Monday, June 15, 2009

Can't take my eyes off Iran

Although I was a day or two late to the party, for about the last 24 hours I've been totally engrossed by what is going on in Iran. I'm not sure why this potential revolution has grabbed me any more than any other, but I find myself refreshing the Internet sites and scanning the news channels for updated information at a pace and with an intensity that I rarely experience when following an international event.

Maybe it's because of my age. For me and others of my generation, the Iranian hostage crisis Iran is the first international event that I remember. I was eight years old when the hostages were taken, and I remember the updates on the TV news night after night after night. I even think I wrote a poem in the third grade that referenced the crisis, among other current events. Seeing millions of Iranians take to the streets to protest the actions of a government that was formed out of the revolution that sparked the hostage situation--so tied to that event is the current administration that President Ahmadinejad is widely believed to have been involved in the holding of the hostages--is incredibly compelling.

I think I also have a sense that I missed out on the major events of my formative years. I payed almost no attention to the protests in Tienanmen Square 20 years ago and just barely followed the collapse of communism and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. I'm not sure what was so important that summer--well, OK, I was probably more concerned with getting a girl I had dated my freshman year in college to come back to school in the fall than I was with what was happening in China--but whatever the reason, I hardly remember any of it.

(I did go to see Nelson Mandela give his big speech at the Esplanade in Boston. But even that was in an effort to impress a woman. We must have been about the last of the 300,000 of so who were there to see him speak because he appeared to be the size of a period in the distance. Even so, I think I was more excited to see Mike Dukakis speak than Mandela, since I was certainly more emotionally involved in the 1988 elections than I was in the fall of Apartheid. After the speech, I took her to the Theater District to catch a performance of Shear Madness. Wow. Could there have been a more odd combination of events in the history of dating?)

But where was I?...Oh, Iran. So I've been following along on the Huffington Post, Andrew Sullivan's blog at The Atlantic, and the National Iranian American Council. One of the interesting dynamics in play is the level at which the crisis is being played out both on the Internet and behind it. Much of the Internet traffic coming out of Iran has been cut off by the governnment, but a number of Iranians have been able to get minute-by-minute updates out via Twitter. Those updates and messages relayed out of Iran by phone and the occasional email have been making their way to bloggers and new media sites like the ones above and have been the main source of news for me and many millions of other trying to keep abreast of events over there.

Certainly the new media has been doing a better job of things than the cable news networks. I tried watching CNN for a time last night, and I found that I just couldn't do it. They didn't have anything that I hadn't already read about or watched on the web. And I just didn't get the same sense of urgency that I did when watching other events on the network.

Like many, I fell in love with CNN during the first Gulf War. Watching the tracers fly over Baghdad and hearing the explosions in the background while Bernie Shaw and Peter Arnett were on the phone hiding under the bed in their hotel room was riveting TV. I felt like I was there. Watching Don Lemon read tweets from viewers commenting on CNN's coverage (as opposed to reading tweets from the streets of Iran) and roll tape of Christane Amanpour (who I like by the way) ask questions at a day-old press conference paled in comparison to what I expect from CNN.

I'm still keeping tabs. I even wore a green shirt today in support of the Iranian opposition (you know, because someone at my office just might have enough sway with the Ayatollah to call him up and say "Lance is with the masses. Time to give the gig up."). I'm not going to miss what might be this decade's Tienanmen Square.

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