Revolution by cell phone in Iran

In early 1968, North Vietnam launched a series of military offensives across South Vietnam that became known as the Tet Offensive. Military experts agree that by the end of the offensive in April, the United States and South Vietnamese had beaten the North, which suffered significant casualties. Paradoxically, however, the offensive was widely perceived as a defeat for the U.S., and in fact precipitated a protracted decline in popular support for our involvement in Vietnam. The reason for this anomaly lies in the fact that television was bringing real-time images of the street fighting directly into the living and bed rooms of millions of American viewers.

This was the first example of the manner in which commercial visual communication dramatically influenced the outcome of a military conflict; a nightmare scenario in which military victory was turned to political defeat.

The power of real-time television was apparent a generation later when, at Tiananmen Square in 1989, the world witnessed a single Chinese man, armed with a plastic shopping bag, stop a Red Army tank moving against civilian protestors. Unfortunately, the Chinese government then (and now) understood the power of mass communication, and moved quickly and brutally to quell that nascent popular uprising under cover of night and with no television cameras allowed.

Now, in the streets of Iranian cities from Teheran to Isfahan, citizens by the tens of thousands are staging mass demonstrations unheard of in that country since similar, sustained uprisings toppled the Shah in 1979. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the clerical “supreme leader,” Ayatollah Khamenei — are desperately attempting to tamp down popular support for Mir Hossein Mousavi, who lost the June 12th presidential election to incumbent Ahmadinejad. However, the regime is finding its efforts undermined by cell phone cameras employed by demonstrators to record and send images of the demonstrations — and the government’s sometime harsh methods to stanch them — to friends and media around the world.

If the demonstrators and supporters of Mousavi succeed in having the recent election overturned and even perhaps in having their candidate sworn in as president, it will be the first revolution whose primary weapon was not the tank or even the TV camera, but one of the most empowering of modern inventions — the personal communication device. Despite the tight control over the population that the 30-year-old religious-based regime has maintained in Iran, it may be no match for a population of nearly 70 million, with a high percentage of young people, and which is armed with millions of cell phones, “personal digital assistants,” and laptop computers.

Meanwhile, critics of President Barack Obama are whipsawing the president because he is “not doing enough” to support the anti-government forces. Former presidential candidate John McCain last week blasted Obama for failing to speak out forcefully against the “corrupt, fraud sham of an election” that “deprived the Iranian people of their rights.” Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) has introduced a resolution.

The reality is that Obama is expressing support for the Iranian students and others demonstrating against the Iranian regime; only in a less fiery tone than critics like McCain (who joked during his campaign that we should “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”). Obama’s tactics may very well yield more than the red-meat approach — especially long term.

Loud calls for extreme action may please constituents back home, and make for popular sound bites on the Sunday talk shows. However, Obama apparently understands that behind-the-scenes actions (likely being conducted by certain agencies of the U.S. government), coupled with more measured public criticism, may reduce the chances that the Teheran regime will decide to crack down massively on the protestors, as did China 20 years ago, and snuff out a promising move toward reform.

34 comments Add your comment

Will Jones - Atlanta

June 22nd, 2009
8:14 am

“…it will be the first revolution whose primary weapon was not the tank or even the TV camera, but one of the most empowering of modern inventions — the personal communication device.”

Oh, really? Perhaps Bob, you should review the “personal communication device” which sparked the Jeffersonian Whig Revolution: “Common Sense,” a best-selling pamphlet, “a personal communication device.”

If you served the American Revolution you’d have been ahead of the curve on kind words to say of the anointed, by G-d and by the People, President Obama.

David S

June 22nd, 2009
8:34 am

Missed in this discussion is the fact that every neocon who is now cheering on these protests was only a year ago (and many still) calling for the mass murder of these folks with nuclear weapons. Those that didn’t call for mass killing were cheering on Israel as they rattled their nuclear sabers. In fact those same war crime supporters turned a blind eye and continue to turn a blind eye as opponents of Saddam’s regime were mercilessly butchered in our “shock and awe” campaign and the senseless killings that continue to this day in Iraq.

It might make Iraq war supporters and other neocons sleep better at night believing that all of our bombs fall with precision accuracy or that random gunfire into crowds only kills the “guilty” but the truth is that war in any form kills innocents. Unprovoked, immoral, unconstitutional, and unnecessary war is nothing short of a war crime.

So give a big cheer for these wonderful “freedom fighters” today. For if their government continues on its path to legally acquiring nuclear weapons (unlike the way Israel did), these champions of liberty will be nothing more than “those horrible and evil Iranians” as the nuclear weapons fall upon their quiet neighborhoods.

And don’t look to the mainstream media to do anything other than cheer them on as the bombs drop. The footage of protests and the memory of rebellion will be lost to the dustbin of history, faster than the claims of “transparency” by this administration.

