Free Minds & Free Markets

The Year the Future Started

1995 was the year of the Internet, and so much more

In his compulsively readable new book, 1995, American University communications professor W. Joseph Campbell takes us back to what he calls "the year the future began." The Oklahoma City Bombing took place, ushering in the terror fears and security measures that would expand even further after 9/11. Coverage of the trial of O.J. Simpson for the murder of his ex-wife and Ronald Goldman birthed the 24-hour news cycle. The Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the Bosnian War, inflated a "hubris bubble" in U.S. foreign policy that would pop only after the long, unsuccessful interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. And Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky, an encounter whose endgame would cement partisan loyalties in the federal government and deeply undercut presidential stature.

Perhaps most important, says Campbell, who spoke with Reason TV's Nick Gillespie in February, 1995 was "the year of the Internet." Early iterations of Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, and Craigslist first ap-peared; Netscape held a record-breaking IPO; and the World Wide Web emerged as a mass medium.

For video of this interview, go to or see below.

Q: Netscape doesn't even exist anymore! How big was the Netscape IPO in legitimating the Internet as something real and vital?

A: Netscape made a fantastic browser, but the company had only been in existence for less than two years when it had its IPO. It went through the roof, and the shares were incredibly valuable. Netscape showed that people could make money on the Internet. But more importantly, it illuminated the Web for a lot of people who weren't familiar with it.

Q: You suggest that Marc Andreessen, one of the co-founders of Netscape, was the first great Web star.

A: He really was. And he was only in his 20s, just out of college, when he co-founded Netscape. These guys were setting their own rules, and the Internet allowed people to do that, because nobody knew what this was going to look like.

Q: As the Web became popular, people freaked out and Congress passed the Communications Decency Act, which would have regulated the Internet like broadcast TV.

A: The Communications Decency Act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, but it was a really shocking attempt to regulate this emergent technology. It probably would have strangled it in its infancy. A lot of people thought this was going to just be a cesspool of pornography, with nothing redeeming about it at all. The congressmen and senators behind the act had very little familiarity with what they were trying to regulate. But it was also a moment in which a lot of people who were advocates of the Web vigorously opposed these measures and ultimately prevailed.

Q: Part of the power of the Internet and the World Wide Web was the idea that a few individuals coming out of nowhere could transform the world in a positive way. The Oklahoma City bombing was kind of a dark inversion of that.

A: You could look at it that way, for sure. In the bombing's immediate aftermath, the U.S. government began to put in place measures and restrictions on American life that have only become more apparent, more onerous, and even more accepted by many Americans, especially after 9/11.

Q: People seem to remember the '90s very fondly, as a time of calm prosperity when living was easy. Is that wrong?

A: Attempts to label a decade are inevitably simplistic, superficial, and misleading. The 1990s were certainly not "a holiday from history," as [Washington Post columnist] Charles Krauthammer has said. And it certainly wasn't a time in which nothing much happened.

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  • Sevo||

    I think this is a re-run and if not, the same comments apply to the other (similar) article.
    No, X year is not the year the future started. You can cherry-pick data from just about any year and thereby claim it to be significant.
    And, for pete's sake, if you are going to pick stuff, pick something that isn't laughable. 'Clinton meeting Lewinsky' isn't gonna hack it; that's just plain lame.
    Nick, is this guy gonna review your next book or something?

  • Winston||

    And, for pete's sake, if you are going to pick stuff, pick something that isn't laughable. 'Clinton meeting Lewinsky' isn't gonna hack it; that's just plain lame.


  • masitna||

    I make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $40h to $86h… Someone was good to me by sharing this link with me, so now i am hoping i could help someone else out there by sharing this link... Try it, you won't regret it!......

  • ||

    That's about 90 seconds of my life that I will never have back.

  • ||

    my best friend's aunt makes $85 /hr on the laptop . She has been laid off for 10 months but last month her pay check was $18401 just working on the laptop for a few hours
    ...... ✹✹✹✹✹✹

  • Jerryskids||

    I knew a girl who made several hundred dollars per hour working on laptops. Her friend made even more working on lap bottoms.

  • ||

    95 was also the year Terminator 2 was set, and therefore the point where John Connor altered the future. Or some shit like that.

  • ||

    It was also the year that the greatest song in the history of songs came out.

    Years later that song will snag him a German supermodel.

  • ||

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    The 90s sucked diarrhea from its source. That is all.

    /80s man

  • Pepperjack||

    I started to read this interview but the call to adventure didn't hook me.

  • Jerryskids||

    Does Campbell express an opinion on which FBI agent it was that coached and coaxed McVeigh into driving the truck? You know, the mysterious "other bomber" in all the initial reports who suddenly disappeared down the memory hole?

