June 15, 2009

A lot going on...

This collection of photos from Iran is really quite amazing.

Fifteen years ago it wouldn't have been possible. Fifteen years ago the people risking their lives with those cameras would have been using film. Fifteen years ago it would have taken days if not weeks for them to smuggle film out of such an area, get it developed, and get the pictures published (on paper). That's because fifteen years ago pictures were a physical medium. That's all changed. Now pictures are bits.

Now the cameras are digital, the smuggling is by satellite phone or internet, and publishing is on the web. In some cases the picture can be seen by thousands around the world within an hour of when it is taken.

The Iranian government reportedly is trying to prevent this, by shutting down the phone system and seriously limiting access to the internet, but unless they're willing to cut the internet entirely there's really no way to prevent the word from getting out.

I am always amused by poets, artists, musicians, playwrights who claim they're going to change the world. It's all blather, self-important presumption. Poetry and paintings don't change the world.

Digital cameras and the internet are changing the world, and it's scientists and engineers who did that, not poets or artists or musicians.

Twitter, a social networking site originally intended to let teenage girls communicate with each other, is turning into a political tool to allow activists to coordinate protests in real time. Some dweeb programmer did that.

And they're doing a lot of their tweets using cellular phones. I myself helped with that, a little anyway.

I have no idea what's going to happen in Iran. Not a clue. But I know that what's happening now wouldn't have been the same fifteen years ago.

UPDATE: I am growing increasingly appalled at the silence from the Obama administration. I think I understand it, of course.

It goes against the grain for Obama to endorse Ahmadinejad's victory, when it was so obviously fraudulent. But if Obama comes out and endorses the protesters, and they lose, then he fears it will poison any chance he might have of negotiating with the Ahmadinejad government after things calm down. So he's waiting until he sees how things begin to resolve there, and in the mean time he isn't even willing to condemn the Iranian security forces for using live ammunition to shoot protesters.

I understand that. But it still makes him and us look lily-livered and unprincipled.

I have an intuitive feel that there's also some deer-in-the-headlights going on. Obama's world view is being shaken: this wasn't supposed to be happening. When he got elected and went on his world apology tour, it was supposed to usher in a new era in international relations where everyone would unclench their fist and begin to negotiate in a spirit of comity. After Obama made his speech to the Muslims in Cairo, the whole region was supposed to calm down and be less confrontative. And somehow it isn't happening like that. It's like he doesn't really have any idea just how to cope with how things actually are happening now.

UPDATE: Obama speaks -- but he doesn't say anything.

President Barack Obama says it's up to Iran to determine its own leaders. But he also says he's troubled by the situation in Iran and that it would be wrong to stay silent.

Yes? And? (crickets as Obama stays silent)

UPDATE: Here's his precise words:

Obviously, all of us have been watching the news from Iran. And I want to start by being very clear that it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be that we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran, which sometimes — the United States can be a handy political football, or discussions with the United States [can be]. Having said all that, I am deeply troubled by the violence I have been seeing on television. I think that the democratic process, free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent, all of those are universal values, and need to be respected. And whenever I see violence perpetrated on people who are peacefully dissenting, and whenever the American people see that, they are rightfully troubled.

Still sounds mealymouthed. What's with the passive voice? "...violence perpetrated on..." By whom?

And how about stop apologizing for America existing, OK?

UPDATE: Those of us who were adults in 1979 are having Carter flashbacks.

And that's the last thing I'm going to say on this thread. No more updates, OK?

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