Many countries have been in Iran’s current situation: joke elections, electoral fraud that would make Mugabe think twice and a leader that thinks that ignoring the protestations of his electorate is the solution to retaining power. Once upon a time this might have worked – doubtless it has before – but not now. Whether or not this is the first new media (actual) revolution of course depends on the outcome, but there is little doubt in my mind that the internet has played a pivotal role in the process so far.
Ahmadinejad might not understand the power that Twitter, YouTube and Flickr give to the people he has ignored, and have underestimated their ability to provide footage and real-time news to the mainstream media, but given his country’s history he should have remembered that power is given to leaders on trust, with conditions. After the events of this week he might retain his legal authority but he no longer has real power. There are rumours the army have been in talks today and are ‘considering their position’. Moreover, the promise of a recount by the Guardian Council is hugely significant and a further weakening of Ahmadinejad’s position, even though it seems opposition candidate Hussein Mousavi has refused it (his point being that the number of missing ballot papers is the issue, which a recount would not address). External media is all but barred from covering the events as many of their outlets are blocked, and Iranian TV is portraying the demonstrators as hooligans intent on smashing up their country. This is wildly inaccurate, but we only know the extent of such inaccuracies because social networking exists.
Rather than speculate on events and outcomes it would be more appropriate for me to point you in the direction of the real information. Indeed, that’s my whole point: that the real information is out there, despite the Iranian establishment’s best efforts, and that is only because of social networking and the internet. It doesn’t have a politically biased owner, nor does it know its own content. It is the most democratic media ever invented, and that is its power. Just as in 1979, power is draining from the officials out into the streets, only this time it doesn’t stop there. It carries on down their telephone lines and is disseminated globally. Everybody reading the Twitter updates of people caught in riots, watching the videos of demonstrations and reading the blogs of reporters has the power to disseminate them further. So in the spirit of revolution, see below.
- Revolutionary Road… : Not Kate Winslet’s account of the uprisings, but Saeed Valadbaygi’s frequently updated blog of pictures and badly translated news from the streets of Tehran.
- Channel 4 World News Blog: Lindsey Hilsum’s breathtaking account of her journey to Mousavi’s rally on 15th June.
- #Iranelection cyberwar guide for beginners: Self-explanatory technical guide
- A blog with pictures of the ransacking of Tehran University
- Frequently updated Picasa album of the riots
- More incredible pictures in fairly high resolution
- Twitter search for the hashtag ‘#iranelection’: Perhaps the most important place to look. Everybody talking about this subject on Twitter is using, amongst others, the #iranelection hashtag so their Tweets can be grouped in a search like this. Click on it and see for yourself. I found all of the above links from this feed.
- YouTube videos
- The BBC has a great page on events that includes a helpful Q&A
In the uprisings of 1968 the walls of Paris were adorned with maxims and short phrases that beautifully captured the zeitgeist: “We will ask nothing. We will demand nothing. We will take, occupy.” – that sort of thing. In 2009, the wall is actual and virtual. Two minutes ago someone in Tehran wrote on Twitter: “140 characters is a novel when you’re being shot at.” If that’s not on t-shirts within the week I’ll have them made myself.