It’s everywhere. Listen. Listen. Listen. Here come the drums. Here come the drums.
As you may have heard, Iran had their presidential election last Friday. This would come as a surprise to most people who base their knowledge of Iran on the news coverage they receive in the United States, because President Ahmedinejad is frequently referred to as a dictator in the press. We also get the impression that the president of Iran would be in a position to authorize military attacks against other countries. We also get the impression that Iran has been exceptionally belligerent since the 1979 islamic revolution.
None of those impressions are particularly true, but that hardly matters. When the official results were announced, the leading opposition candidate Mousavi cried foul. Credulous bloggers and tweeters around the world stood at attention and immediate cries of election fraud were echoing through the Internet. Ahmedinejad couldn’t have won! 75% of Iranians are under 27 years old! The youth hunger for reform! Mousavi is the great hope for democracy in Iran! Where is my vote! Holy shit, people got shot at the riots!
I’m a knee-jerk skeptic at heart, so I took all of this with a grain of salt and a bit of caution. When storefronts are being vandalized in the midst of a massive political protest, there’s going to be teargas. There are going to be policemen in scary riot armor. People are going to get beaten. This happens in any country over any issue. In most parts of the world, when protests of this scale and character take place, somebody gets shot. Unfortunate, but true.
The main problem I see with the outside world’s reaction to Iran’s election results, whether on blogs or Twitter or CNN or my local newspaper, is that we’re getting the same echo chamber effect I’ve seen before. This is the kind of coverage we got about Panama before we invaded to snatch up Noriega. This is the kind of coverage we got about Iraq before each time we invaded there. This is the kind of coverage we got about Serbia before we started bombing Belgrade and putting soldiers into Kosovo.
Step away from your keyboard for a second. Take a deep breath. Count to ten slowly. Exhale. Think for a second about the tone you’re adding to the public conversation of this matter. Are you being constructive? What are the foreseeable consequences of what you’re contributing to? Are you speaking to the facts, or echoing and amplifying rumor and propaganda?
“Where is my vote?” is a question asked by many in Tehran this week. It was asked by many in Ohio in 2004 and Florida in 2000 and Texas in 1960. In modern democracies we vote anonymously to avoid undue pressure, but anonymity removes accountability and requires some element of trust. Let them work it out.