Saturday, June 13, 2009

God is great

Never in my life did I think I would see Andrew Sullivan write Allahu Akbar.

Snark aside, the post itself is a good thought (if delivered in typically epic language), and one I had as well--see the title of my previous one. Twitter and other new media have been essential to the opposition in Iran and to the publication of their efforts. Sullivan's comment that "you cannot stop people any longer" because they can get around the roadblocks with such technologies reminded me, oddly enough, of Russian History class back in high school. We discussed the roles of new transportation and communication technologies in making the October revolution possible.

I wonder if most revolutions depend on some kind of similar communication or transportation asymmetry. The 1979 Iranian Revolution was hugely dependent on cassette tapes: these were used to illicitly distribute Khameini's sermons to the public. The moment of triumph was the moment that the revolutionaries got control of the state television station and broadcast Khameini's arrival in Tehran, something the Shah had blacked out.

I mean actual revolutions, mind you, not coups: for a good coup all you need is some well-placed friends, an authoritarian system, and a little luck. Communications hardly matter. In actual revolutions, though, people need to be able to talk to each other. They need to feel that they're not alone, they need to plan and organize. Whoever's in power will always try to stop this, and usually an authoritarian state is pretty good at that. So most of the time, you need an asymmetry for this to happen at all, no? You need places where the government can't reach. Like illegal cassete tapes, or Twitter, or tunnels.

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