This week's laziest analysis on the situation in Iran

Thursday, December 31, 2009

...can be read here. The article begins with the opening sentence "Smug Twitter activists are wrong to think they are liberating Iran", and goes downhill from there. First a quick demonstration on where the article's logic fails, and then a comment on the role Twitter is playing in the situation in Iran now.

First, we have a rushed conclusion right from the start:

So far it has been six and a half months since the elections in Iran, and thus far Ahmadinejad has managed to hold on to power. But we all know who else managed to hold on to power at the 6.5-month mark: the Shah. The first demonstrations against him began in January 1978, and six months later in July the strikes that paralyzed the economy had yet to happen. Consensus at the time was that the Shah had held on to power.

Skip down a bit in the article and we find this:

...the point here being that Twitter and other social media are more beneficial for the government than protesters. But if this was true, then governments of this nature would encourage their use. They would leave the internet unblocked, monitor online traffic and simply sweep in and scoop up their targets like fish caught in a treacherous net or birds trapped in a snare when the time for them to be arrested and detained falls upon them. But no, the government in Iran does whatever it can to prevent access to the internet whenever the day for a planned protest approaches.

Twitter serves a different function in a country like Iran than in a typical western democracy, which may be the misunderstanding upon which this op-ed was based. In a normal country it is easy enough to use Twitter or Facebook to arrange a meeting, whether political or not. In Iran though there is no benefit to protesters in using Twitter to arrange everything in the short term since it effectively broadcasts their plans to the world, and thus more low-tech methods have to be used. At the same time, however, Twitter is still useful for huge planned protests, those that take a week or two to plan and will have enough momentum of their own to fight against government thugs. And the other use for Twitter is also as a broadcasting tool: as a method of simply getting attention it's only as effective as any other method, and usually a link on a site like Reddit or Digg will attract much more traffic anyway. But Twitter's use in giving up to the minute information is unparalleled, and this use can be seen in live reactions to speeches or events, and general reporting on the ground as long as it comes from a trusted source and not simply a purveyor in rumours.

Oh, and Twitter is also very good at keeping the mainstream media in line. When the protests first happened after the election there was a huge storm on Twitter using the #CNNFail hashtag as at the time CNN was spending most of its time talking about switching to digital tv and other trivial information, while all the real information was to be found on Twitter, blogs and in Persian.

One more article to share today: here's what happens to the best pupils in Iran, especially those that are at all political.


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