The Revolution Will Not Be Televised — But It Will Be Twittered

Sorry to all for not getting the longer C-J article up. (It’s coming, I promise, and I think it will be worth the wait.) I had planned on working on it this weekend, but my schedule got completely blown away by two things: yardwork (much soreness) and following the events in Iran via Twitter (much amazement, fascination, and concern).

Some of you may remember the CNN coverage of the first Gulf war and how we all tuned in, both amazed and shocked at watching the opening of a war in real time. That’s something of how I felt over the weekend: while the traditional media were almost completely blocked and only able to tell what the Iranian government allowed, I was reading tweets like these in real time:

many reports of entire ballot boxes taken and burned, ballots not counted; security forces breaking up protests with force

NEWS: The correct votes were 19,7M Mousavi, Karoubi 7M, Rezaei 3M, Ahmadinejad 7-8M

4:09am from dorm of univ of Tehran, we will wait for day light and hoping people of amirabad help us out

bastards just attacked us for no reason, I lost count of how much tear gas they launched at us!

to other sources: this isn’t the police! police is still outside! we’re under attack by Ansar-Hezbolah.

NEWS: Tehran Uni attacked last night, fights btwn riot plolice & students. Uni under police control now

NEWS: Plainclothed snipers were seen shooting from rooftops around Azadi Sq.

Most of the Tweeters were using the hash tag #IranElection for the tweets, so it was simple in TweetDeck to set up a search column. Eventually I built a “group” column in TweetDeck for the Tweeters I was following the closest. Then I just sat there and read things as they came in, while jumping out to Daily Kos when things slowed down to scan the diaries for other updates, pix, and videos.

It was surreal, to say the least. I found myself praying for safety for the persons doing the Tweeting, especially the ones who are students. The violence at Tehran University seemed especially bad, and the accusation that it was Hezbollah forces brought in by the Iranian government specifically to put down any election unrest was shocking and troubling.

The most interesting part of it, though, was the inability of the Iranian government to shut them off completely. Electricity was cut off, internet was blocked, but at least some of these folks seemed to be operating off of satellite phones and well-charged batteries. They were not only sending out tweets; they were also sending pictures and videos, many of which went right up on Flickr and YouTube.

How do I know it was all truthful and legit? I don’t, of course. The tweets could all have been fake. When you combine them with the pix and videos, though, it becomes obvious that oppressive governments have a new threat to worry about: ordinary citizens armed with ordinary technology and extraordinary courage. And that puts “social media” in a whole new place, standing alongside the printing press as a distributor of power to the people.

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