The nu-media marketing guys must be loving it: Everybody talking about “the Twitter revolution” in Iran; the dark-age Ayatollahs having their reactionary powers zapped from them by the button-clicking masses; the hip Iranian “Millenials” proving that freedom is aflame through social networking interface platforms. Middle East 2.0.
Well, sorry to cry humbug at everybody’s online party, but isn’t this condescending guff? The western response has been: wow, we didn’t realize Iran was so vibrant, so modern, so like us. Keep it up, guys: We’ll tweet you all the way to secular democracy.
Unlike the poor protestors on the streets of Tehran, though, we don’t have to get our heads kicked in by security forces. We just tune into the revolution from the gym, or gorp at videos of the violence on our IPhones.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s wonderful that new technologies can help dissent against oppression. It’s great that Iranians can, to use the phrase, by-pass traditional media to show that their country is not the neocon caricature of a monstrous theocracy.
But there is something fraudulent in our online admiration for those battling on freedom’s behalf in Iran; our virtual participation, even, in their struggle through the global communion of the world wide web. It’s as if we are vicariously living out fantasies of courageous rebellion against the oppressor on our laptops and cellular devices. But we don’t get blood on our keypads.