Friday, August 28, 2009

All a Twitter over Iran

I was amazed to see how effectively Twitter and cellphones with cameras were used to create the impression that the Iranian elections were a fraud.

Yes, it was only an impression, but it has stuck. The Twittering and i-phone images have been used by pundits and politicians to cast doubt on the legitimacy of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the governance of Iran.

For example, here's the introduction to the overview of a recent week's worth of special reports on Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program broadcast on NPR:

“The turmoil that erupted following Iran's disputed presidential election in June has put the Islamic republic squarely back into the headlines. But in some ways it has obscured a bigger, on-going concern for the U.S. and the international community: the question of whether Iran's theocratic regime is on its way to becoming a nuclear-armed state.”

This is the link to all the segments.

Then, you also have the Washington Post, with this story.

Who Will Stand With Iranians?
Afshin Molavi, A17 (Post)
"...protest a fraudulent election last month, braving...repressive theocrats. Iran's rulers would have...beaten and... "

(Molavi was also a guest on one of the NPR segments above. He sounds like Jerry Rubin of the Chicago Seven, all for regime change, both parties. Of course, I feel that way now about our Congress and President... doesn't seem to make much difference which party is in power.)

Twitter showed it all

Twitter showed the violence, as the media could not in this relatively closed society. I didn't find this much different than the scant coverage of violence and police brutality at the Miami and Seattle G8 conferences, or more recently the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota last year.

Yes, what happened in Iran was violent and passionate. There was death. But, I think we must look at these events through the perspective of history. Iran is going through what America went through in the 1960's. Anti-government, anti-war and civil rights protesters were killed then. Its also noteworthy that while our government tried to pin many of the demonstations in the 60's on the commies, the Iranian government has announced that it didn't find outside interference.

America's protests and civil unrest in the 1960's changed America, as government was forced to respond to the people. It was an internal matter for us, as the demonostrations should be for Iran. It sped our departure from Vietnam and helped insure voting rights for all Americans. I believe Iran's government will also be more accommodating.

Unfortunate outcomes are possible, though. While the demonstrations helped eliminate the draft, it changed our National Guard. This restructuring of our National Guard is what enabled its abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. Without the draft, the Chicken Hawks can protect their chicks. When control of the Guard shifted from the state and the governor to the President, it undermined state preparedness (New Orleans, Kansas, California), and gave the president an easy way to get troops into wars on foreign soil.

The Good and Bad of Twittered Reality

It's all about perspective. The good, is that through images and words via cell phones and Internet tools people can learn things that otherwise would be hidden. (This is one reason Net Neutrality is vital.) How more powerful would Kent State had been had we seen those students being killed and heard the disbelief and agony of their fellow students on i-phones? Maybe the war would have ended earlier.

Other other hand, as the Iranian experience demonstrates, Twittering can be used as a propaganda tool. Those Twittering were the college demonstrators in the streets. We were getting one perspective and our media and government ran with it.

The truth beyond the Twitter

Policy and decisionmaking should never be based on anecdotal evidence. People shouldn't be driven by soundbites, information out of context, or first impressions.

Despite all the Twittering and subsequent spin, the election wasn't a fraud. The results were in line with independent pre-election polling. This was covered in the press, but the Twittering and the images buried the truth.

History is helpful when trying to shed light on the truth

The truth is that a little more than 50 years ago, the C.I.A. worked with the British to overthrow the a newly established democracy won by the Iranian people when the old Shah died, and install his young son as the new Shah of Iran. This was done to prevent the new government from instituting its plan to nationalize the oil industry. The overthrow of the Shah had been peaceful, while the reinstating the Shah led to murder of over 2,000 writers, educators, political leaders and others involved in creating Iran's short-lived democracy.

In reaction 30 years ago, the Shah's government was again overthrown, this time by the only leadership the people of Iran were allowed to have outside the Shah and his American-financed and trained military, the religious leaders. That is where Iran is today, but it moving forward, if we let it.

The Future of Iran

America, Britain, the Saudi's and Israeli's are trying to dictate Iran's future. They do not want a free and independent Iran nor one that can meet the needs of its people. They want chaos and control. They want war, and its where we are heading. The media on boths sides, from the Huffington Post to the Manchester Union Leader are all for it. Thankfully, Obama is showing restraint, whereas had McCain and the quitter been in office we likely would be more strident.

Don't believe me? Why do you think we are building up in Afghanistan and have our troops garrisoned at permanent bases built by Halliburton-KBR in Iraq? We don't have justifiable reasons for having our troops in either country, but there we are. Just look at a map. It will tell you all you need to know.

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