Jim Callihan

June 22nd, 2009
9:19 am

The subject of Iran is a testimony to just how powerfully effective the CFR-controlled US media is. Whereas Iran is a Sovereign Nation, fighting the IMF/World Bank takeover, the “debtor-subjects” of the United States are shouting “democracy for Iran”. Don’t misunderstand my point, I do not want a “Theocracy” either, but the “democracy” we now have in the US is nothing more than contracted indebtedness (UCC/Admiralty Law).

Should we be yelling “IRS offices in Tehran NOW!”? Or maybe “The right of the State to sieze private property for Iranians NOW!”? Iranians should be pitying us; we are far more enslaved than they are…but just don’t realize it.

BUT WAIT! What about Lincoln’s war? Slavery was abolished.
WRONG! Lincoln’s war opened the door to enslave regardless of race. The Federal Reserve Act etablished the mechanism. The Social Security Act became “The Contract” to create all US born citizens into subjects – collateral towards the national debt.


Jim Callihan

June 22nd, 2009
9:21 am

Here’s your NEO-CON playlist:


June 22nd, 2009
9:21 am

I agree with your assessment of Obama’s approach to the protests. The Iranian clerics would like nothing more than the opportunity to fire up their conservative supporters with a claim that the protesters are US proxies. Obama is withholding that ammo, rightly.

Two news bites from yesterday: Iran’s Foreign Minister held a press conference in which he claimed interference by Western governments (Britan, France, Germany and the US) in Iran’s internal affairs. He tried to be aggressive, but lacked any real meat to support his claim. He’d be far more effective if he could point to real actions instead of a couple of calls for a recount and pleas for humane treatment of protesters.

Second bite: Ann Coulter on Fox, shaming Obama because he’s not “doing what’s right”, standing up and showing solidarity with the protesters.

In other words, Ms. Coulter and the Iranian Foreign Minister both want Obama to do the same thing…the Iranian conservatives and the US conservatives are in agreement on how we should manage this.

You gotta believe our conservatives are wrong on this one.

[...] Bob Barr on the revolution by cell phone in Iran. [...]


June 22nd, 2009
9:34 am

I agree that Obama should stay with the course he is currently taking. Iran’s ministry may point fingers at us, but there is no proof to back it up. Additionally, the pictures coming out from the protesters are more damaging than anything Obama could say.

Will Jones - Atlanta

June 22nd, 2009
9:56 am

We Americans must return to a correct appreciation of the Whig Jeffersonian Revolution of 1776 and what it means philosophically and historically. Bolivar followed it…and Chavez in Venezuela. Ho Chi Minh followed in Vietnam as Dr. King pointed out in his Riverside Church Speech…only to be cut down 365 days later by the forces of treason in Our Land. Castro followed it in Cuba removing those adherents of what Our Founder referred to as “the real Anti-Christ,” “an engine for enslaving mankind,” from his land: the Roman Catholic hierarchy, its mobsters and fascist plutocracy feeding off the people.

Serve “the few” or “the many.” America is G-d’s Country to serve the many: “E Pluribus Unum.”

Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity and the killers of John and Martin to send us to false war are fascists…from “fasces” the symbol of Rome nailed to the front wall of the House of Representatives after the Irish, Italian and German Roman Catholic cannon-fodder Rome forced to emigrate here occupied the Cross of St. Andrew-waving, Jew-loving Jefffersonian Protestant South.

One either serves Rome and “the real Anti-Christ;” or America, the People, and G-d. There is no middle ground.

Iran’s theocracy is built on false religion. Their youth know it. America must be a Light to the Nations by restoring the rule of law in Truth and Justice.

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.

Bush’s and Cheney’s “sin” of 9/11 must be adjudicated. Georgians making Max Cleland elect as governor can work to that end.

Death for Treason

Turd Ferguson

June 22nd, 2009
10:01 am

Max Cleland…lol. Not gonna happen.


June 22nd, 2009
10:18 am

Serve “the few” or “the many.” America is G-d’s Country to serve the many: “E Pluribus Unum.”

Great Scott, man. E Pluribus Unum means “From Many, One.”

Your Latin is lacking.

Turd Ferguson

June 22nd, 2009
10:30 am

“Obama – staying the course”? HUH? Obama isnt staying any course because he had not course nor plan with/for/concerning the Iranians.

Obama is unprepared yet again.


June 22nd, 2009
10:37 am

Neda gave new meaning to the protest. The corrupt Iranian government will never live down the murder of a 16 year old girl in peaceful protest with her father.


June 22nd, 2009
11:13 am

Obama IS staying the course, the course set before by the likes of Reagan, Bush 41 and Clinton. That is, don’t stir up anti-US feelings in Iran by trying to tell the what decisions to make or how to run their country.

