Libertarian Party

Timothy Leary, the Internet, and the LP


In my recent Wash Post review of the new Timothy Leary biography, I mentioned in passing how the generally apolitical acid eater deluxe was both an early advocate for the Internet and a supporter of 1988 Libertarian Party presidential candidate Ron Paul (now, and one hopes forever, a congressman from Texas), for whom he threw a Beverly Hills fundraising event.'s Justin Raimondo writes with news of an account that neatly ties together Leary's enthusiasm for computer networks and libertarian politics. The following is from a talk given by Eric Garris, the webmaster of and

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.

Whole Garris bit here. And don't miss Hammer of Truth's dilation on same here. And then there's this link at Bruce Eisner's Vision Thing.

And if you need more Learyania, don't miss his sometime-collaborator RU Sirius's interview with Robert Greenfield, the author of the new bio, here.

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  1. Aha! So, it was Timothy Leary who invented the Internet, not Al Gore!

    If Leary were still alive, maybe he could solve this whole global warming problem for us.

  2. He predicted it would be much, much bigger than drugs in its ability to overthrow the establishment.

    I don’t doubt that. Alas, it’s not saying much.

    Pretty impressive, though, if Leary was really predicting the internet back in ’77. Alas (again), I don’t think prescience on one account necessarily correlates to prescience across the board. Seems like that doggone establishment is just coopting the internet as it does everything else!!

  3. “If Leary were still alive, maybe he could solve this whole global warming problem for us.”

    Who says he’s not still alive?

  4. For a book on Leary and LSD that definitely is a fun read, check out Jay Stevens’ “Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream.” But I must say I’d rather take lifestyle advice from Immanual Kant (or even Edmund Burke) than Timothy Leary. If you listen to Tim, then you’ll probably end up like Tim, right? And it wasn’t that pretty.

  5. Noticing the internet in 1977 is pretty visionary.

    Actually writing the law to create such a thing, and getting through Congress, is even more impressive.

  6. imothy Leary gave a speech that few of us took very seriously
    Pretty impressive, though, if Leary was really predicting the internet back in ’77.
    Did he? It’s funny that all the google hits on this subject, at least that I can find, all contain the phrase “few of us.”

    I was using phone lines for inter-computer communication in 1977, as were lots of other people. The protocols were different, but it wasn’t rocket science.

    Origins of the Internet
    The first recorded description of the social interactions that could be enabled through networking was a series of memos written by J.C.R. Licklider of MIT in August 1962 discussing his “Galactic Network” concept. He envisioned a globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site. In spirit, the concept was very much like the Internet of today. Licklider was the first head of the computer research program at DARPA, 4 starting in October 1962. While at DARPA he convinced his successors at DARPA, Ivan Sutherland, Bob Taylor, and MIT researcher Lawrence G. Roberts, of the importance of this networking concept.

  7. Actually writing the law to create such a thing, and getting through Congress, is even more impressive.

    HA HA HA Holy shit joe, is there no kool-ade you won’t swallow?

  8. I predict that someone will:

    1. Make a joke about Gore’s internet bill, cuz Al Gore is all funny and crazy and stuff, and

    2. Deny the fact that Al Gore actually wrote that bill.

  9. Y’know joe, I often think Gore gets a bad rap on this account cause yeah, he did play an important role in the internet’s creation, legislatively speaking. But then, that’s what can happen when you’re a public figure and you use foolish wording. A lot of the dumb things Bush has said could similarly be dismissed with, well you know what he means.

    Of course, I suppose there’s a difference between one foolish comment and a zillion…

  10. Giving credit to politicians for the internet, is like giving credit to the pope for perspective projection.

  11. I don’t think TImmy ever claimed to have invented the Internet, he just noticed it and nailed some of its implications and popularized it (and missed some of its implications). He did however figure out the meaning of life an’ shit…

  12. Actually writing the law to create such a thing, and getting through Congress, is even more impressive.

    I will gladly admit that Al Gore’s law provided a key final step in shaping what we now know as the internet, but claiming that his law created it is a bit disingenuous Especially since all the components of the internet (with the except of WWW) were invented and in use before Gore ever was elected.

  13. Al Gore’s law provided a key final step in shaping what we now know as the internet

    The law certainly did some shaping. I don’t know how key it was. It’s not as though the internet would have been shapeless without it. It’s really just another example of politicians getting their grubby fingers around anything people do.

    As far a Leary’s prescience goes, I’m not impressed. I was 14 in 1978 and the vision of a massive computer network was ubiquitous in geek circles. I remember predicting that all office workers would be telecommuting within 10 years (ten years was a much longer then). The best thing the government did in shaping the internet was when they repealed the ban on advertising.

