Friday, June 19, 2009

The revolution will most certainly be televised

So: Iran is going through some nice political upheaval at the moment. And it is an interesting study in technology and the value of journalism.

First of all, I dislike Twitter with the fiery hatred of a millon supernovas. In general, it is vapid chattering that does nothing but waste the Internet. (hilarious attempts at politicizing it aside) But in Iran, as has been observed many times during the last week, it has proved an invaluable means of communication.

Not only that, but as Iran's current leaders blame the country's turmoil on foreign media and restrict their access to anything outside their hotel rooms and offices, venues like Twitter, Facebook and even simple text messages have been the only way to get any first-hand accounts of protests, crackdowns and general unrest.

Some might interpret this as illustrating the demise of traditional media. I think the opposite is the case. Consider how the events would appear without any journalists on the ground at all: on the one hand, you would have a flood of government images and words describing "thugs" causing "riots" while protesting a legitimate election. On the other hand you would have a separate barrage from the protesters, describing government crackdowns, rigged elections and brutally quashed dissent. Facts would be few; agendas would dominate.

So in fact, I think, we see the value of traditional media in collecting and disseminating something as close to objective truth as possible. If that weren't the case, governments like Iran's wouldn't feel the need to shut down the media.

All that aside, I, like everyone else in the world, am watching closely to see what happens in Iran. The fact that I now live hundreds of miles away from what may be a nascent democracy instead of thousands just makes it that much more fascinating.

And as the ayatollah comes down firmly on the side of Ahmadinejad and orders the protests to stop, I hope that the people who already have put their lives on the line in the name of free elections continue to make their voices heard. It is awful watching the government savage peaceful protesters... but it is inspiring to see the rivers of people demanding change and justice anyway.

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