Protesters again rally in Tehran today; seven reported dead.I don't want to get all gushy over Twittering (which I don't do) and the power of blogs (which is overstated). But if you have wanted to find out what's going on in Iran -- a 24/7 story tailor-made for CNN, MSNBC and Fox -- you were spit out of luck if you relied on the telly and would have been tuned in only if you went to the Daily Dish, TPM, The Lede or any number of other big blogs.
I stopped by those cable news channels several times on Sunday and Sunday evening between innings of a couple baseball games, including the Phillies' oh-so-satisfying come-from-behind win over the Bosox.
CNN was typical: Instead of one of their intrepid reporters giving me the latest from a rooftop in Tehran, there was a pre-recorded financial roundtable the first time I dropped in, a national weather forecast the second, a review of the Sunday talk shows the third, and finally a Larry King rerun, for crying out loud.
At Fox, where there is reliably regular pants wetting over the latest Obama outrage, the Iran story proved to be a tougher nut as the news station showed an image of some guy whom it identified as Mir Hossein Mousavi waving at a massive protest rally. We still don't know who the guy is, but it wasn't the reform leader.* * * * *Meanwhile, as backwards as many Americans assume that Iran is, the government of President Ahmadinejad has proved to be wickedly adept at high-tech skullduggery to block the grassroots communications that are the oxygen for any successful protest movement.
This has included shutting down text messaging, YouTube and Facebook, hacking opposition Web sites (as well as possibly Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish) and blocking incoming satellite transmissions in an effort to keep Iranians in the dark.* * * * *The neocon brain trust is predictably urging President Obama to get involved in the post-election imbroglio, including demanding another election.
This is a bad idea for several reasons: Like it or not, like the prez says, this is an internal Iranian matter. Speaking out too strongly for the protesters paints them as U.S. tools in the eyes of the hard-line Iranian political establishment. If he did get involved he probably would fail, which would make the neocons happy, and if he succeeded but there is a backlash, then the neocons would be even happier. Finally, the Grand Ayatollah and not Ahmadinejad hold the true power.
And don't you just love Ahmadinejad stealing a trick from the conservative Republican play book by calling the people at his rallies "real Iranians?"
* * * * *In an earlier post, I took myself to task for not heeding my own advice, specifically the perils of reading too much into the election in Iran and imposing stateside standards on it.
I am not an Iran expert by a long shot. That so noted, I nevertheless have a knowledge accumulated over the years of the tortuous relationship that Persia and later Iran has had with the West that is colored by some great books, including Gary Sick's All Fall Down, Mark Bowden's Guests of the Ayatollah and David Fromkin's A Peace to End All Peace.
A common theme of the three is that the West has never allowed a level playing field, not even for a moment, and has relentlessly viewed these peoples as inferiors.
If anything good comes out of the last several days' events, and as temporarily affirming as the massive protest marches may be, it is that for the first time Iranians are viewed by Americans not just as hair-on-fire fanatics with a nuclear weapons program but people who dress pretty much like we do, adore our culture if not our politicians, and believe that a new kind of freedom was within their grasp but was snatched away from them.
Beyond that I can only see more darkness.