Friday, June 19, 2009

Iran early lessons

OK, someone must start speculating on the consequences of what is keeping us riveted on the news this week.

Established Facts

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might have won the election but whatever the real margin of victory he might have got, his victory is desperately tarnished. He is a lame duck president from almost election day. It is to be doubted that he will finish his mandate as if nothing.

After 30 years of of Islamic Revolution, the model is exhausted, as any undemocratic model always gets exhausted. It is the law of history: it can last as much as the 70 something years of the USSR or the 12 years of the 1000 years Reich, but authoritarian models always exhaust themselves one way or the other.

The information system as we know it has irremediably changed.

Implications

I would not dare to speculate on Iran's fate: I simply do not know enough about it. I always had a gut feeling that an Ayatollah regime was no good news and I was one of the very people in my very leftist college of the time to be scared by Khomeini. All my colleagues were simply pickled pink that the Shah was out, regardless of who kicked him out. I was frowned upon but time has proved me right.

At the very least what we see going on in Iran is a major rift in the power structure, sore and cranky after 30 years of doing as it pleased. The end? Who knows. Maybe a pact between factions to avoid the regime to fall? An extension at best. Maybe a civil war? It would not last long: with the Basji and the militant country side repression will eventually win a temporary hollow victory and the new Iran will be a mess as new forms of internal terrorism will appear without a doubt. Will a FARC like situation that will never end develop? With all the rivaling interest in that area of the world we can be sure that there will be enough people willing to let and help the Iran situation fester.

What the Ayatollahs did not foresee was that the education they gave to many Iranians was going to fire back at them so badly. What we could call already the Twitter revolution has changed the political dealing all across the world. What we sensed as early as during the unsuccessful Dean Internet presidential campaign in the US has now become a full fledged mass movement able to unseat a regime. Maybe not Iran today but a lot of other countries have been served notice.

What happened? Massification of Internet in urban centers has met and created a generation of technologically educated youths. Maybe not that educated in other aspects such as political orthodoxy, but educated in the ways of the world where through Twitter and Facebook they can date as they cannot date in the streets. And this is not a cheesy example when you know that young women in Tehran streets are routinely asked by the Basji to tighten their scarf/tchador, not hold hands, etc... To these people Facebook was a taste of freedom that prepared them excellently for what is happening today in Tehran.

The shift to the Internet as a major source of information is now complete. We were not quite aware of it and we would have never expected Iran to tell it to us, so crudely, almost. Even this blogger only got to Twitter two days ago. That does not mean that newspapers are dead: few bloggers will ever be able to do and to write the deep research needed on many issues, a depth that can only be offered by newspapers, not even TV news too worried about the now, right now ratings war. A major realignment in the media is to be expected everywhere in the world.

And thus we come to the real objective of this post: what will Chavez (and China, and Belarus, and Cuba) do to stop Internet, text messaging, Twitter, etc....? I do not know what they are going to do though it is predictable that major Internet progress in China and Cuba is now going to be less likely. But can Chavez put the genie back in the box? Right now at Miraflores they know, without a doubt, that closing Globovision will simply accelerate the development of alternative Internet media that can be even more dangerous as it cannot be easily controlled or sanctioned for spreading lies as needed. We are back to the era of the samizdat. Chavismo is simply faced with the daunting task of a massive media control of which Globovision might be the easiest part.

The ones who have a clearer panorama now are the opposition political leaders: they have a few months, not too many but a few, to organize a network system that will come in handy at election time and even better, at repression time. Internet maybe "no sube cerros" but SMS and phone based mail or Twitter "si puede subir cerros". (sube cerros, Venezuelan equivalent of will it play in Peoria? If your program reaches the extensive uphill shanty towns of Caracas, cerros, your chances of being elected increase.)

-The end-

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