Every few seconds they come in – 25 or 30 at a time. Tweets with the #iranelection hashtag.
And boy, do they make you think about the contrast between some of the Tweets you get – of the “just enjoying my beans on toast” variety – with some of the real life drama being played out across my Tweetdeck.
One reads: “RT from Iran ARD: Mir Hossein Mousavi speaking in South of Tehran. All mobile services cut in south Tehran.”
A pretty young woman with a nose stud Tweets: “PLEASE do not post names of twitterers in Iran. It’s very dangerous. Use RT from Iran or RT. This is very important! RT” The fact that she sent it five minutes ago brings home the urgency.
Many speak of planning to be among hundreds of thousands (some speak of 2m) of green-clad protestors at silent mourning protests today (Thursday 18), for those who have died since the protests at allegedly rigged elections by the country’s Islamist rulers.
Many people worldwide have picked up the technique adopted by Iranian Twitterers and have tinted their Twitter id photos green in support of the colour adopted by the supporters of reformist Mousavi.
One Retweet I am seeing again states “Iranian Supreme Leader Khameni is now using Twitter. Now we know how desperate they R.”
Desperate, or just using getting savvy to the same tools as protestors? Meanwhile, other Tweets label this source as a fake. Yet others in the US use the #iranelection hashtag to cynically get clicks to their commercial sites or, unbelievably, their charity fund-raising sites.
Indeed, the traditional media have been pointing out, and are right to do so, that any Tweet is essentially unreliable. Every one has to be taken with a pinch of salt.
A real authority among the green fog is exercised by the excellent Nico Pitney’s blog on The Huffington Post; it’s brilliant, because it evaluates what’s really valuable about the stuff coming out of and about Iran, and is also a live commentary on unfolding events. And it signposts to excellent links.
I hadn’t heard it on the UK news, but he says You Tube has relaxed its usual restrictions on ‘violent or gratuitous’ content to allow video files of demonstrations containing violence to be accessed.
Pitney quotes and links to a You Tube spokesman’s comment in the New York Times explaining their approach and praises it for being “one of the last broadcasters standing” in Iran, despite the authorities having been able to cut 90% of its traffic.
He points out that the site Citizen Tube is full of videos coming in.
One I’ve seen shows ordinary looking people running down a ordinary street while gunshots sound; they look bemused, walk back and forth towards the direction of the shots, some are bleeding and press their wounds, and some carry a man who is bleeding, leaving blood on the ground.
No editing, no effects, no direction – just recording. The camera goes up and down the street, back and forth, capturing the confusion of this Citizen Journalist, and you can hear his (or her) heavy, anxious breathing.
We are used to TV news ‘packages’ – commentary, editing, the structure of the Report. We have absorbed this visual grammar all our lives, we know how it works; then the news report finishes, we tut tut and our attention is taken by the next item.
The very ordinariness of these videos is shocking. They look like just us, our friends and neighbours. Ordinary people who want the kind of ordinary lives we take for granted, like being able to listen to their music, sport daft funky haircuts, and use Twitter and You Tube – which the authorities are doing their best to block.
There are other videos which are far more gruesome, and responsible sites carry appopriate warnings. I haven’t the heart to watch them. Real people, real injuries, in almost real time. Given that so much of what we watch on You Tube is entertainment, this content arouses uneasy feelings in me.
The Web and social media are changing our lives so rapidly that no one can really describe the impact on us and people – and on whole societies.
Who can guess how the situation in Iran will turn out? Whether there’s a revolution or not in that state, one thing is for sure – the impact of online technologies and social media is inexorably leading to a revolution in the head.
PS This site is for those who want to do simple things online to help the protestors , like relocate your Twitter setting to Iran to confuse the censors.