( . . . and YouTubed and blogged . . . )
On occasion, this blog is visited by Iranians. More precisely, they visit this post almost to the exclusion of any other post. I have often wondered what it is in this post that draws them. It contains no special insight into Van Gogh or into modernist art. There are other posts here at good old Blog Meridian that are better than this one that my Iranian visitors seem to gravitate toward.
In rereading that post for this one, though, I noticed that its comment section has a little musing on the fact that, at their best, blogs have now become the equivalent of Enlightenment-era coffee shops, as sites for the exchanging of ideas. It was in rereading them that I was reminded of what I'd read yesterday and last night: how most of the "facts on the ground" coverage of yesterday's events in Iran--not just Tehran--was coming not from established media but from people in Iran calling relatives via satellite phone, blogging, sending in videos via YouTube, and--crucially--Twittering. And that last has been used not just to communicate information abroad when the government had shut down most other telecommunications, but to organize it:
(Basij, incidentally, literally translates as "mobilization of the oppressed;" it is "the largest student union in Iran and a volunteer-based Iranian paramilitary force founded by the order of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on November 1979. The Basij are subordinate to, and receive their orders from, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.")
Not even a week ago, I'd asked some colleagues rhetorically, "What of any importance can you convey in 140 characters?" This video is a pretty solid rebuke that I, someone who makes his living by persuading others that language matters, needed to be administered.
The websites of the U.S. cable news networks have been lousy, frankly, in their coverage of post-election events. [UPDATE: To get a sense of just how bad the cable channels were last night, have a look at this quick survey. I distinctly recall, during the first Gulf War, that CNN quickly became the go-to source for television coverage and proved (to me, at least) 24-hour news's potential. But last night? A re-run of a Larry King interview with the people who bring us American Chopper??] I've been mightily impressed by Andrew Sullivan's rounding up of information from an extraordinary range of sources both inside Iran and abroad; other very informative places have been these constantly-updated posts at the New York Times' news blog, The Lede and The Huffington Post. [UPDATE: I forgot to include this one earlier: For even more-immediate news/information/rumors directly from Iran, see this page of the English-language tehranbureau.com.]
Sullivan sees these events' larger implications for other governments as this technology spreads:
That a new information technology could be improvised for this purpose so swiftly is a sign of the times. It reveals in Iran what the Obama campaign revealed in the United States. You cannot stop people any longer. You cannot control them any longer. They can bypass your established media; they can broadcast to one another; they can organize as never before.Yup.
The future of political organizing is here and now. What is happening right now may not lead immediately to real change in Iran--these protests may even be violently crushed--but people there will not soon forget this.
UPDATE: Video of the results of the Twitter message in Sullivan's post above. They are shouting, "ALAHO AKBAR"--"God is great.":
Like calls to prayer from the minarets. But not. And from rooftop upon rooftop upon rooftop.