director Daniel Henninger tries to deny that regulation shortfalls caused the subprime mortgage crisis by instead blaming secularization, literally suggesting that the more-inclusive “Happy Holidays” occasionally replacing “Merry Christmas” caused those in the financial industry to lose their religious-based principles and thus fell into avarice and depravity. Seriously, read the article.
This seems to be a recurring theme: if a well-reasoned and accepted explanation of an important issue rankles them politically, they try to say it just ain’t so—and use any risibly asinine bullshit they can think of to deny it.
Last year, it was the role of government in supporting businesses and the people in general, which conservatives found a new opportunity to attack with Obama’s “you didn’t build that” statement. Gordon Crovitz at the WSJ wrote an article that set the tone from the very first sentence when he, like so many other conservatives, quotes Obama out of context. But he then focused on one other statement Obama made: “The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all companies could make money off the Internet.”
He then presented his thesis statement: “It’s an urban legend that the government launched the Internet.”
His argument, of course, is total BS. To make it seem like he’s disproving something with fact, he weaved in a red herring, the contention that the Internet was developed to maintain communications after a nuclear strike, which he easily dismissed—giving the impression that he just disproved government involvement when he in fact was speaking to an assertion which was not really relevant.
Sometimes his bullshit runs so thick that you trip over outrageous falsehoods and errors in virtually every sentence. Take this segment:
If the government didn’t invent the Internet, who did? Vinton Cerf developed the TCP/IP protocol, the Internet’s backbone, and Tim Berners-Lee gets credit for hyperlinks.
But full credit goes to the company where Mr. Taylor worked after leaving ARPA: Xerox. It was at the Xerox PARC labs in Silicon Valley in the 1970s that the Ethernet was developed to link different computer networks. Researchers there also developed the first personal computer (the Xerox Alto) and the graphical user interface that still drives computer usage today.
One gags on the sheer volume of error. Let’s go through this a bit. “Vinton Cerf developed the TCP/IP protocol”? Not by himself; with Robert Kahn, he deserves much of the credit, but did not do it single-handedly.
“Tim Berners-Lee gets credit for hyperlinks”? Holy crap, that could not be more wrong. Hyperlinks were in use long before Lee made use of them. Lee developed HTML and HTTP, essentially the World Wide Web (not the Internet); the credit for hyperlinks goes to Ted Nelson for the concept (begun when Lee was 5 years old!) and Douglas Engelbart for implementation less than a decade later.
“Full credit goes to Xerox”? Sure, and Lee Iacocca invented the car. This is the specific version of the aforementioned thesis, and it’s wrong. Xerox was involved, but far from responsible. Crovitz seemed to conflate the development of Ethernet with the development of the Internet.
“Researchers there also developed the first personal computer (the Xerox Alto)”? Really? The Alto was the first PC? No. Not even close. The Alto was an early, cutting-edge precursor of modern machines for its use of the GUI a decade before the Macintosh, but it cost $32,000 in 1973 (well over $100,000 in current dollars) and was never commercially produced. The Xerox Star, which followed in 1981, was a business computer.
“…and the graphical user interface”? Not really. Douglas Engelbart gets most of the credit for creating the GUI. Xerox was the first to apply it to manufactured computers, but to say they “developed” it is overstating it.
Crovitz then goes on to base his central thesis on a secondhand quote from a book about Xerox, in which one Xerox researcher is quoted as saying, “We have more networks than they [the government] do,” noting government bureaucracy as an impediment.
That’s pretty much it. Xerox had some internal networks in 1973. Therefore they created the Internet. Okaaayyy…
He then segues off into more red herrings like Steve Jobs negotiating with Xerox for access to the Alto, another side issue.
He then concludes:
It’s important to understand the history of the Internet because it’s too often wrongly cited to justify big government. It’s also important to recognize that building great technology businesses requires both innovation and the skills to bring innovations to market. As the contrast between Xerox and Apple shows, few business leaders succeed in this challenge. Those who do—not the government—deserve the credit for making it happen.
Thus he “establishes” a “fact” which will be widely but just as vaguely cited by conservatives everywhere, based on horse manure like so many of their claims, but distant enough that they can get away with it and not suffer too much from any scrutiny that may be applied.
Vinton Cerf, one of the men most responsible for developing the Internet, was interviewed in response to this. Cerf explains in detail how the Internet was created, and when asked directly about Crovitz’s argument, he replied simply:
I would happily fertilize my tomatoes with Crovitz’ assertion.
I really wonder sometimes how the WSJ can maintain its reputation when disseminating opinions that are of Fox-News quality—specifically, full of crap.