Twittering Liberty…and Hope – UPDATED

Emily Dickinson wrote:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words
And never stops at all…

How appropriate then, that the communications tool most responsible for keeping hope alive in shattered Iran is “a thing” called “Twitter,” and that the 140-character dispatches being sent and received by people in desperate straits are called “tweets.”

People are “tweeting” for their lives, and their messages are bold, frightened, determined and unbelievably moving. Students are sending out: “They are trapped in the dorms,” and “I cannot remain; I must participate.” They head off, unsure whether they are headed to a peaceful rally or a massacre, and they are not heard from for 18 hours; and people around the world -strangers- pray and wonder.

Then, miraculously, they are back, tweeting news, stories of destruction, injury, damage, hope; they are passing messages. Word comes that the totalitarian regime is trying to find these people, and so millions of “tweeps” (twittering people) change their time and location settings to Tehran, to create some cover. From the West, words of encouragement and, terribly, links to “concise instructions on treating gunshot wounds,” for those who fear they may need it.

The messages keep coming, and coming…

:::RT (Retweet) from Iran: Rasht and Ahwaz in real trouble, many dying and not being reported:::

:::RT from an Iran: “I realize now i do not fear death. I fear my daughter will not be free when i die:::

:::Confirmed: Ayatollah Montazeri questions #iranelection Results, Supports Peaceful Protests, Condemns Violence. :::

:::“140 chars is a novel when you’re being shot at.”:::

Andrew Sullivan has been doing great work, and here displays pictures and tweets. Do check it out.

This is a little like sitting at a ham radio, listening to broadcasts from behind the Iron Curtain, transmitting back what heartening words you can. But it is quiet. You can feel the pulse. It is a human force for freedom that is pressing, pressing against restraints; fully aware of the danger, it yearns, pressing forward, still. It is a terrible beauty.

Naghshe Jahan Sq / Esfehan / IRAN

A Mature, Elegant Protest: A peaceful gathering of a couple million people in Iran. Twitter has some folks from Iran managing to get some messages out, and receive messages of support and encouragement.

It occurred to me over the weekend, while the MSM was, to their everlasting shame, not reporting on the Iranian uprising, that Twitter had become the pre-eminent tool for breaking news. Blogs immediately receded into the background and became secondary, and the big-time-professional news organizations were somnambulist non-players (perhaps they were unsure how to frame the thing until orders were received from “wherever”).

Twitter has been beyond impressive. Understanding that people in Iran were out of options and dependant upon them, they even delayed some scheduled downtime for maintenance, in order to keep the information flowing. That was generous of them, encouraging and even a little noble.

Sissy Willis, following Glenn Reynold’s lead, calls it An Army of Twitterers.

Don Surber, unimpressed with President Obama’s rather vague remarks about Iran writes of the phenom:

I am embarrassed that a couple of computer geeks who came up with a social network have more brass than my holier-than-thou president. Words, deeds. Odd that Twitter does deeds while the commander-in-chief does words.

Well, computer geeks may better understand the whole notion of freedom -particularly freedom of speech- than others. The State Department is claiming to have asked Twitter (along with thousands of Tweeters) to do that. I suppose they can claim it. Maybe they did, but that would seem oddly out-of-step with the new “smart” diplomacy of the United States. I am a little puzzled, though, by President Obama’s contention that America has no right to opine on (or ability to direct) any of Iran’s business; he doesn’t seem to feel the same way about Israel, after all.

Do read this very moving anonymous dispatch from Tehran:

What is remarkable about the Mousavi and opposition marches is the orderly disorder. These are not rallies or events in the manner familiar to Americans. There are no official Mousavi volunteers guiding the crowd to the designated rallying points, no college interns filled with coffee and day-old pizza. The movement is self-directed. Mousavi had asked his supporters to march but to march respectfully, to give no excuse for violence. The crowd is abiding. As we pass along the nearly kilometer length of a basiji [paramilitary] base, the cry goes up: Shoar nagoo! Don’t shout slogans! Hands are up held up instead. It is quiet. Here and there a voice, unable to restrain itself, begins to scream “Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar!” It is met instantly with hisses and whistles — saket! saket! quiet! quiet! — and the voice falls silent again.

