Social Media Shines a Bright Light on Iranian Revolution

Generally, political events, unless they affect our industry, are beyond the purview of the AlterNow blog.  However, the news from the Middle East gives us pause because our country has become, quite remarkably, an actor in one of the most stirring displays of courage and political defiance in recent memory.  We may not fully realize it yet but the Green Revolution that’s taking place in Iran, beyond its political implications, is a singular event because it may be the moment of arrival for citizen journalism.

Reading the tweets  from the streets of Tehran as protestors rail against an election that was probably rigged and the intractability of the theocracy of the mullahs is like entering an entirely new category of reporting.  It goes beyond the ground-level observations and interviews of even the finest reportage to deliver something close to a longitudinal study of mass consciousness.  Tweet after tweet renders a population that’s beaten, water hosed, tear gassed and doused in chemicals but also one that’s buoyed by rumors and made intrepid by the pain of others and the injustice of a repressive system.  It’s heartbreaking and stirring.  What’s also worth considering is that technology hatched in America – micro blogging – has delivered to this movement the power of instant expression and instant appeal to the court of world opinion.

Consider what this means.  In 1936, General Franco was able to silence Frederico Garcia Lorca and half a million Spanish Republicans during the Spanish Civil War by cutting off communication and having them executed.  From 1973 to 1990, Augusto Pinochet was able to blot out more than 1,000 Chileans by simple fiat, consigning them to a blind spot in the country’s collective memory.  No more.  The Iranians in the streets who are recording the remarkable events will not be “disappeared” by their council of dictators.  For the Iranian revolutionaries, social media has preserved that most sacred of human agencies — their voice and its claim on the truth.