Will – The “Rome” of the Bible is NOT the city nor the church that you think, but rather the center of government of the world, at that point, the power that ruled at that time. This country was NOT founded on your religion being THE religion, but rather that we would be free to believe what we will, free from religious persecution. Judgment is NOT ours to make.

JF McNamara

June 22nd, 2009
11:15 am

I think Obama is playing this very well. To say he is unprepared is simply means that you haven’t fully assessed the situation yourself.

By staying on the sidelines and asking for non-violence, the worst case scenario for U.S. interest is that we’ll have to negotiate with a regime that is weak politically within its own country. If the protesters prevail, it’s even a better scenario because we get to start over completely.

Openly supporting the protesters absolutely kills any Iranian negotiations going forward. Saber rattling will only antagonize the government and they’ll be hesitant to even talk with us should they quell the protesters. They’ll be even more focused on getting nukes because, like they always said, we’d try to over throw them and they have proof.

Plus, it contradicts everything Obama has said about being respectful and even-handed with Arab goverments, so it could lead to problems in other countries. Inaction clearly seems like the best play unless we plan on counquering Iran. We don’t have the political capital or military reserves to do that.

Will Jones - Atlanta

June 22nd, 2009
11:34 am

Steve and Gawingnut would do well to go to Jefferson’s prophetic writings to better understand why we, and G-d, created America. An excellent book, other than Jefferson’s words, is “The Radical Politics of Th. Jefferson”

This is a utopian whig vision. “Of many, One” points straight to “Annuit Coeptis”: there is but One Creator. America is a civil religion and the Creed – the three Mottoes – is all that is necessary to know Divine Truth in human history. We are singularly blessed as Americans and all other peoples and nations of the world can follow our lead as we extirpate Rome’s “Fifth Column.”

It is called American Exceptionalism for good reason. Caesaropapism or America. Hamilton or Jefferson. The Beast or G-d. It is for each of us to choose, personally and as a nation. Let’s choose Righteousness, Justice and Truth.

Death for Treason

David S

June 22nd, 2009
12:51 pm

Woodie – Just look at how easily the US government lived down the murder of Randy Weaver’s family at Ruby Ridge and the 88 innocents in Waco. With the complicity of the media anything can be swept under the rug. Heck, just look at the hundreds of thousands of innocents in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Bosnia, Grenada, Panama, the Phillipines, Cuba (and the list goes on and on). Resigned to the dustbin of history.


June 22nd, 2009
12:53 pm

It is ironic the the people who were laughing at McCain’s “bomb Iran” joke are now calling for Obama to intervene for the Iran citizens. Wasn’t it just a few months ago that they were okay with these citizens deaths? If history has taught us anything then we should know that interfering, especially in the Middle East, doesn’t turn out well.

Salvatore Giuseppe

June 22nd, 2009
2:01 pm

Will Jones:

I’ll choose Benedict XVI over Obama any day of the week.

-A proud libertarian and Roman Catholic Seminarian

The REAL GodHatesTrash, Superstar

June 22nd, 2009
3:17 pm

Benedict XVI is what Hitler Youth grow up to be.


June 22nd, 2009
3:31 pm

Do you really think the death of one 16 year old girl will make a difference to Iran? The Iranian government stones people to death for Gods sake. A ruling body of people will bury you up to your head in the sand and allow for stones to be thrown at you until your eyes pop out, your mouth and skull are crushed and you think they will care what the world thinks of a death by bullet? How naive can you be? Besides, Obama has all he can handle and then some from the maniac midget from North Korea.

Salvatore Giuseppe

June 22nd, 2009
3:56 pm

Benedict XVI is what a young man forced to enroll in Hitler Youth and who refused to attend their meetings grows up to be.

Michael H. Smith

June 22nd, 2009
4:43 pm

Whether Obumer understands Iran and the Middle East or not, he has the best diplomatic minds and intelligence sources advising him this country has to give – thankfully.

Carry on NEO-LIBS: Sometimes when liberals are so full of themselves as now, is when they’re at their histrionically revealing worst.

By the way gang, Iran is not an Arab country and the Iranians are not Arabs, they are Persian.
Neda, one more in the name of love. [/size]

Will Jones - Atlanta

June 22nd, 2009
4:54 pm

Yeah, the gay German “pope” “refused” to attend Hitler Youth meetings the same way Karol Wojtyla “refused” to work for the Solvay Division of I.G. Farben making Zyklon-B to kill Jews at Auschwitz.

Wonder why Ratzinger said of Wojtyla during his funeral mass, “Working in a chemical plant, surrounded and threatened by the Nazi terror?”

Any American or honest intellect who wishes to dispose of the Vatican/Nazi question need only read one book: “A Moral Reckoning,” by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen.

