Stories filtering out of Teheran reveal that Twitter, You Tube and other new media are playing some role in the massive protests over the presidential election in Iran. Americans watch the shaky videos furtively uploaded to You Tube and give silent thanks that, when we had our own election mess in the Year 2000, we let the Supreme Court do all the shouting and fist-shaking in the privacy of their chambers. (Al Franken, the comedian, might have something to say about this but he’s still awaiting the results of the Senatorial election in Minnesota. Up til now it’s been too cold to mount barricades in Duluth.)
Can we trust the “news” leaking out of Iran through the thousands of pores in the sieve of modern technology? Many commentators warn that most of the “facts” are not necessarily so, that rumors are rampant, that agents provocateur (agents of the Supreme Leader and President Ahmadinejad) are all over the place using their own tweets to shape what the world is watching and heraing. BTW, did you know that Ahmadinejad has a blog? So much for being edgy…
While accepting the need to be wary about any particular news item, what’s fascinating about the current Iranian story is the way it illustrates the ability of individuals to drive moments of social and political change through independent communication. Of course, the only new idea here is the medium — the messages of liberation and independence are ancient and repeated across millennia in scrolls and pamphlets and broadsheets and newspapers and magazines and television shows and films and blogs and tweets….
The tweets from Teheran are the latest in the long story of the human quest for freedom. In Iran, this has been an unfolding story for decades, since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. The struggle has familiar components: social class, religion, modernity versus tradition. Most great revolutions have elements of all. An interesting column in the Sunday New York Times “A Struggle for the Legacy of the Iranian Revolution” cautioned against stereotyping the participants.
Iran’s fate has a large impact on global peace and security. It’s in the interest of all Americans to pay close attention to the current situation. Cheers for the courageous journalists and citizens who are risking their personal safety to get the word out about what’s really happening on the streets of Teheran. Let Freedom Tweet!