The Internet, Revolution and LSD: A Brief Review of a Recent Speech

Al Gore can no longer justify his claim to have invented the Internet, as we now know the proper credit goes to 1960s counterculture icon and LSD advocate Timothy Leary. Or at least Leary accurately predicted what the Internet is currently on the edge of becoming:

At the 1977 Libertarian Party Convention, mind-expansion advocate and LSD guru Timothy Leary gave a speech that few of us took very seriously. He spoke of something called the Internet, a network that would connect computers worldwide, allowing participants from around the globe to sign on and retrieve text, photographs, audio and video instantaneously, and to communicate in realtime with anyone in the whole world who also had a computer and a connection. He said that it would be the new revolution against the current social order and stifling status quo. He predicted it would be much, much bigger than drugs in its ability to overthrow the establishment. Whereas tuning in, turning on and dropping out had been of great interest to a somewhat narrow subset of the population, everyone would be able to use the Internet, in his own way, and thus the new revolution against the old order would transcend class, age, nationality and all other demographics. The bourgeois would have just as much interest and use for it as the so-called counterculture. And nothing would ever again be the same.

As I said, no one at the time really believed it. We figured Leary had just done a little too much acid and his imagination had gotten the best of him. The network of information he described seemed totally impossible — and yet it exists, precisely as he predicted it, right now.

…says Eric Garris, the libertarian technical genius behind antiwar.com and lewrockwell.com in a speech delivered last Saturday.

As an outspoken advocate of using the Internet to create significant and meaningful political change, I find his speech perhaps the best I have ever heard or read on the topic. He provides a compelling argument that the Internet is truly “libertarianism in action” and provides examples from E-Bay, PayPal, Google, Adobe, and Wikipedia to prove his point.

If you will pop back to HoT a bit later today, I’ll try to add a bit more to this review and fill in some relevant historical detail. In the meantime, I’d strongly recommend reading Garris’s article.

UPDATE: Part Two is posted here.

3 Comments
  1. Keep digging this stuff up, Steve.

    Ooof.

    Libertarian influence and action is always a surprise to these people who have no clue and assume other Libertarians are as sleepy as they are.

    Garris has done fine things, but gimme a break.He has no clue of what transpired, and is still spreading his lack of knowledge decades after the fact. The market didn’t make the internet happen. Libertarians like Leary did–people getting the ball rolling like him are the engine of the market.

    As the fellow who suggested to Tim he come to the convention, I have no idea what Garris is talking about. By 1978 there were meetings hosted by LP groups with government officials that resulted in removing the legal barriers on the subject (US Policy at that time was that by 2040 the US would have ONE central, regulated computer equivalent in power to one 386.) We were also deeply involved in bringing about cable to the US, in great part by exposing mafia involvement attempting to imit channels to 9.

    I also appeared that year at symposia with Tim. One hosted by the AAAS coined the term Space Tourism and set up the things we see today moving us towards private space colonization; discussed the internet; and the current situation of combined services over cable and phonelines we see today. It also set the L-5 point strategy of the Lp in motion. Another to the DOJ reviewed Libertarian ideas of prison abolition and coined the term “restorative justice.”

    Pragmatist Libertarian conservatives of the day who now claim to be the purists had trouble following us then too– but the public sure didn’t. They exist today in the purist pragmatist fanaticism of many on our LNC and LP pragmnatists who say we should tone it down (but don’t lift a finger for anything that actually works). Their problem is they don’t really believe Libertarians can succeed and the public is too stupid to get it, and end up advocating less Libertarian positions than the D & R’s!

    Leary was heavily involved in the Libertarian International movement right until he dies (see httP;//www.Libertarian-International.org )but I still meet Ignotarians among the LP leaders who say it’s too bad he wasn’t more involved. The problem is they don’t get a clue to what’s happening because they don’t think big and thus even believe things are doable hat are already well underway.

    See: “Florida City a Laboratory of Multi-Party Politics” at http://www.phxnews.com/fullstory.php?article=28415

    Update: The local affiliate, which has been using the Libertarian Program materials just rejected by the LNC on the novel basis that they don’t exist (after LNC srtaff refused to continue mailing on the basis that it was unfair to other affiliates–see story) , will be meeting with over 50 representatives of Democracy for America to use the Program to look at Common Ground issues in their charter of ‘fiscal responsibility, social tolerance.) For some of the Program items ‘that don’t exist’ but are being used to grow affiliates, see WIKIPEDIA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Libertarian_Program

    Doubtless someone will be writing an article 3 decades later about all this too as informed as Garris.

    “No one at the time believed it?” The Libertarian parade is marching but many of the leaders are not getting to the front, busily explaining from the sidewalks why it can’t be expected to happen except maybe in the far future. If the attitude of Garris and such people had their way we’d still be advocating compromise Libertarians ideas like talking through tin cans and string. They don’t say, gee, the ‘radicals’ did something and got results and here we are, still on the sidewalk saying ‘No one at the time believed it” and not lifting a finger since we know it can’t be done…hmmm, could our approach be wrong?