John Armor

Let’s raise two questions: What would Ben Franklin think of the Internet? And, what would be his opinion of efforts by the current Administration to censor Internet content, or even shut it down in “an emergency?”

Events in Franklin’s life may answer those questions. A recent two-hour TV special on him made one point that deserves repeating: Of all the Framers who created the United States of America in law and in fact, the one who would be “most at home in the modern world” was Dr. Franklin.

First, Franklin was a scientist. He observed facts in the real world. He developed theories to explain those facts. Then, he developed experiments to prove whether his theories were correct. Today, this process is called “the scientific method.” Franklin would be quite at home with all modern scientists who still deal in facts and proofs, in addition to theories.

Second, Franklin was a student of communication over time and space. As Assistant Royal Postmaster, Franklin created a postal service that would get mail from New York to Boston in two days, and it turned a profit. Most importantly, his post office connected the rebels in the Committees of Correspondence in all colonies with each other, to the great benefit of the American Revolution.

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Franklin also communicated effectively as the publisher of The Pennsylvania Gazette and of the very successful Poor Richard’s Almanack. His post office turned both into national publications.

Lastly, he’s famous for changing electricity from a parlor trick into a subject for effective scientific inquiry.

The Internet combines all three of these Franklin interests. He would be entranced by it. He would seek out those who could explain computers and the Internet. Days later, after experimenting with both, he would be back with suggestions to make the Internet faster, better, cheaper and more effective.

John Armor

John Armor practiced First Amendment law in the US Supreme Court for 33 years and wrote this article at the behest of the American Civil Rights Union.