Video: Early adapter Margaret Thatcher loved the Internet before it was cool

April 8, 2013

It's hard to remember now, but there was a time when many people greeted the Internet skeptically, as a potential force for social upheaval and moral decay. But not Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister who died Monday. She loved and championed the Web, as this undated clip from a CNN interview shows. The footage appears to be from the early- or mid-1990s, probably a few years after she stepped down as prime minister in 1990.

In a sign of the times, the clip begins with CNN's Bernard Shaw asking about the Internet, "Are we making technology a god at the expense of the human spirit, at the expense of religion, ethics, culture, the glue?"

"Do you want one of us to start?" Thatcher asked to chuckles, before declaring, in her typically pointed and crowd-pleasing style, "No!"

She continued:

The advances of this half of the century have been remarkably, they have brought remarkable benefits. I often say to young people, look, science is neutral. The wonderful new service, the wonderful new technology scientists give us so often can be good or evil. It's up the human being which they're used for.

For example the new Internet. You can get the most wonderful messages, the most marvelous music, the most marvelous art across the Internet.

Thatcher also urged, however, for laws to censor the Web; an idea that was far more commonly discussed in the early days of the Internet than it is now. "You can also get pornography and sadism," she said. "And we have to pass laws to stop that." That doesn't sound so pro-Web today, but this position was not so unusual back then.

She ended by calling science a technology, "a miracle from God," before transitioning to her more well-known positions warning about the dangers of the "breakdown from the family.....a permissive society.....a dependency culture."

Credit to Slate's Dave Weigel for unearthing this clip.

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