I hate to disagree with the estimable Craig Henry over at Lead and Gold, and still more with Tom Wolfe, but Craig, in the process of taking pie-eyed Internet triumphalism to task, quotes Wolfe as follows:
I hate to be the one who brings this news to the tribe, to the magic Digikingdom, but the simple truth is that the Web, the Internet, does one thing. It speeds up the retrieval and dissemination of information, partially eliminating such chores as going outdoors to the mailbox or the adult bookstore, or having to pick up the phone to get hold of your stockbroker or some buddies to shoot the breeze with. That one thing the Internet does and only that. All the rest is Digibabble.
Well OK. All the Internet does is “speed up the retrieval and dissemination of information.” And this distinguishes it from the telephone, telegraph, and printing press — how, exactly?
(Update Craig Henry replies. He correctly points out that “technological advances do not automatically create business and social utopias” — indeed, they do not create them at all. Technology Whigs ought to ask themselves once in a while why the breathtaking technological progress of the 19th century was followed immediately by the bloodiest period in human history. But there is a long difference between making this point and doing what Wolfe does, disparaging the technology itself.)
(More: James Joyner comments.)