‘Catch Phrase’ vs. Reality in Iran

Knowing how much “we reporters love a catch phrase,” Iran writer Reese Erlich (ZNet, 6/28/09) wants you to know that, despite “Twitter being all a flutter in the west,” current reporting is “highly misleading” in that “Iran is not undergoing a Twitter Revolution. The term simultaneously mischaracterizes and trivializes the important mass movement developing in Iran.”

After tracing the concept’s origins back to self-obsessed Western media–“desperate to find ways to show the large demonstrations…reporters were getting most of their information from Tweets and YouTube video clips”–Erlich gives us the reality of the situation:

First of all the vast majority of Iranians have no access to Twitter. While reporting in Tehran, I personally didn’t encounter anyone who used it regularly. A relatively small number of young, economically well-off Iranians do use Twitter. A larger number have access to the Internet. However, in the beginning, most demonstrations were organized through word of mouth, mobile phone calls and text messaging.

But somehow “Text Messaging Revolution” doesn’t have that modern, sexy ring, especially if you have to type it with your thumbs on a tiny keyboard.

More importantly, by focusing on the latest in Internet communications, cable TV networks intentionally or unintentionally characterize a genuine mass movement as something supported mainly by the Twittering classes.

In actuality, as “hundreds of thousands of Iranians poured into the streets in Tehran and cities around the country,” they largely “organized silent marches through word of mouth and phone calls, since the government had shut down text messaging just prior to the election.” Erlich makes clear it is important to understand that, “contrary to popular perception, these gatherings included women in chadors, workers and clerics–not just the Twittering classes.”

Listen to FAIR’s current radio program CounterSpin: “David Barsamian on Iran Upheaval” (6/26/09).