The Dumbest Things Said About the Internet

Last week, long-serving Wisconsin Congressman James Sensenbrenner sought to defend his vote repealing FCC internet privacy rules, by telling constituents that they don’t have to use the internet if they don’t like it.  In doing so, the former House Judiciary Committee Chairman evoked memories of the late-Senator Ted Stevens and joined him and some others in a Hall of Shame for dumbest comments about the internet.

2006 – The Internet is a Series of Tubes

The Internet is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes. And if you don’t understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

Senator Ted Stevens (2006)

The scary thing about this nonsensical statement is that at the time Stevens said this, he was Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee which had primary jurisdiction for the internet in the Senate.

2014 – “Net Neutrality is “Obamacare” for the Internet”

Cruz’s insipid attempt at a bumper sticker statement makes no sense other than to appeal to reflexive opposition to Obamacare.

2015 – We have to see Bill Gates and talk about “closing up that Internet up in some way”

We have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that Internet up in some way … Somebody will say, ‘Oh, freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people.

Donald Trump (2015)

Apparently the internet is some thing that Bill Gates keeps in his basement and you can call him to shut it down in places.

2017 – Nobody’s got to use the Internet . . .

Nobody’s got to use the Internet. … And the thing is that if you start regulating the Internet like a utility, if we did that right at the beginning, we would have no Internet. … Internet companies have invested an awful lot of money in having almost universal service now. The fact is is that, you know, I don’t think it’s my job to tell you that you cannot get advertising for your information being sold. My job, I think, is to tell you that you have the opportunity to do it, and then you take it upon yourself to make that choice. … That’s what the law has been, and I think we ought to have more choices rather than fewer choices with the government controlling our everyday lives.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (2017)

In this age of online everything, where people get government benefits, pay taxes, find jobs and purchase products on the internet, Sensenbrenner’s denial of the ubiquity of the internet is galling.

Honorable Mention – I took the initiative in creating the Internet

During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.

Vice President Al Gore (1999)

The sad thing is that this got reduced to “I invented the Internet” by Gore’s opponents.  Gore can rightfully take credit for sponsoring legislation that led to the commercial exploitation of the internet.  In addition, Internet pioneers Robert Khan and Vint Cerf credited Gore for being

the first political leader to recognize the importance of the Internet and to promote and support its development.

Nonetheless, when Dan Quayle punks you by saying, “If Al Gore invented the internet, I invented spell check,” then you have clearly bungled the message.