Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Actually, The Revolution Will Be Televised

A coup in Iran would take a lot more than the departure of President Re-Probably-Not-Elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from the country. And, lest we let optimism get away with us, it is not entirely clear who exactly would end up in control of a newly emergent Iranian government. Or, in the words of a colleague:
The more important principle these days, especially in those ersatz democracies is that it is not the first election that counts but the second...
An election means nothing until, upon the next cycle, the elected permit themselves to be removed from power.

Still it is a little baffling to see the likes of the Independent effectively ignoring the traditional message telegraphed by a leader departing in the middle of widespread unrest.

So far the only clear winner in this tangled morass is Twitter. And this is illusion. Aside from cute but trite quotes borrowed from historic soundbites like "The revolution will not be televised, it will be Tweeted," (and the annoying tendency to capitalize "Tweeted" (who capitalizes, who ever capitalized "televised"?) Twitter is not the revolutionaries' best friend. Even as I type this Iranian organizers are struggling with inauthentic messages from "the revolution" urging supporters to meetings organized by the secret police, wrestling with proxies to circumvent the secret police's internet blocking efforts, warning of "honey pot" proxies designed to lure in dissenters and record their IP address for later handling by non-cyber means, honing in on Twitter accounts with Iran locations in the profiles and generally using Twitter to spread disinformation. Unlike the anonymous flier, a political Tweet points right back to the Tweeter. Somewhere, someone has a long, long list of IPs to take a look at when (if) all this quiets down.

Be this as it may, one of the last employed 20something sell-siders is, even now, busily justifying new multi-billion dollar Twitter valuations in the Stand-By Deck by reference to a percentage of the New Market Economy in Iran after the Tweeted Revolution opens the place wholesale to western goods.

Don't believe the hype. Twitter may be helpful short term, given the ability to create "flash crowds," but absent authentication and stronger organizational tools it is equally useful as a tool of secret police everywhere. The picture of Iranian Twitter operators running around the capital, looking for the next undiscovered internet connection, the secret police hunting for satelite dishes, and the folly of trying to collect news to distribute when your office moves every few hours is not pretty. Will someone please tell them to open a encrypted tunnel to an exile organization in London and Tweet from there?

The only reason the internet is serving the "revolution" at all presently is Iran's ineptitude in putting together the means to control it. Imagine how short lived would be an internet "revolution" if Iran had passed the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 and appointed a Cybersecurity Czar, for instance.

Can you mount a coup without taking the television stations, the radio stations and the ministry buildings? I suppose we will soon find out. I am not hopeful.

It might not come to this. A persistant rumor has the military refusing to follow orders to fire on protestors (obviously the riot police and the militias have no issues following those orders). Another has several generals arrested. A third has the clergy elders wavering, and not yet complimenting Ahmadinejad on his victory.

Iran is likely to fully seal its borders before long. Then the long slog of real revolutionary work will begin. Hint: If the next leaders in Iran are also granted their legitimacy from Qom, you have accomplished exactly nothing. Twitter is no help at all with that particular problem, is it?

Meanwhile, crude futures yawn lazily. Sphere: Related Content
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