  14. Giving credit to a politician for creating the internet is like giving credit to a politician for overthrowing the Taliban.


    What has made the internet a history-shaking kick in the ass to the progress of human civilization is its universality. Rather than being someone’s toy and being developed only as AOL and Compuserv employees wanted it to, it has developed in the millions of directions that millions of users individually decided, in an interative process that allows the free-form building on prior work that a gatekeeper-based system would never have allowed.

    Gore’s contribution was to direct DARPA to establish the internet in this gatekeeper-free form, at that is the reason the internet isn’t just some researchers sending spreadsheets to each other, and some computer geeks having subscription-only material sent to them a couple of times a week.

  15. joe:

    Right, we are pretty much in agreement, then 🙂

  16. And joe and jf both agree with me!! 🙂

  17. “The best thing the government did in shaping the internet was when they repealed the ban on advertising.”

    A popup pox on your house! With spam on the side, and a finger-fuckingsworth of Flash!!

  18. I’m too struck by the added vitriol in all the reviews of Greenfield’s vitriolic Leary biography, with the notable exception of yours, Mr Gillespie, in, of all places, the Washington Post. As one friend of Timothy’s put it:

    “Wow. These guys aren’t writing book reviews; they’re writing book REPORTS Vitriolic, cowardly, pathetic. They’re restating, in condensed format, what they read in Greenfield’s book. The only defense is love.” They’re using Greenfield’s book as an excuse to take the shots at Tim.”

    But to say Tim was “apolitical” as you, Mr G. did at the beginning of this blog, is just wrong. Tim’s whole life was a political statement. His early pre-mushroom research in psychotherapy, and psychological assessment was motivated by his disdain for the increasing authoritarianism of the 50s. He was one of many social scientists in that period who were keen to the social and psychological conditions for fascism that they saw brewing in the US just after it had apparently been defeated in Europe. Tim and his friends and colleagues tried to articulate these conditions and endeavored to free people from them, by showing that a de-centralized, individual centered therapy and more process oriented accessment worked better. When he discovered psychedelics he realized, with the help of great minds like Huxley and Frank Barron, that they could help inspire the more democratic inner revolution that was already taking off.
    And he realized (or he thought) that the institutions were too encrusted with their old authoritarian world view to make any sense of psychedelics and took a calculated risk to break out, trust the youth to make sense of them, something that their elders were not likely to.

    You’e probably all heard that story about when Jobs and Wozniack were asked how did they come up with the personal computer, working in their garage, before IBM? One of them replied, “We took more acid than they did.”

    Tim’s relationship to the information age was very similar to his work with psychedelics. He saw the potential in terms of his life long quest to empower the free spirit of the individual, (his own especially) and cheered it on.

    The fact that he himself was brutalized in his youth by a drunken, violent father, and smothered by a fundamentalist Catholic mother, predisposing him to life-long compulsion to antagonize and reject authority in the extreme does not discredit the important course his life took off on, though reckless it was. A lot of people can relate to those challenges. The incontestable fact that he kept his brilliance and sense of humor through his very last moments makes him admirable, if not a goddamn hero.

    To the comment that if he were alive today could he solve global warming, let me say, he tried to when he was alive. Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out was his formula. The solution to global warming is now, and always has been, for Americans to immediately stop destroying the atmosphere and direct their insatiable accquisitive, explorative nature to inner dimensions, and get smarter. He advocated a total revolution to turn the Titanic around. Too bad more people didn’t catch on. If the mainstream became as conscious of the environmental crisis as the counterculture he was a cheerleader for has been over the last 40 years-and acted accordingly- Al Gore could have stayed out of the entertainment business.

    I expected the mainstream media to color the historical record with a dim view of Leary and that is what we are seeing now. Really one of my intentions in compiling his memorial volume, Outside Looking In, was to counter this with a record of what the people who knew him best thought. It is interesting that Greenfield interviewed many of these same people. But in their own words, we have a much more balanced view of Leary than the one that comes through Greenfield’s pen and his reviewers.

    Which brings me to my final point, and question for you Mr. G:

    It seems to me (and I’ll admit to being a “conspiracy theorist”) that tim’s whole adult life can be seen as a response to Operation Mockingbird, a CIA program aimed at controlling the minds of Americans, started by former Nazis, to get their ball rolling again. Leary himself was even approached by these guys to work for them, in the fifties, to control consciousness for the right wing political agenda. Do you have any ideas about “Operation Mockingbird?” I first became aware of it through the rather detailed book Katherine the Great, by Deborah Davis. She gets into the relationship, the collusion between the press, especially the Post, and the rise of the so called “national security” state that preys on the fear of an enemy, communists, drugs, terrorists…

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