There is a lot of headlines being written on Iraq.
But there are a few facts “below the fold” that you might want to keep in mind if you are watching CNN correspondents who seem clueless to what is going on. (Here in the Philippines, we only have CNN and the BBC for our news).
Last night and this morning, CNN was breathless on the fact that the Iranians were using Twitter and other internet sites to get out the news.
Well, duh. Don’t they know that Iran has one of the most active blogger/internet using countries on the web? Of course, most of it is in Farsi, not English, so I guess they don’t know about it (Indeed, I winced at a CNN correspondent saying that one site was written in “Persian”…uh, yes, and CNN International, British is spoken).
Similarly, I heard them report a few days ago that the “polls” agreed with the election results, as if the reporter thought that echoing propaganda was the same as reporting news.
Uh, fellahs, there are quite a few polls out there, and the ones you cited were government polls. Alternative polls are on the internet, didn’t you spot them?
Does anyone in CNN know how to google?
The reason that everyone with a brain knew that at least part of the election was rigged was that the votes (on paper ballots no less!) were counted within hours– and that the vote count was suspicious: the candidates even managed to lose their home towns, for heaven’s sake.
Even here in the Philippines they are better at election fraud than that. (But of course, we have a free press that usually sniffs it out quickly).
One of the items that I wondered about was that the earliest TV news reports implies that the protests were limited to only students, not the general population.
That would be a valid point, if true. Heck, here in the Philippines, the local students and leftists can get up a couple thousand without raising a sweat, and if they sweat, they can usually get some junior military officers to go along with them to try to make it a “coup”.
But despite CNN shrugging off the election protests, if they had managed to check the blogs, who noted photos on Flickr and Facebook, and you-tube videos, they would have found large pro Moussavi demonstrations (that were largely publicized via Facebook) before the election: and that these rallies included veiled grandmoms, people with children, and a lot of middle aged folks.
One clue that the government realized that there might be a problem was when the censors cut off Facebook, where Moussavi had a page where many folks discussed politics.
It was almost as if the censors were doing it to stop people from talking to each other and saying: “You too? I thought I was the only one who felt that way”.
But most people are aware that censorship is back on, with reporters forced to sit in hotel rooms “for their own safety”, and a lot of sites censored.
Of course, that won’t stop internet savvy youth.
Today’s CNN had a segment about getting past the internet censors. Again, this is a few days behind the curve.
A couple days ago, ZDNET reported on the attempt of the Iranian government to block the news, including the internet, and that immediately alternative ways to communicate the story of the protests popped up: twitter, facebook, you tube, and information on how to get past the censors.
Luckily, one geek working at the State Department had the gumption to ask Twitter to put off routine maintenanceÂ so that the students wouldn’t be cut off.
But private sites went gung ho to support freedom.
Just hit the Pirate Bay (a notorious P2P site that every student worth his Apple knows about) and you now get “Persian Bay” logo, with a link to the Iran protest site (in English, although the Pirate Bay is located in Sweden). Another site has the sourcecode with instructions on how to get around Twitter blocks, a third lists his Tor code so that videos can be downloaded, and the libertarian site BoingBoing has a link to “how to do cyberwar”, also in English (although commenter have links to translation sites).
So if you want to know what is going on, you might be better asking your grandson that watching CNN.
But internet use is not the only place that the “Mainstream media” is behind the curve.
A lot of “experts” are pooh poohing Mr. Moussavi, saying that the election is between Tweedledee and Tweedledum,Â and pointing out that it was actually Mr. Moussavi who started Iran’s nuclear program.
What they fail to mention was that Iran was at war at the time, with Iraq: and that Saddam’s nuclear program had been destroyed a few years before by the Israelis. George W. Bush was not the only one spooked that Saddam Hussein might be hiding WMD’s: Indeed, Saddam used poison gas against his own people, using the excuse that they were helping the Iranians.With such a next door neighbor, I’d try to get a nuke too.
The dirty little secret is that Iran has lots of oil, but can’t make it’s own gasoline, and has to import natural gas for their cold winters. They could use peaceful nuclear power.
Another story being pushed in the media that may not be accurate is the implication that Iran, like the US, is divided into “red state religious nuts/blue state good guys”, and then come to the conclusion that Ahmadinejad got most of his support from the poor deluded pious rural people.
Yet Michael J. Totten notes that rural Iranians are conservative in the old fashioned sense of the word, but that Ahmadinejad is a fascist totalitarian who uses religious language.
And as Nate Silver documents with hard data at FiveThirtyEight, urban voters were more likely than rural voters to support Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
That would explain why Ahmandinejad was in rural areas buying votes: after all, you don’t have to buy votes from those who would vote for you anyway.
Another report that I’ve seen on several blogs was that the government was using “Arab speaking police” to arrest the students.
These could be Arab minorities, but some bloggers report that the government asked for help from Hezbollah, who sent some trained militia to so the dirty work that local cops/soldiers don’t wish to do.
This has a lot of parallels with the Philippines’ “People power” revolution, where Marcos lost the Army and had to import soldiers from his non Tagalog speaking areaÂ of Luzon to try to put down the uprising.
Finally, I haven’t heard if the protests were only in Farsi communities, or if the minority communities were helping.
There are a lot of different ethnic and religious minorities in Iran, including some that cause trouble.
Some of these minorities have “liberation” type groups that are involved in the drug trade or smuggling (e.g. the Balucchi tribe) but if they cause trouble, it is always blamed on the CIA. Other groups like the Arab minority have ancient grievances. And then there are the Kurds, who have wanted their own country for years, but are spread between four neighboring countries.
One can always make the CIA a scapegoat (and the only reason to doubt their presence is their general incompetency).
But Amnesty International notes human rights problems exist:
There was continuing unrest among Iranâ€™s main ethnic minorities, notably the Azerbaijani, Baluchi and Kurdish communities, over their perceived marginalization and the governmentâ€™s failure to uphold their economic, social and cultural rights as well as their civil and political rights.
In summary, I don’t know that much about what is going on in Iran, but it’s a bit more complicated than what I am seeing on CNN, which has underplayed the story for the last week.
In contrast, in our Philippine newspapers and reporters are chosing news reports that suggest parallels with our own People power revolution.
Like myself, it might be wishful thinking, or it may be that we are sensing something going on that is less obvious to reporters stuck in hotel rooms.
(cartoon from an email from a middle aged Iranian friend).