  • American Letter Mail Company||

    John Doe #2

    I believe Frank Gaffney has positively identified him as Grover al Norquist.

  • Winston||

    Tell us more about how military intervening in favor of a rightwing military junta in Argentina would make Latin America love the US.

  • Vernon Depner||

    It was the Iran hostage crisis that started the 24 hour news cycle, fifteen years before 1995.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Huh? I'll require some convincing.

  • Paul.||

    Mmmm, not really. I popularized the yellow ribbon though!

  • ||

    Not so.

    This is what popularized the yellow ribbon.

  • Paul.||

    Yeah, but during the hostage crisis, people actually started using them.

    During Tony Orlando's meteoric fame, I didn't actually see yellow ribbons.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Dawn Tony Orlando

  • Quincy, 12D||

    I thought it was the Iraq v1.0.

  • Paul.||

    I would agree with this.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Munich 1972.

  • R C Dean||

    The 24 hour news cycle started in 1980, when CNN was launched.

  • Quincy, 12D||

    The possibility of a 24 hour newscycle existed, but it was the Gulf War that sucked you in to the horror of what cable news could become.

  • ||

    Yes. I remember for the first time, in 1990, round the clock coverage of something: the Gulf War. Endless footage of SCUD missiles detonating and shit.

  • Quincy, 12D||

    My grandmother told my parents that they watched too much tee-vee when they were watching Armstrong and Aldrin kick moondust about. The most significant thing the human race has ever accomplished did not change the nature of TV. The Gulf War did

  • ||

    Well, supposedly it was all because CNN was struggling mightily. The 24/7 Gulf War coverage gave them something no other network had, and it massively boosted their profile, their ratings, and set a new standard for coverage. If there hadn't been a (relatively) new network struggling to find some way to fill its airtime, this probably wouldn't have been any different than Vietnam War coverage or Grenada coverage.

  • Quincy, 12D||

    I think I'll give Ted Turner the award for Mad Genius of the late 20th Century. Jobs and Andreessen might have given us the means to be media clicking monkeys, but Ted trained us to be that monkey.

  • Winston||

    What about Nightline?

    The program had its beginnings on November 8, 1979, just four days after the start of the Iran hostage crisis. ABC News president Roone Arledge felt that the best way to compete against NBC's The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson was to update Americans on the latest news from Iran. At that time, the show was called The Iran Crisis–America Held Hostage: Day "xxx", where xxx represented each day that Iranians held the occupants of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran hostage. Originally, World News Tonight lead anchor Frank Reynolds hosted the 20-minute-long special reports

  • Vernon Depner||

    Yes, Nightline. That was when network news escaped the 6:30-7:00 slot and first metastasized into another part of the day. CNN debuted a few months later.

  • Robert||

    Nah, they'd escaped that long previously, w the manned space shots. But they also used to cover the presidential-year major political party Nat'l conventions from gavel to gavel. Or is it different because "America Held Hostage" wound up permanent, although it'd been intended as just for the duration, like the conventions & space shots?

  • Vernon Depner||


  • Paul.||

    The Oklahoma City Bombing took place, ushering in the terror fears and security measures that would expand even further after 9/11.

    I honestly don't remember anything that radically changed my personal life after Oklahoma, aside from the SPLC getting regular time on NPR. 9/11 had real, measurable impact on all of us, impacts that are with us today and most people barely connect them to 9/11.

    9/11 is why I have a drug dog sniffing my car every time I line up for the ferry.

  • Slammer||

    9/11 really started in 570 ce, or 610 ce, take your pick.

  • AlmightyJB||

    You could say circa 2100 BCE

  • AlmightyJB||

    I never never watched the O.J. coverage. Too busy waiting forever for naked pictures of women to download.

  • R C Dean||

    Boy, that brings back memories.

    The slow line-by-line reveal of the pix had its own charm, kinda like a striptease.

  • Paul.||

    Here comes the nipple!

    *carrier lost*

    Millennial: We want to freeze the internet the way it is!

  • ||

    I get paid over $87 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I'd be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Heres what I've been doing,


  • Libertarian||

    "I get paid over $87 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home."

    Christ, what are you? A pimp for pedos?!

  • Winston||

    You mean past events have an effect on the future? I did not know this.

    Wouldn't 1979 also have created the future? Iran, Bill Clinton becoming Arkansas governor?

    whose endgame would cement partisan loyalties in the federal government and deeply undercut presidential stature

    Um no, especially the last part.

  • SamJoHan88||

    Dude who comes up with that nonsense.

  • ||

    my Aunty Brianna got a nice 6 month old Chevrolet Suburban SUV by working part-time from a laptop..
    This is wha- I do...... ✹✹✹✹✹✹


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