Thursday, June 18, 2009

Revolution in the Twittersphere

Fascinated by what's going on in Iran? BuzzMachine blogger Jeff Jarvis and Thomas Friedman of the New York Times offer a pair of useful commentaries on social networking vs. despotism.

In "The Virtual Mosque," Friedman writes:
What is fascinating to me is the degree to which in Iran today — and in Lebanon — the more secular forces of moderation have used technologies like Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, blogging and text-messaging as their virtual mosque, as the place they can now gather, mobilize, plan, inform and energize their supporters, outside the grip of the state.

For the first time, the moderates, who were always stranded between authoritarian regimes that had all the powers of the state and Islamists who had all the powers of the mosque, now have their own place to come together and project power: the network. The Times reported that Moussavi’s fan group on Facebook alone has grown to more than 50,000 members. That’s surely more than any mosque could hold — which is why the government is now trying to block these sites.
Adds Jarvis:
Of course, Twitter - and Facebook and blogs and camera phones - alone cannot win a revolution. They cannot protect their users from government’s bullets and jails, as we have seen all to tragically in Iran. ... Fighting for freedom requires courage and risk we must not underestimate. But at least these tools allow allies to find each other and to let the world know of their plight. For thanks to the fact that anyone in the world - outside of North Korea - now has a printing press and a broadcast tower, they can be assured that the whole world is watching.
Also see:
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(Photo credit: "Iran Protests for 5th Straight Day" by .faramarz, courtesy of Flickr.com)

1 comment:

Kent said...

I vaguely remember a quote by a 20th century radical to the effect that a mimeograph machine was more powerful than an army.

I couldn't find the quote. But I did find this snippet about how a mimeograph machine was involved in the last Iranian revolution (overthrowing the Shah):

The recent revelations in the Washington Post of the role played by New York Times reporter Judith Miller in Iraq calls to mind the way Kennet Love, another New York Times reporter, functioned before and during the CIA-led coup that overthrew Mossadegh and restored the Shah to power in Iran. Love worked a mimeograph machine that turned out propaganda materials to incite the Iranians to rise up against their own democratically elected government and install a tyrant. Charges that Love was working for the CIA were never substantiated and were undoubtedly not true. Miller was also not working for Donald Rumsfeld when she filed her stories from Iraq, intimidated American military personnel and participated in the interrogation of Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law.

Here is a link to the whole article:
http://www.lewrockwell.com/cummings/cummings25.html

So if a mimeograph was powerful, think about a network of phones! Political information instantly distributed via the cell phone network. Amazing! And the information can include links to pictures or even videos. Powerful indeed.