Birth Of A Conservative Myth: The Government “Didn't Create The Internet”

Salon's Alex Pareene made a good observation yesterday about the future of Wall Street Journal opinion-slinger Gordon Crovitz's 100-percent incorrect claim that government was not involved in the creation of the internet:

I am very confident that “The Government Had Nothing To Do With Inventing The Internet That Is a Liberal Lie” will become one of those wonderful myths that all true-believer conservatives subscribe to, like “FDR and the New Deal made the Depression worse” and “Reagan Was a Good President.”

It's true; the conservative canon is littered with verifiably false claims masquerading as unshakeable truths -- in some cases, as foundational principles. Other examples include “global warming is a hoax” and “tax cuts increase revenue.” Most of them have been around for so long that their origins are murky, but we have the benefit of being able to observe this particular untruth move through the conservative ecosystem. It's sort of like watching evolution happen! (If evolution were real and not another hoax, that is.)

Now remember: Crovitz's claim is absolutely, completely false. The sources he cited, the people who actually invented the internet, all say he's wrong. And yet yesterday we had...

Rush Limbaugh:

Fox News' The Five

And John Stossel:

Statists claim that government “invented” the internet. As President Obama told an audience, “The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money.”

In the Wall Street Journal, Gordon Crovitz correctly points out that the internet flourished in spite of government, not because of it.

The government did create Arpanet, the world's first decentralized computer network. It was supposed to help the Department of Defense communicate after a nuclear attack. Even then, government scientists relied heavily on inventions by private companies.

The important thing to realize here is that for the people latching onto Crovitz's column, the actual facts of the matter are irrelevant to the veracity of the claim. It was President Obama who said government research helped create the internet, and that, ipso facto, makes it false.