How do we know where to go? When to go? Texting, any kind of messaging, is down, the internet is spotty and cell phones have become unreliable. Still, Tehran has always been a city where information gets passed around easily. For all of the complaints and anxiety that life has become too modern, that people are living alone in great apartment towers instead of with their families in homes, the citizens of this city find ways to know, to be in each other’s business. Conversations come easily even amongst strangers, more so now than ever. Men weave through the crowd, telling us what’s next. “Come tomorrow to Vali Asr at 5! Tomorrow! Spread the word!”

Then the story takes a bad turn. All does not end well. Seeing the camera around my neck, several people rush up to me, frantically urging me to go take pictures, shouting, “They are killing us all!” Behind a wall, in an alleyway set off from the road, a confrontation is taking place between one spike of the crowd and basiji forces, holed up in a base. There is the unsettling pop-pop-pop of gunfire, and a plume of black smoke rises into the sky. A crowd is gathering in the alley and men rush forward to throw rocks while others tell them, “Stop, stop, that’s what they want!”

A police officer, alone, rushes in to help, brought in by part of the crowd. Suddenly he is surrounded, confronted violently by angry protestors [sic]. A great confusion ensues as water bottles and rocks are hurled at the cop. Ten to 15 men form a perimeter around the officer to shield him their hands up begging the crowd to control themselves to let this man pass, he has come to help. During the worst moment, we see the terrified policeman pressed against a courtyard wall. His hat has been knocked off, he shouts that he is here to help. Finally, thankfully, the situation is controlled, the police officer joins in the chanting, and he is allowed to go into the alley to help.

The chant goes up, the same as was used during the 1979 Revolution: “He who kills my brother, will be killed by me!” We hear the wail of an ambulance. A boy, no older than 14, is rushed through the crowd, carried sideways at the head and the legs by three men. Foam is coming out of his mouth and eyes. There is no way of knowing for sure, but there are reports that five to seven people have been shot, have been killed right here in this spot. I see a young man hold up his right hand, it is covered in blood.

The Daily Beast’s Douglas Rushkoff says how Twitter and Technology can defeat Totalitarianism. One hopes.

Pray for the people of Iran; pray for good to triumph. Pray for their safety, their fortitude, their energy, their “thing with feathers,” which is hope:

“…hope is not simply a feeling. Hope says, “awake, O Sleeper, arise from death!” Hope is the builder of bridges, the tamer of winds, the harnesser of ideas and possibilities. A poor man with hope is immeasurably richer than a wealthy man without it, because he carries within him the spark that can alight a thousand tomorrows.”

Pray for the living. Pray for the families of the dead. If you are reading this at night and want to pray for these, I have a podcast of Vespers of the Office for the Dead here. If you are reading this in the morning, those prayers are here.

Some tweets:
:::In Case of Emergency medical care for tear gas, pepper spray –
:::GO BACK DELETE ALL PAST TWEETS that may have Iran usernames . Arrests have been made. Please RT (Re-twee) ENSURE ALL SEE THIS:::
:::GOOGLE EARTH DO NOT UPDATE THE MAPS – it will allow govt to track protesters that are hiding on sidestreets and roofs:::
:::Video: Perhaps the most intense I’ve seen to date. Wish I had more details behind it.
:::thank you for braving the consequences to tell the world about what is happening:::
:::Hamas is Helping Ahmadinejad Quell Revolt in Iran >> Is this confirmed?:::

Check back here, as I will add more news/opinion as I find it, below:

Spengler: If you missed it, a must-read: Hedgehogs and Flamingos in Tehran
Ed Morrissey: Reagan Didn’t Remain Silent on Poland
Protests do not seem to be slowing down or losing steam
Must check-out blog: Where is my vote?
France’s President Sarkozy says the Iran election is a fraud.

Iran Opposition: keeps up the pressure
American Digest: The Furies of Iran
NY Times: Innocent Googling? No such thing in Tehran
LA Times: Mideast hanging on every Text & Tweet from Iran
Idealism: Iranian Uprising Unites American Left and Right
Video of A protest in Houston
Bookworm: Revolutionary thinking
Pence: Calls on POTUS to support Iranian protesters
Earlier post: lots of links
Very Ticked off Vanderleun: writing here, here, and here.
Brutally Honest: also ticked
Twittering: While Iran Burns
Belmont Club: “people so practiced in sophistry”
Nile Gardiner: Wondering about Neville Chamberlain?
Insty: links to pics
NRO Snark: Obama Wins the Iranian Election
A movie: The Stoning of Soraya & Iran’s uprising

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