I was up till 12:30 a.m. watching events in Iran via Twitter and my Google Reader feed. Here are some thoughts:
Robert Fisk of The Independent has emerged as a hero journalist, a reporter’s reporter, following crowds of protesters after his visa has run out, moving between opposing camps in the streets. He’s also a terrific writer. I’ll be looking for his work throughout the rest of this crisis, and afterward.
I saw an item attributed to Fisk which confirmed a nagging question I’ve had: What if Ahmadinejad actually won the election? Fisk’s suggestion was that it’s possible that this was the case but that the greedy and arrogant authorities cooked the ballot boxes to make it look as if he had won in a landslide. Clumsy overkill, such as the claim that Ahmadinejad won Mir Hussein Mousavi’s home town, has led most observers to assume the election was stolen. It probably was. But we don’t know. Maybe it was just close, like, say the U.S. election in 2000. Here is what Fisk has to say:
My suspicion is that [Ahmadinejad] might have actually won the election but more like 52 or 53 per cent. It’s possible that Mousavi got closer to 38 per cent.
But I think the Islamic republic’s regime here wanted to humiliate the opponent and so fiddle the figures, even if Ahmadinejad had won.
The problem with that is they’re now going to claim they’re going to need a recount. If the recount is to actually give Mousavi the presidency, someone is going to have to pay the price for such an extraordinary fraud of claiming Ahmadinejad won 30, 40, 50 per cent more than he should have done.
You’ve got to remember as well, on the election night, if the count was correct it meant that they would have had to have counted five million votes in two hours.
Twitter, which in the early hours after the election brought forth a mesmerizing stream of real citizen reports from Iran, soon became its own battlefield. The security forces apparently set up usernames to spread misinformation, such as repeated warnings yesterday in exactly the same words that the army was coming to clear out the protesters. (The Twitter news today is more hopeful, reporting that the police are wearing green and the Army have mostly returned home.) Twitterers from Iran have reportedly been tracked down based on their Tweets, for arrest. So we rag-tag distant cyber-allies are trying to be smart, following plausible advice to help the cause of the reformers. I’ve greenified my Twitter icon, and I changed my location and time zone to Tehran, to maybe make it difficult for the bad guys to isolate real Iranian Twitterers. This militarization of Twitter is a fascinating development, but it makes the Twitter stream problematic. You have to figure out on the fly which Tweets have anything to do with reality and which ones are totally fabricated–either by dark security forces or perhaps a 15-year-old in Philly, Twittering from his basement, pretending to be a student under attack in a Tehran dorm.
The deluge of citizen-uploaded photo and video images has forever changed what comes to my mind when I think of Iran. The iconic photo I’ve put at the top of this post is an example–a man with a briefcase and newspaper who has picked up a rock to throw. My ill-informed stereotype of women in Iran had been one of cowed, subservient victims in nun-like black veils. That’s now replaced by images of fierce and colorfully veiled women in the streets of Tehran, challenging security forces. In the fleeting glimpses I have of faces in the crowds, I see people more similar to me than different. I always knew that this was true intellectually, of course, but the reality is now embedded in my consciousness through hours of following this drama on my computer screens, looking at real people instead of nattering TV pundits.
As history unfolds today a half a world away, I’ll be going over construction contracts for a project here at our condo association, preparing to interview Will DeLamater for this week’s Kindle Chronicles podcast, and getting ready for our trip this weekend to Casper, Wyoming, to visit friends from our 20 years living there, mostly on Casper Mountain. Tonight we have tickets to see A Bronx Tale at Denver’s handsome Ellie Caulkins Opera House. At any point during this ordinary day here in Denver, I will be able to dial up Tweets and news from Iran on my iPhone or computers. It’s generally a good idea to live in one place at a time, and one day at a time. But in times like these, I’m glad to have digital tools at my disposal which enable me to more fully experience how connected this one world truly is.