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Now the Details

Media, ethics, and journalism. What works. What doesn't.

Jeffrey Dvorkin

Saturday, February 13, 2010

This Revolution Will NOT be Televised

Speaking with an exiled Iranian journalist, I was struck by how what is happening in Iran is a bloggers' revolution.

We now have a ringside view of how social media creates social change. The journalist reminded me that in 1948, the Iranians pushed for human rights and an end to colonial influences, but ended up with the Shah. Even so, it initiated a process of independent thinking and journalistic inquiry that neither the Shah nor the Ayatollahs have been able to manage.

Thursday, February 11 was the anniversary of the Islamic Republic. Expectations were high that there would be powerful anti-regime demonstrations that day, and that all would be seen on Youtube and other new media forms.

This time, the regime was able to block and slow enough internet traffic to keep the story bottled up. A show of police strength effectively shut down the protests, according to the Iranian journalist.

It's too late for that. In the "chickens-coming-home-to-roost" department, the access to computers in schools, libraries and to individuals encouraged by the reformist president Mohammed Khatame in 1996 is now paying dividends that the regime never anticipated.

The spread of information by the Tehran bloggers continues. One site that aggregates the range of blogging activity is Gooya. It shows that there may be as many as 100,000 Iranian bloggers using social media to agitate for social and political change.

The danger here for interested observers outside of Iran is that the self-aggrandizing tendencies of the Internet may have oversold the revolution by simultaneously raising expectations and by underestimating the ability of the regime to stifle and intimidate.

Still, the Ayatollahs have run out of their "sell by" due date and with the combined power of the blogosphere and international journalism, they are living on borrowed time and they know it.

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