A Long Forgotten 1969 Student Protest Against the Internet

The Internet has always been a weapon, going back to its emergence out of the Pentagon in the 1960s as the ARPANET. One story I like to bring up is from 1969, when kids from Student for a Democratic Society at Harvard and MIT protested the Internet (then known as the ARPANET) as a dangerous political weapon even before the Internet went live.

https://surveillancevalley.com/blog/talk-the-internet-was-a-weapon-from-day-one

9 comments

  1. Stan,

    Reading your recent thoughts on the internet, I have some thoughts of my own. While all these concerns may have validity, I also believe the internet is a powerful educational force for individuals around the world. Unlike TV, which is one-way communication and doesn’t require literacy, the internet requires a certain amount of literacy, and it’s interactive. That means people are learning to express themselves in ways that has never been possible before. Yes, much of the talk is immature and irrational, and there’s a lot of mis-information and disinformation being spread, but perhaps that will teach people to be more discriminating in what they say and what they believe.

    You’ve also been writing about higher education and its expense, but doesn’t the internet provide a form of education, too, for free? It’s unstructured nature allows people to follow their inclinations, rather than being force-fed a government or university-controlled curriculum. I have the questionable advantage of many years of “higher education,” and I have begun to wonder if college or post-graduate degrees are worth the cost. I’m also beginning to question the advisability of compulsory education in general.

    1. I think what Levine really makes a strong case for in Surveillance Valley is that the Internet is a government controlled institution. I’ve argued previously that it is in fact structured, that the “medium is the message.” It’s not what you argue. It’s the way the software you use frames your argument.

      https://writerswithoutmoney.com/2017/07/22/a-ventriloquists-dummy/

      1. Stan,
        I followed your link and saw I commented on that blog when you wrote it. I still feel the same way. Facebook and Twitter don’t interest me, because they are so trite.

        I agree that the corporate mind structures the frame for the internet, just as it has for television for so many years. That’s why I don’t watch TV, either. The techno-world has become almost surreal in its self-serving provincialism, as if its reality is the only one.

        Given all that, I still believe it’s part of a massive learning curve in the “revolution in consciousness” we are experiencing. Regarding the government control, I would challenge you to find anything the government doesn’t try to manipulate or control. Worse, there are all those “regular people” out there who are eager to give it ever more power.

        1. Well I’m a Marxist, not a Luddite, so in general I think technology is neutral. It depends on the class nature of the governing body. Unfortunately right now the Internet is in control of the most reactionary factions of corporate capital. There’s a reason I got banned from Twitter almost immediately for expressing opposition to Trump’s attempted coup in Venezuela and why the people who openly threatened me are still there.

          1. Stan,
            I’m glad you brought it up. I will avoid Twitter. There are already too many demands on my attention.

            On a totally different subject: Awhile back, you wrote a book review on a book about the Opium Wars. I’ve tried to find it on your site but couldn’t. Do you remember that review and the book’s title? I’m researching a history of the politics of opioids in light of the current “crisis,” and would like to re-read your review and maybe the book itself.

              1. Thanks for the links. Interestingly, Samuel Merwin wrote his book just as Theodore Roosevelt was organizing an international organization for controlling the narcotics trade. The first international conference on it was in 1909. TR was inspired by an Episcopalian missionary in the Philippines, which had a huge opium problem after American soldiers had slaughtered so many people there in the Spanish American War. Roosevelt’s efforts came to fruition in the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Act. One of the arguments used for it was that Chinese immigrants were addicting white women in California.

              2. Which I mention in one of the reviews as an unintentional admission of guilt on the part of the white imperialists:

                Almost by accident, Lovell dismisses the first possibility. Her fascinating study of “yellow peril” novels and conspiracy theories makes it clear that the British knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that opium was addictive. After all, why else would the British public come to the racist belief that Chinese immigrants were plotting to get the white race addicted to opium unless they believed the drug was addictive?

              3. I noted what you said and was corroborating it with what I’ve read.

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