The disputed Iranian election and its aftermath over the last few days are a pretty major story, of course. But one aspect that I find interesting is how well the various parts of the Internets are doing at helping us understand what's been going on.
One claim often made by entrenched members of the media establishment is that, without them, we'll lose our ability to get coverage of events in foreign countries - "When I went to Baghdad, I didn't see a Huffington Post bureau or a Google bureau", in the words of NYT editor Bill Keller (near the end of this clip):
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
True enough, but that of course kind of misses the point. First, it's not like the (American) mainstream media does a spectacular job of covering world events already - CNN, for instance, has been a massive disappointment in covering the Iran story, even if they're playing catch-up now.
Second, one of the strengths of the Internet is precisely the ability it gives to anyone to speak about something. If what they have to say is interesting or useful, it gets linked to and spreads, and the result is the mass dissemination of dozens of different takes on a given story, as opposed to the suffocating uniformity of the MSM - is the difference between ABC, CNN or MSNBC really that great? And how about the Washington Post vs the NYT? There are some differences, but nothing remotely like what happens on the Internet. And the result is that a lot of great, otherwise-obscure, information comes to light.
For example, Juan Cole's amazing posts that draw on his enormous expertise in the region. On the Internet, he gets to write as much as he wants about the subject that is his passion. If he were on TV, he'd get a 2-minute interview where he'd get to regurgitate the most basic parts of his theses. He'd do better with an editorial in a newspaper, but not much better - a few hundred words on one day, and that'd be it. But on his blog, he gets to go into detail about the specific irregularities that appeared in the voting patterns disclosed by Iran's Interior Ministry, which provide extremely compelling evidence that the election results were rigged. The next day, he put up a post challenging the assumption that Ahmedinajad's victory was only a surprise because Western reporters were spending too much time in upper-class parts of the country.
(I'd also like to mention Jim Cowie's post analyzing, and debunking, the claim that Iran's Internet access was cut off from the outside world during and after the election, which goes into a level of detail you'd just never find in any mass media outlet.)
Finally, the Internet enables entirely new forms of communication to arise and spread. For example, the challenger has a Twitter account, which he's used to communicate within Iran and, most especially, to get his message out.
But as cool and sexy as Twitter is, for Iran, blogs appear to be the chief method of expressing revolutionary dissent: