Monday, June 22, 2009

Why I went green (#Iranelection)

Even at this late date, many people I know ask why my avatar's green (it's that digital subdivision again). And while the facile answer would be "to support the Iranian opposition," it's actually much more complex and yet more fundamentally simple than that.

First off, Iranian politics -- like those of any country -- aren't a simple case of good guy vs. bad guy. That only happens in the movies. Mir Hossein Mousavi, like current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was active in the Iranian revolution and supported the taking of American hostages.

So my avatar is not green to support Mousavi.

Secondly, I understand that Iran -- like every other country -- has a digital divide. And, I think, some digital subdivisions as well. Not every Iranian -- just like not every American -- has access to the Internet, or is familiar with Twitter, or understands how to upload videos to YouTube. So the initial burst of protests we saw was from a self-selecting crowd of people familiar with the workings of the Internet. Certainly not representative of all Iranians.

So my avatar is not green in support of a perceived universal protest by all Iranians.

There's a great deal of huffing and puffing that the United States government should Do Something to support these Iranian freedom fighters. This is an internal matter, and the acrimony surrounding the election is something Iranians must settle for themselves. (Imagine how we would feel if other countries felt they needed to Do Something when the results of the Bush/Gore election were in dispute.)

So my avatar is not green in support of foreign intervention.

Why is it green? To show support for the ability for anyone to have a voice on the world stage -- and for that ability to remain. Some citizens of Iran denied other outlets, aired their grievances in a most public forum -- the world-wide web. And in the process, forced their government to address their concerns in that same forum.

Now this is still a very complicated situation. The Iranian government's countered with their own blog posts, tweets, and videos. Rumors are flying fast and furious, and sometimes it's not immediately apparent what's eye-witness reportage and what's disinformation.

But the truth seems to eventually will out, somehow. And that's what I'm in favor of. The events of the past few weeks have shown how much more difficult it's become for any institution to keep a lid on things when any individual can potentially talk to the world.

What will play out in Iran? I can't say. But I support all the Iranians willing to risk their safety (and in some cases their lives) to let the world see what they see. Because I see this as just the beginning.

We've seen such online revolutions for relatively unimportant things, such as the Digg/DRM code suppression controversy, and Facebook terms of use uproar. But this time, those tools are being used for something that impacts the real -- rather than the virtual -- world.

And that's what I'm supporting.

- Ralph

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