A lot has been happening in Iran recently pre and post elections. I have not really blogged on that issue, because it has been talked of and commented upon everywhere else. But today I thought I will touch upon it, to at least share my thoughts on it.
Citizen Journalism started some years back. In the aftermath of tsunami, bloggers from many places came together to combine their influence and information to help in the relief efforts and keep us updated. That, in my view was the first truly Global effort at citizen participation. Such efforts then happened more and more. Mumbai Attacks last year, were another example of this. Blogging from Iraq had been a potent way to leak information out to help people know what was happening as US invaded Iraq to flush out Saddam Hussein.
However, in earlier examples, there wasn’t an element of prohibition, specifically at the level at which it is in Iran right now. Yes, the guys in Iraq feared for their lives… but no one was switching off blogger.com. Here is a strange situation. The regular media has either been shut off or severly restricted. What happens then? Every citizen is a potential journalist then. Every citizen can take a Mobile picture and send it to his/her friend elsewhere and have it twittered for 2 billion people around the world to see! It is not about WHO YOU KNOW to make a news.. BUT that you have a recording device. The modern technologies have provided an “Eco-System” that has outstripped the power of legitimacy of the regular media. So, even a regular person can take a picture that redefines history.. you needn’t be a kick-ass AP or Reuter photojournalist anymore.
Also, the citizen journalism is more powerful in developing world than the developed world. For some reason, a calamity or a tough situation has repeatedly brought out coming together of connected people to help. That is significant. The bias and prejudice that the popular and regular media could interject on WHAT they wanted to show and deliver to the world, has suddenly been taken away. If BBC doesn’t show something..then it doens’t mean it wouldn’t be shown.. just that, a blog will show it.. and BBC will look like a loser! So, the tenor of the debate has changed.. and the power of manipulation has been taken away from the media barrons.
Iran – or Persia – is a very old society and very proud one. It has an Islamic character but under that character is a very modern outlook. The current fight is actually between the Old Guard (Rafsanjani/Khatami – the Islamic group) and the New Guard (Ahmednijad/etc – the Military Group). Interestingly, although the world (and liberal idealists) think that this revolution.. like many others is a pathway to a more liberal and secular direction; in fact the opposite may be true… at least in terms of the protagonists leading the two camps right now.
However, the people fighting seem to have an idealistic mindset… or they would not fight. Now, having discussed Iranian society with some Iranians, I do realize that they do not necessarily identify with the Mullah. Neither do they with the military elite. So, strangely, although Mousavi is the rallying point, a person backed by Khatami/Rafsanjani (the Islamic Old Guard camp).. the actual person on the ground may want to take this fight to a TOTALLY different dimension and directiion. In the end, we may see BOTH the camps – Ahmednijad AND Moussavi – left behind.
That is one reason why this fight may not succeed right away. There is confusion in its current character AND its overt and covert goals. The Heart is fighting for something else and Mind is explaining something else. There may come a time in this fight when BOTH Moussavi and Ahmednijad realize this and will come together. For, they want an upperhand against the other.. but not to lose it to a secular and liberal character which is where it is going.
In that sense, it is going to be a long fight… .and not spectacularly successful at first. That is why, I believe that Obama is dead on in his response. He is becoming a champion for the Iranian guy on the ground who would look at him and the US for support… not direct.. but morally.
The Arab response on this is also important. While Arabs like the Iranian society (Shia) in turmoil, and would support that.. they would hate the prospect of the common man picking up the gauntlet. That may portend tough things for them going forward. While they may cheer-lead Ahmednijad when he threatens Israel with Nukes.. but there is no love lost between Arabs and Iranians.
In this whole game therefore, Arabs will play a make-or-break role in many ways.
I do this as a major event. Our generation’s version of overthrow of the Shah. It may have as much of instant result as that had…. but in the long term it will be as potent.
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