Iran: 1986 Again?
June 17th, 2009
Surprisingly, I have not heard much comparison between what is going on in Iran and what happened in the Philippines in 1986--namely, the “People Power Revolution” that threw out the Marcos regime. In both cases, there was a stolen election which led to mass protests which lasted for a few weeks until the regime collapsed. The two cases are hardly identical, but there are some interesting parallels. One of those parallels is communication. In the Philippines, the government controlled communications, but one channel--Radio Veritas--was in the hands of the opposition. Those involved said that “Without Radio Veritas, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to mobilize millions of people in a matter of hours,” and “Radio Veritas, in fact, was our umbilical cord to whatever else was going on.” In Iran, Twitter is the modern equivalent; it is being used to maintain communications, organize events, and keep the outside world informed of what's going on inside Iran--even as the American media virtually ignore what's happening. Twitter is of such value, in fact, that the U.S. State Department specifically asked Twitter to delay maintenance on their servers that would have caused downtime in Iran. There are a lot of gun advocates who say that their guns are ultimately the only things which keep an oppressive government at bay; I think that this idea is simplistic and wrong. (In fact, we have seen quite clearly that all to many gun nuts are willing to allow the the dismantling of civil rights, so long as they can keep their guns; the dictator will be welcomed by the armed, not fought by them.) Of the revolutions in the last hundred years that unseated oppressive governments, most--if not almost all--were achieved by an unarmed populace. In fact, I don't know if there has been a single overthrow of a government using personally-owned firearms in the last century. Armed uprisings that have been successful have probably been armed from the outside, not from mantlepiece firearms. No, what truly makes the dictator tremble is communications. Communications can make or break an uprising far more surely than any number of firearms. The uprising in Iran right now may ultimately fail, but if it succeeds, it will owe a lot to a software package with a silly blue bird mascot.