From the second and third paragraphs:
"...For Twitter enthusiasts, this has been a bumper year. With a new online tool at their chubby fingertips, they've helped to change the world. Or at least, that's what they think: the so-called Iranian Twitter Revolution recently won a Webby award for being 'one of the top 10 internet moments of the decade'.I've put a more extensive excerpt at the end of this post1, but as usual I recommend reading the entire op-ed piece.
"Let me tell you why I find that deeply troubling. There has been no revolution in Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has held on to power after a rigged election...."
The author has a point, which he makes later rather deeper in the opinion piece: that people in Iran who disapprove of the Ayatollah's government, and say so, put their lives in danger. Including people in Iran who use Twitter or other online resources.
"There has been no revolution in Iran."There has been no successful revolution in Iran. I'm quite sure that the Ayatollahs and their followers would be only too happy to agree that Iran's people are completely behind their Islamic republic - and that all the fuss is the work of outside agitators and CIA stooges.
The continuing protests are not, perhaps, quite a revolution in the sense of being a well-defined set of military operations conducted with the stated purpose of replacing Iran's current government with something else.
On the other hand, it's hard to shake the impression that quite a number of people in Iran are quite sincerely put out with their leaders and/or their leaders' actions.
Perhaps it isn't, quite, a revolution. But popular support for Iran's Ayatollahs is far from solid.
"Chubby Fingertips" and That Webby AwardTwitter is big these days: and to blame for quite a bit, if you believe everything you hear. ("Inbound Link Dead! Twitter Did It! (maybe so, maybe not)," Apathetic Lemming of the North (September 22, 2009)) What is quite certain is that Twitter is
I'll admit to having a personal bias when it comes to Twitter. I'm one of those people with "chubby fingertips" who use Twitter.
Right now, though, I'm using my "chubby fingertips" to opine about being proper, what's going on in Iran, and responsibility.
The author of that Telegraph op-ed, perhaps magnanimously, says:
"...There's nothing wrong with spreading awareness outside Iran, but it's horribly naive to think that supporting illegal activity in a foreign country has no ethical dimension...."The "illegal activity" he's referring to could be either disagreeing with the Ayatollahs, or participating in some of the more violent anti-government demonstrations. The basic idea, though - that confronting a dictatorship has an ethical dimension - is valid.
Just before that, he wrote:
"...If you're an internet user in Britain who communicates with an Iranian protester online, or encourages them to send anti-regime messages over the internet, you could be putting their life in danger...."I'm not an internet user in Britain. I live on the other side of the Atlantic. The same principle applies, though, I think.
There's been quite a lot written about the false sense of anonymity which many people seem to have when their online, and the equally false sense of immunity from consequences.
It's quite possible that some people who use Twitter - or other online social media - don't realize how profoundly non-anonymous they are when they're online. Even if you're not logged into Twitter or some other website, it's very easy to trace which server you're using - and just about exactly where you are.
I've written before, about how vulnerable the Internet is - particularly in some parts of the world - and how easy it is for repressive regimes to control and track online activity. (December 7, 2009)
Which is one of the reasons why I am so very concerned when I read that someone wants to 'protect' me or my family from the wicked, wicked Web. Remember when the Christian Coalition and the Feminist Majority tried to censor what Americans were allowed to read online? I do. (March 9, 2008)
That Webby AwardThe Webby Awards have been around for quite a while, and are more prestigious than many, probably most, Web awards. That said, I'm neither impressed nor appalled that Twitter won a Webby. Since it's well on its way to being one of the Internet's 800-pound gorillas, it would be odd if the Webbys didn't recognize Twitter.
Politely Looking the Other WayThe idea that 'proper persons don't talk about that' isn't a uniquely British notion. I've run into the same idea here in America.
Back in the sixties, the more unreflective conservative types were passionately convinced that nobody, but nobody, should criticize the government. It's not the sixties any more, and there's a new set of taboo topics - but that's another topic.
Politely looking the other way while Iran's Ayatollahs deal with counter-revolutionaries does not seem to be what this op-ed is about: "...There's nothing wrong with spreading awareness outside Iran...." Although I had to look for that (disclaimer?)
