Internet coverage of the election in Iran is sweeping the globe in spite of the Iranian governments attempts impose an international media blackout. This is one of the first large scale examples of the true power of global social media, and its ability to change the world.
There is a saying in urban culture, "The revolution will not be televised", which first appeared on the 1970 album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, by Scott-Heron. The phrase has since attached itself to pop culture in reference to the common political strategy to control the media in times of crisis.
Just think "Good Morning Vietnam." In the film Robin Williams character Adrian Cronauer witnesses a bombing and rushes into the army radio station to report the story. He is stopped by the censors who say:
"What do you think you're doing? You know you're forbidden to read anything not checked by this office."
"What was there to check? I was there."
"You know the rules, airman. If this is a legitimate news story, it must go through proper channels."
"Look, tweedledee, it's an actual event." Cronauer replies while pointing to the blood stains on his shirt. "What do you think this came from? Shaving? It's the truth. I just want to report the truth. It'll be a nice change of pace."
"This is not official news, airman. As far as I'm concerned, it didn't happen."
Cronauer retaliates, "It did happen... What are you afraid of Dickerson? People might find out there's a war going on?"
That of course, is exactly what Sergeant Dickerson and his Army censors were afraid of, and what all military tacticians know to be an important element of maintaining control. Censorship and propaganda are weapons as powerful as any bomb.
All throughout history those in power have attempted to control the free flow of information, from the burning to the great libraries of Alexandria to the Iranian election of last week. Spin doctors are the NBA all stars of global politics. Press releases and newsfeeds from the top are manipulated to seem like they came from "the grass roots." The gatekeepers choose what goes into print and what appears on television, spinning it either right or left, based on the beliefs of editorial boards and people in power pulling the strings. Oh yes, that is not to say we lack dedicated and honest news people out there. Quite the contrary: They are legion. But any old time news hound will tell you, the walls of censorship do exist, and the fight to report unbiased truth is the eternal battle of ages.
In the old days, a three channel television and a one newspaper town were common. The people took in what was spoon fed, and developed their opinions accordingly. But that has all changed. The Genie has been let out of the bottle. The post election riots in Iran this week are a perfect example. In spite of the fervent attempts of the Iranian Government to cut off the flow of information about the election protests, the people have pushed back. After the election, text messaging was blacked out in Iran, social networking sites like Facebook were shut off, cell phone and land line service became spotty, and satellites for major networks like the BBC were jammed, preventing newsfeed transmissions from getting out of the country. On Italian television station reported their interpreter was beaten by police while confiscating their video tapes. At least four reporters are known to have been arrested inside the country and the whereabouts of ten others are currently unaccounted for.
But this time the media blackout did not work. The rise of the geeks has begun. Young tech savvy progressives are finding ways around every blockade, reporting first person accounts on blogs, Youtube and twitter, they are finding ways around the old guard attempts to control. They are circumventing downed networks, and uploading thousands of videos and pictures live from the scene. The gatekeepers no longer hold the keys. The uncensored voices on the internet are unstoppable, growing like a magic beanstalk, beyond any earthly means of control.
Yes folks, this revolution will be televised. The people have spoken, and in the process, they are changing the global face of power forever.