As I was heading out the door on Friday afternoon, a colleague brought my attention to Peggy Noonan’s Friday column in the Wall Street Journal – especially the final few paragraphs, which discuss the role of technology in the Iran election protests:
“Some ask if the impact of the new technology is exaggerated. No. Twittering and YouTubing made the story take hold and take off. But did the technology create the rebellion? No, it encouraged what was there. If they Twittered and liveblogged the French Revolution, it still would have been the French Revolution: “this aft 3pm @ the bastille.” It all still would have happened, perhaps with marginally greater support. Revolutions are revolutions and rebellions are rebellions; they don’t work unless the people are for it. In Iran, Twitter reported and encouraged. But the conviction must be there to be encouraged.”
That’s noteworthy advice for anyone trying to build an online political movement: it won’t work without offline excitement and action.
Mashable has another story of the role of media in Iran – the disturbing video of a young woman, Neda Soltani, dying on the street from a gunshot wound. Blogger Pete Cashmore asks, “Among the myriad Tweets and Facebook messages, could it be that a YouTube video becomes the galvanizing moment in Iran’s troubled election?” I’m surprised that he sounds surprised – in crisis situations video will always be the most powerful means of communication. Videos of the human effect will create a connection with events which simply cannot be duplicated by a 140-word Twitter post.
Technology is giving us a better picture of what is happening in Iran, but it isn’t causing it. The rules of revolution don’t change, only how we watch them.