Natives and the Responsibilities of Proper British GentlemenWhat struck me, reading "Iran and Twitter: the fatal folly of the online revolutionaries," was what may be an underlying assumption. Repeating an excerpt I quoted before:
"...If you're an internet user in Britain who communicates with an Iranian protester online, or encourages them to send anti-regime messages over the internet, you could be putting their life in danger...."Factually, there's nothing to quibble about here. It is important to remember that someone living in a country which allows some degree of free expression does not face the same dangers as someone who does not. And people at the 'free' end of a conversation should remember that.
However, it's hard for me to shake the impression that the responsibility is seen as being at the British end. After all, people living in Iran are, by and large, Iranian. They're simply not British.
I think it's laudable that the author be concerned with the well-being of people in a foreign land. But isn't it reasonable to assume some level of personal responsibility at the non-British end of these communications? The words "native" and "white man's burden" don't appear in the Telegraph piece.
But I still can't shake the feeling that there's something of the old condescension that people in "advanced" countries were apt to show toward those in "primitive" lands: although terms like "third world" are more commonly used these days.
- "How to Shut Down the Internet - or - Dealing With Troublesome Ideas, and the People who Spread Them"
(December 7, 2009)
- "Iran, Protests, Internet Blackout, and Nuclear Bombs"
(December 7, 2009)
- "Iran's Supreme Leader and God"
(November 13, 2009)
- "Neda Agha Soltan's Death was 'Staged' - Officially"
(July 1, 2009)
- "Protesting Election Fraud is 'Waging War Against God' - Ayatollah Khatami"
(June 28, 2009)
- "Journalism in the Information Age, Or Nothing Says 'No' Like a Brightly Burning Motorcycle"
(June 24, 2009)
- " 'RIP NEDA, The World cries seeing your last breath ... We remember you.' "
(June 21, 2009)
- "Iran, YouTube, Twitter, Technology and the Human Spirit"
(June 19, 2009)
- "Iran: Win the Election, Lose the Country?"
(June 15, 2009)
- "DC Gun Ban, Online Censorship, Individual Rights, and Power to the People"
(June 27, 2008)
- "America, Iran, Freedom of Speech, Censorship: Be Careful What You Wish For"
(June 22, 2008)
- "Odd Allies: Opposition to Waterboarding and Web Censorship"
(March 9, 2008)
- "Iran and Twitter: the fatal folly of the online revolutionaries"
Will Heaven, Telegraph.co.uk (December 29, 2009)
1 Excerpt from today's op-ed in the Telegraph:
"As young men and women took to the streets of Tehran on Sunday to confront the Revolutionary Guard, another very different protest sprang to life all over the world. This one didn't face tear-gas or gunfire. And its participants didn't risk prison, torture or death. It took place on 2009's most trendy website: Twitter.com.
"For Twitter enthusiasts, this has been a bumper year. With a new online tool at their chubby fingertips, they've helped to change the world. Or at least, that's what they think: the so-called Iranian Twitter Revolution recently won a Webby award for being 'one of the top 10 internet moments of the decade'.
"Let me tell you why I find that deeply troubling. There has been no revolution in Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has held on to power after a rigged election. Meanwhile, protests continue to be violently suppressed by government forces and unregulated militias, with human rights groups saying that at least 400 demonstrators have been killed since June. Dozens of those arrested remain unaccounted for, and many of those set free tell of rape and vicious beatings in Iran's most notorious prisons...."
"...As a result, the crackdown in Iran has been easier than ever before. Once the Revolutionary Guard intercept a suspect message, they are able to pinpoint the location of a guilty protester using their computer's IP address. Then it's just a question of knocking on doors – and confiscating laptops and PCs for hard evidence.
"Sadly, when this happens, those outside Iran cannot always absolve themselves of responsibility. If you're an internet user in Britain who communicates with an Iranian protester online, or encourages them to send anti-regime messages over the internet, you could be putting their life in danger.
"There's nothing wrong with spreading awareness outside Iran, but it's horribly naive to think that supporting illegal activity in a foreign country has no ethical dimension. It's equally foolish, of course, to kid yourself that you're on the front line...."