A Dab of Social Media: Fake Revolutions

Alchemy of the “Twitter Revolutions”

Humans enjoy an unprecedented connectivity and ability to reach others.  This is now coupled with the infrastructure for a rapid, open flow of information: images, video, voice; by anyone, anywhere, online. This has the power educate, to promote peace, to expose injustice (indeed, it is hoped it will).  It also has the power to divert attention from particulars in a story, as well as outright misinform, using glitz, sales pitch and other coercive approaches.  It has been these strategies which have been consistently employed by Western Media since their foray into New Media.  And not only has this coverage been packaged for consumption (even subconscious source and ‘brand loyalty’), it has a bias, which reflects in the final product to the Viewer.  Summed up in a phrase simplification of a larger issue, but “what you need to know” and “what you remember,” sometimes making credulous leaps with repeated ‘truths’ the like of WMD’s, distortions of Al Qaeda or even declarations of “Revolution.”

Peabody award winning journalist/producer, Reese Erlich makes the argument that the 2009 Iranian “Twitter Revolution” was mostly a Western Media machination, set during a blackout of disputed election results. Erlich has covered civil uprisings in numerous countries in the Arab and Asia Minor regions and has critiqued the portrayal of these events by the Western Media in numerous publications. He observed that during the media blackout that followed the disputed victory of Ahmadinejad over Mousavi for the Iranian Presidency, correspondents, who were forbidden to cover the demonstrations, turned to New Media sources Twitter and YouTube for their information.  Without a doubt, this informed the West of electoral fraud accusations, demonstrations and a media crackdown in the country of Iran, but it was the Media that declared it a ‘revolution’ to the world. Ahmadinejad, declared pariah by the Western Media, now had a challenger, who would become a Media buzz-name and ‘Anti-Ahmadinejad’ in Mousavi. Even though the two politicians were not far off in platform; Center-Right and consistent with the mandates of Theocratic Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei rendering the election results generally moot in terms of progressive outcomes.

The limited coverage available to the West, from the ‘Twitter Class’, those being able to afford internet devices and such connectivity, which in 2009 was limited to an upwardly mobile segment of Iranian society, presented a very channeled picture: the grievances of the rich and upper-middle class; not necessarily the democratic will or demands of the people at-Large.  The Media blackout was modus operandi for the Iranian Government, ad arbitrium for journalists; catalyst enough for a Western Media story, with prepared suggested talking points to sell Western Consumers.  The substance of Mousavi, the ‘contested elections’ and demonstrations were largely unimportant and glossed over in Western Media outlets; being only the requisite points to justify or purport a revolution to the world.  It is only in that Western Media outlets were getting their material sourced from New Media that it became a self-titled “Twitter Revolution.”  Perhaps sounding too slick or cliché, a less radical catchphrase, the “Green Revolution”—revolution, nonetheless—was settled upon by Western Media consensus to encapsulate ‘coverage’ after the initial term was challenged.

So the question is: did a ‘revolution’ occur, or has the Western Media mischaracterized (valid) demonstrations, intentionally or unintentionally? I would posit that the action was intentional, considering that Iran is an oft mentioned foreign power, and ‘enemy’ by definition by our Military-Industrial-Congressional-Media complex.  I support the notion that media outlets capitalized both on the availability of new media footage and the chic nature of a Twitter ‘story’ to manufacture a narrative for their audiences. This narrative is a psychological attempt, firstly, to erode the validity of the Twitter ‘tool’ in general America, and predominantly, to solicit support for a course of action parroted by candidates and talking heads: Regime Change.  I hope to see the failure of the theocracy, which came to power after years of United States intelligence involvement, undermining democratically elected Iranian governments.  I do not want another puppet (or kindly, someone more malleable) as Mousavi has been characterized, rather, legitimate candidates, participating in free and fair and safe elections.  We only get to that point, yes, with regime change, which comes by revolution. But it must be a legitimate revolution, an overpowering display of the will of the people.  For the Western Media to claim one for their audience is coverage to what end?

Video: “Iran not a Twitter Revolution.” (Real News) June 2009.>
“Iran’s ‘Twitter revolution’ was exaggerated, says editor” (Guardian UK) June 2010.

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