[Play muted for best effect]
The cringeing cowards are out in force. It seems that Twitter is being used as a tool by the dastardly CIA. And according to a recent Harvard study, most social website users don't play with their toys much after Christmas Day, and therefore Twitter is nothing but the plaything of the idle western consumer, and not to be taken seriously. Or it is just a rumourmill, seething with as many lies as the Daily Star or Newsweek, or FoxNews and easily dismissed by print diehards.
It's all in the choice of the word 'rumour' instead of 'lead'. Twitter is, initially, providing leads. Old fashioned confirmation always provides stories. And what about the images and videos, how many of those are just 'rumours'?
Whatever bored consumers use it or don't use it for, it has been proved to be a valuable tool for people organising against suppressive or fraudulant regimes. Yesterday and today requests have been made for ideas. What kinds of collective actions could be taken to paralyse the state machine? What is the best remedy for tear gas and pepper spray? What are the safest ways of posting images and video? What kind of retaliation can be expected in this very Persian game of political chess. How can the Basij be identified and even targeted..?
The other argument is that the internet as a tool of change simply doesn't work because it can be turned off at will. This is patently not true, as the masses of footage emerging over the last week has shown, and it is an insult to the craft of the Iranian commentators, who know their business just as well as any Wapping hack knows how to bloat his expenses. And it also ignores the fact that for several days, the conventional media have been turned off entirely and have to rely on the civilians at trheir laptops. The shooting of Neda Agha Soltan on Saturday was news which was reported on Twitter several hours before it appeared on the BBC. Without Twitter, it may never have emerged at all.
Like many other aspects of the internet, personal publication does represent a massive shift of power, as proved by the Iranian regime's actions against it - actions made largely futile by the counter-actions of the global hacker community, garnered partly via Twitter and Facebook.
The sneering has to stop at some point. It seems that the left has to re-learn its own lesson, that the production, distribution and exchange of a commodity is inherently empowering. So when that commodity is information in an Information Age, is it any wonder that tyrannies begin to tremble?
The following Twitter users don't count, it seems.. or the use itself.
crisisintehran TODAY 4pm - Haft Tir Sq - Meydan 7 Tir - Tehran - in memory of our martyrs - Karoubi said hes coming(on his facebook)
stevemahfouz Please be very careful about what information you share on Twitter. The Iranian government monitors Twitter closely #iranelection #gr88
silentherotx #IranElection To deal with tear gas soak a bandana or paper towel in lemon juice or cider vinegar can breath a few minutes, also buy goggles
TGskills NAMES AND NUMBERS OF BASIJ AND OTHER ITELAGENCE AGENTS http://www.goftaniha.org/ #iranelection #iran #persiankiwi #mousavi1388 #twitpersia
etc etc etc. All useful to those concerned, and when the spooks do manage to work their wicked wiles, no doubt we'll find out about it. Until then, they have their hands full trying to stem the flood of unsuitable information leaving Iran. And it is a battle they are losing because of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Picasa, and other weapons which the Medieval minds of he mullahs still don't understand. Those using the internet to tell their story are way ahead of the defeatists.
Iran is the most sophisticated blogging community in the world, and the second biggest. They are the ideal people to test the new politics of personal publishing. And they have the sympathy of the freelance global hackers, who quite fancy the idea of making trouble for dictatorships from their bedrooms and garden sheds.
The argument against Twitter is the same one which discredits the Gutenberg press for culminating in Rupert Murdoch. In fact, what Twitter does is it give too much power to those awful ordinary people with their seditious, rabble-rousing pamphlets. Good.
Iran represents a definiing moment in the clash between medievalism and modernity, and modernity will win because the medieval mind does not understand the technology being used against it.
It is in the dilemma of needing the internet to survive in the modern global economy, while trying to deny it from the most sophisticated online community in the world. It will lose because it is not only trying to suppress its own people, but the aspirations of a global community.