Sunday, June 21, 2009

Twitter ripped the veil off ‘the other’ – and we saw ourselves - Times Online

Twitter ripped the veil off ‘the other’ – and we saw ourselves - Times Online:

As I did so, it was impossible not to feel connected to the people on the streets, especially the younger generation, with their blogs and tweets and Facebook messages – all instantly familiar to westerners in a way that would have been unthinkable a decade or so ago. This new medium ripped the veil off “the other” and we began to see them as ourselves.

All the accumulated suspicion and fear and alienation from three decades of hostility between Iran and America seemed to slip away. Whatever happens, the ability of this new media to bring people together - to bring the entire world into this revolution on the streets of Iran - has already changed things dramatically.

Of course, the technology also helped to organise and sustain the resistance in ways unavailable during the 1979 Islamic revolution. Here is how Mohsen Makhmalbaf, film-maker and overseas spokesman for Mir Hossein Mousavi, the focal point of the protests, put it in an interview with Foreign Policy magazine: “In the [1979] revolution, there were young people in the streets who were not as modern as the people are today. And they were in the streets following the lead of a leader, a mullah - in those times Ayatollah Khomeini.

“Now the young people in the streets are more modern: they use SMS [text messages]; they use the internet. And they are not being actually led by anyone, but they are connected to each other.”

This was, as Clay Shirky, the internet guru, put it, the “big one”. The unprecedented eruption from below on the streets of Iran was met with an eruption of new media to cover it. Shirky elaborates: “This is the first revolution that has been catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media.

. . . and people throughout the world are not only listening but responding. They’re engaging with individual participants, they’re passing on their messages to their friends and they’re even providing detailed instructions to [allow] internet access that the authorities can’t immediately censor. That kind of participation is really extraordinary.”

No comments: