Friday, June 26, 2009

Free Iran Recap - Freedom Via Internet

Since the election in Iran on the 12th of June, information about the protests and brutal government crackdowns has flowed in via the internet, particularly social media sites, and specifically Twitter. Twitter was the first place to provide information about the protests as the media largely missed the story in the beginning. Now the flow of information out of Iran has slowed due to massive arrests and violent government oppression. Along with the slowing of information, the main stream media's attention has been diverted. Yet this remains a topic that deserves continued public attention. People are fighting for their freedom under unimaginable conditions.

Here is a recap of some of the videos, stories, and information that has come out of Iran along with the role technology has played...

Total Oppression Versus Open Communication in Iran
In an early show of force students were beaten in their dorm rooms, and their rooms were trashed, computers and the like destroyed. Angered by the brutal beat downs, many professors at Tehran University protested by resigning. Hospital workers who treated the students, also disgusted by the government’s brutality, went on strike the following day to protest the students’ treatment.

Foreign media was banned, journalists have been jailed. Due to the crackdown, citizen journalism virtually the only way the story is getting to the rest of the world.

Iranian government claims that death of Neda was staged by the opposition. They prevent any form of public mourning for both Neda and the many others killed in the protests.

Soccer Team Members who wore green armbands during a game are permanently banned from the sport.

British representatives expelled from the country.

Special courts established for trying arrested protesters.

Mass show of force and violent suppression of peaceful protests continue.

Videos: The first video shows the death of Neda a young Iranian woman who has come to symbolize the Free Iran movement. She was shot while simply watching the protests, and reportedly died by her father's side. Be warned that the first two videos are very graphic and disturbing. The third video, while somewhat less graphic, but is also quite disturbing.

*VERY GRAPHIC* Young Lady Dies on Streets of Iran

*Very Graphic* Video of Iran Protests and Man Badly Beaten

Shooting of Iranian Students Caught on Camera

Massive Show of Force on Streets of Iran

Video of voter fraud in Iranian Election

June 20 Iran Protesters Face Off with Police

Crowds During June 20th Protests

Riot Police Attack Protesters in Iran

Video Showing Scope of Iranian Protests

This Week's Articles:

This week a violent beat down of protesters was under reported as the flow of information slows. CNN and the AP both had reports on this brutality...

AP Reports Iran Security Forces Again Beat Down the Opposition Protesters

Distraught woman describes the brutality to CNN, Reports of Brutal Crackdown In Iran

Article's Prior to the June 20th Protests

Concern About Khamenei’s Statements

Arrests and Protests Continue in Iran

American’s Practical Support of A Free Iran

Articles About the Role of the Internet in post-Election Iran

Twitter Changing the Playing Field In Iran and For Totalitarianism
One of my first thoughts on seeing Twitter being used by Iranians following their elections was, ‘Imagine if they had Twitter during Tienanmen Square.’ Totalitarian regimes historically thrive, in large measure, by controlling the media and modes of communication. Would be protesters become isolated. Government propaganda simply spins any protest or event into something that reflects well on the regime in power.

Following Iran Elections on Twitter – A Lesson in Freedom and Technology
Google Farsi - English Traslator: Google launches Farsi - English translator Thursday night/Friday morning. A hugely helpful tool that aids communication, and understanding of news directly from Iran.

Cable and Network News relying on Twitter: Saturday the 20th, with a government imposed blackout of foreign media CNN and others have to rely on citizen journalists along with Twitter and other social media sites to gather news. Protests are scheduled even though Ayatola Khamenei has made statements that suggest a possibly violent crackdown on protesters. Reports of tear gas used and armed police barricades used to disperse crowds.

Students Shot on Camera: A tweet linked to this video of Iranian students being shot

A graphic YouTube video of a woman's death (Neda) becomes a symbol of the movement. Trending topic on Twitter is #Neda as references to the video, and her life show how moved people were by her tragic death.

Mousavi Facebook post:
Through a post on Facebook it has been reported that Mir-Hossein Mousavi has stated that he is "ready for martyrdom."

Embassies Take Wounded Iranians: Word spreads quickly on June 20th that many European embassies are taking care of wounded Iranians. These embassies along with their address/directions were also diseminated through Twitter. The safety of the hospitals is in question, and the Canadian embassy is pressured (via use of Twitter) to open its embassy too, yet embassy remained closed on Saturday.

Iran Elections and the Internet
An interesting subplot to the Iranian elections is that the internet is providing people more information than major news networks...Dear CNN, Please Check Twitter for News About Iran

Since writing about the Twitter Effect in Iran, and the role of the Internet as a whole, I have also been interviewed on radio and TV. For more info on appearances, please visit the Broad Side of the Barn.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Twitter, Iran, and Cracking the Totalitarian Model

One of my first thoughts on seeing Twitter being used by Iranians following their elections was, 'Imagine if they had Twitter during Tienanmen Square.' Totalitarian regimes historically thrive, in large measure, by controlling the media and modes of communication. Would be protesters become isolated. Government propaganda simply spins any protest or event into something that reflects well on the regime in power.

Yet now there is Twitter, other social networks, and the internet at large. It's wise for Tweeters and others to understand that the deck is still stacked against those protesting the election. The Iranian government still controls the media, and in a textbook totalitarian move they have banned foreign press. While members of the Twitter community have set up proxy servers for people in Iran to use, the government has shut down known internet connections, which means that in all likelihood a large majority of Iranians are only hearing the official government version of events.

Yet protests continue and news spreads in large part due to Twitter and the internet. This is not something past totalitarian regimes have had to deal with. There are enough Iranians using Twitter (or other forms of communication) to organize that protests continue. The government has not been able to implement complete control. Hopefully those watching, participating, and following #iranelection on Twitter recognize that there is a definite possibility that this ends very badly as totalitarian regimes are also brutal. The reality is that what results from this is wholly a guess, but it changes the playing field and gives voice to those who previously had none. Person to person communication tools change the dynamic shifting, at least some of the power to the people, and puts a crack in structure of totalitarianism.


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Twitter Changing the Playing Field In Iran and For Totalitarianism

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Twitter Playing A Role In Iran

The Iran presidential elections were held Friday, June 21th. This is how Wikipedia summarized the election events...
With two-thirds of the votes counted, the Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran's official news agency, announced that incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won the election with 66% of the votes cast, and that Mir-Hossein Mousavi had received 33% of the votes cast. The European Union and several western countries expressed concern over alleged irregularities during the vote, and some analysts and journalists from United States and United Kingdom based media voiced doubts about the authenticity of the results.

Mousavi issued a statement saying, "I'm warning that I won't surrender to this charade," and he urged his backers to fight the decision as well as to avoid committing acts of violence. Protests, in favour of Mousavi and against the alleged fraud, broke out in Tehran. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged the nation to unite behind Ahmadinejad, labeling his victory as a "divine assessment". Mousavi lodged an official appeal against the result to the Guardian Council on 14 June. On 15 June, Khamenei announced there would be an investigation into vote-rigging claims, which would take seven to ten days.

Some of the reasons for questioning the veracity of the election results were, victory was declared very quickly making people wonder how the paper ballots could have been counted so rapidly. Polls prior to the election had shown the race as close, yet the 'results' indicated a landside. Mousavi's own home town even reported an overwhelmingly victory for Ahmadinejad. Clearly there was distrust amongst many of the Iranian people of the government as massive protests erupted and continue even now.

So what does Twitter have to do with this? Once protests started the Iranian government shut down public communications leaving citizens little means to communicate. Twitter, obviously not under the control of the Iranian government, is one of the few remaining tools for communication amongst the citizens of Iran. And it isn't just that Twitter is helping citizens communicate, it is a major player in getting the word out about what it is actually happening in Iran.

Network and cable news dropped the ball in their coverage of the elections, and over the weekend one of the hottest topics on Twitter was #cnnfail. However, the hottest topic was #IranElections. The Twitter feed was the first source for much of the news coming out of Iran. Here are examples of recent #IranElection tweets...
The images being posted via Twitter have been remarkable, and the Flicker account of mousavi1388 is definitely worth looking at.

A "mousavi1388" image of the protests via Twitter.

This has taken on a life of its own on Twitter. Users have set up proxy servers for Iranians to use as the government shut down internet access within the country. People are turning their Twitter avatars green in a show of support. Twitter itself has rescheduled maintenance downtime at the urging of users so that it will be available to Iranians during their peak hours. People are also changing their time and location settings on their accounts to Tehran time and locale in order to confuse Iranian officials who are trying to find out who is tweeting inside Iran. Even at this moment the hashtag (or keywords) #IranElection is being changed as it appears the Iranian government may be blocking it in Iran.

The Iranian government post election has done everything possible to show itself as a totalitarian regime by cutting off communication and violently suppressing protests. They are taking actions that those in the U.S. whether conservative or liberal can clearly see as wrong. It makes this a fascinating moment in history where technology and communications may actually be aiding freedom and democracy, while providing a first person account of events that the media has yet to fully come up to speed on.

Following Iran Elections on Twitter A Lesson on Freedom and Technology

Friday, June 12, 2009

Obama Uses McCain Platform

As a staunch McCain supporter I'm over the defeat; that is except when the Obama administration attempts to use parts of the McCain platform that they previously criticized. When the Obama administration followed the McCain plan in their Iraq and Afghanistan I was relieved. They weren't as reckless as their campaign statements made them appear. Also, I have to give them a gamesmanship points (even if they lose honesty points) for completely sticking it to the far left without making them angry. Yet the annoyance started when Obama used the McCain rhetoric about the economy without including all that pesky fiscal discipline. The statements post stimulus about strong economic fundamentals were practically verbatim what Senator McCain said during the election. Now health care is on the table and so is taxing employer based health insurance. Remember Obama campaign ads revolved around the idea that this was a terrible plan for Senator McCain to propose. Now it apparently is not such a bad idea. What makes it worse is that in the McCain plan there was a $5000 tax credit that would have off-set the tax. There will be no tax credit with the Democrat's plan, so any tax assessed is coming right out of your pocket. I'll get over the annoyance, but if the Obama administration keeps adapting McCain ideas the least they could do is adopt his fiscal discipline (and math skills) too.

Obama Using McCain Ideas

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Palin Letterman Feud Starting

While the Palin Letterman feud heats up, lets look at why David Letterman's bad joke appears to be the straw that broke the camel's back.

1. Letterman likely jumped on the Palins' last nerve when he made a crude joke at their daughter's expense. Governor Palin hasn't just been criticized, she and her her family have been attacked in a particularly hateful way, and at some point that has to wear thin particularly when ones children are targetted.

2. The Palin's reaction conqsequently was a little overreaching. It seems unlikely that Letterman was referring to the Palin's 14 year old daughter as the Palins thought. Circumstances pointed to the fourteen year old, but Letterman accurately pointed out that he doesn't have a history of making crude remarks referencing children. However, making vulgar remarks about any of the candidates/politician's kids is inexcusable, they didn't choose the public life and should be left alone (and 18 is still pretty young). The Palin's anger is completely justified and understandable.

3. Lots of people are fed up with jokes about female politicians always going 'there.' This can be seen in the HillBuzz blog (a Clinton supporters blog) requesting a boycott of Letterman sponsors. The lead in to the joke about the Palin girl was a crack about Palin looking like a "slutty stewardess." Like Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin has been the brunt of jokes and criticism that directly critique her appearance and sexuality. As hated as Bush and Cheney were in the last eight years, no one criticized their appearance or made explicit comments and jokes about them the way they have about Clinton and Palin. Again Letterman stomped on a raw nerve.

4. Some will be angry at the remark, others will be angry at anything referencing Governor Palin. Therefor this is is going to be big. Palin supporters can be quite intense (and oddly similar to the fervent Obama supporters). They're not likely to let it go, and the left's kooky raging Palin hatred means they won't let it go either.

So there you have it, we're in for a broohaha. Letterman's apology was weak because he was starky towards the Palins, and didn't recognize the fact that all of their kids should be off-limits particularly when making off-color jokes. Michael Steele has addressed the Palin Letterman matter by saying,
"Letterman's joke about Sarah and Todd Palin's daughter was thoughtless and tacky," Steele said in a statement to The Hill. "I saw his explanation for the joke, but sometimes the easiest thing to do is simply say 'I'm sorry.'"

"When Letterman starts making tasteless jokes about kids, it's time to turn the channel,"

Senator McCain defended the Palins saying,
"I don't understand why Letterman would say that about a young woman," McCain said during a telephone interview on Thursday. "They (the Palins) deserve some kind of protection from being the butt of late-night hosts."

As Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune sums up the situation in his article Palin is Right About Letterman by stating...
It's hard to see what Bristol has done to deserve the ridicule. It's not her fault her mother is a national political figure. Dealing with her situation is hard enough without being under a media spotlight.

Instead of acting as though he's the victim of someone else's misunderstanding, as he did last night, Letterman ought to simply admit he blew it, big time, and personally apologize to the Palins and his viewers.

He also should to keep in mind that if you're going to ridicule someone's sex life, you might pick on someone your own size. And make very sure you have the right person.

CBS's Feedback Form
Palin Letterman Politics

Friday, June 5, 2009

Senator Brownback on Gitmo

Senator Brownback talked to bloggers today laying out the problems with closing the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. The most pressing of these problems is what to do with the detainees. Senator Brownback explains that one commonly overlooked risk of bringing prisoners to U.S. prisons is that the surrounding prison communities may be subject to violent acts by groups making political statements about the prisoners' detention. He also explains that the Geneva Convention says that prisoners of war will not be held along with a general prison population. Senator Brownback lays out numerous reasons why closing Guantanamo is poorly thought out, and is decisively lacking a realistic and safe plan. The propsal also lacks support both in Congress and among the American people. A new Gallup poll shows that by a 2 to 1 margin Americans Oppose Closing Gitmo and Moving Prisoners to U.S.

This call is worth listening to as one may be surprised at the number of solid reasons the Senator gives for opposing the Obama adminstration's call to close Guantanamo.
Blogger Call with Senator Brownback
Brownback Talks Guantanamo and Foreign Policy « Purple People Vote