Thomas Jefferson was right: Rome is the real Anti-Christ. The popes they’ve been “hiring” protect the “conscience” of Roman Europe venally and hypocritically thinking the Holocaust they willingly committed will be forgotten.

George American

June 22nd, 2009
5:44 pm

McCain had it right when he said that we should “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.” Obarma is way too big a chicken to do anything. Obarma, like other Muslims rarely have the courage to do anything other than car bombings.

We Palin in the “White” House in 2012 we will be a stronger more powerful country. And be returned to the rightful thrown of power like we were during Reagun.


June 22nd, 2009
5:49 pm

Jim Callihan @ 9:19 am – Outstanding allusions to the Central Banking Cartel, the CFR and their minions of pawns! Our Founding Fathers (such as Jefferson & Washington) never intended these endless foreign entanglements…which the Globalist Neocons & Marxist Dems continuously cast us into. The GOP & DNC “leadership” are 2 sides of the same (Globalist Elite controlled) coin. President Jackson knew full well the dangers of the insidious Central Banksters. Thanks to puppet Woodrow Wilson (& his handler Col.House), we’ve been under the thumb of the (private) Fed & their fiat currency for far too long. As for Iran (& the entire Middle East), I say let them all fight it out amongst themselves, as we have our own problems to worry about!

Will Jones - Atlanta

June 22nd, 2009
9:54 pm

All we need do to solve the problem with the unconstitutional Federal Reserve is to bring to justice the known faction which killed John Kennedy to, among other things, restore the Fed to control of our money supply after his Executive Order 11,110 removed it.

Bush, Rockefeller, Nixon for starters…and whatever of the “mechanics” are left from killing John Kennedy and Dr. King. Then Bush, Cheney, et al, for committing 9/11.

Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord, I will repay. America’s Elect must do the “handwork” in the matter. The Beast, identified as “an engine for enslaving mankind,” “the real Anti-Christ,” by America’s Founder, Author and Prophet, Thomas Jefferson, won’t be casting itself into the Pit. That job is for American Patriots together, rejecting the bi-partisan false-elite we managed to slip Barack Obama past to make Our President.

Obama’s a good start but Bush and Cheney have to hang that constitutional money be restored and justice achieved for “the two martyrs lying unburied in the street”: John Kennedy and Martin Luther KIng, Jr.

Death for Treason…and the Fed is treason against the People on behalf of fascist plutocracy, the Anti-Christ.

Piso Mojado

June 23rd, 2009
12:32 am

What’s with the lengthy comments by conservatives? The longer a blog is, the less it seems to have to say. Iran, China, North Korea, Cuba, Israel – no American president hasn’t been able to effect change in these countries for 30 years or more. Obama’s been in office about 160 days out of 1406 in his term, and he isn’t getting it done. His presidency is a failure.

Gimme a break. The right kept its collective mouths shut for the last 8 years while the previous administration did NOTHING to foster positive relationships with any of these countries.

If I could make s suggestion, it would be that the right continue to keep its mouth shut for the next 8 years, and let some very smart people try to get us out of this global mess.

Chip Pitts

June 23rd, 2009
2:33 am

Nice article, Bob; very well said. I’ll cite to your piece in our blog and on Facebook.

Chris Broe

June 23rd, 2009
12:44 pm

We’d be fools to get involved in Iran’s protest marches and violate our prime directive of non-interference in the civilizations we come across during our five year mission. Dammit, Bob, we’re bloggers, not procters. (Phasers on Pun).


June 23rd, 2009
1:20 pm

Don’t bother pointing out any right-wing hypocristy or inconsistencies, folks; conservatives don’t worry about logic the way sane people do.

Their current formula is very simple:
1. Find out what Obama’s doing.
2. Oppose it.
3. End.

See how it works? “Whatever it is, I’m against it!”

Michael H. Smith

June 23rd, 2009
7:32 pm

Finally Obumer gets the right prompts loaded onto his teleprompter.

Neda is a martyr. The world recognized this fact almost immediately, so should have an omissive Obumer. Nothing the NEO-LIB left wingers say now can lay that fault to the conservatives, even to those speaking wrongly and out of turn nor redeem the early misstep taken by Obumer in efforts to protect his policy of desired dialog through soft left hand appeasement tactics.

Nothing gives life to a cause like martyrdom. The senseless murder of Neda, intended to kill the cause of freedom and liberty for the oppressed women of Iran, yea that long and tearfully has been sought by women throughout Islam, will only strengthen their oppressed hands against the weakened hands of their radical oppressors.

The shot that rang-out in the street of Tehran resounds no less thunderous heard round the world than the piercing sound that rang-out in the Memphis sky: You may kill the messengers of justice but you will never silence through death the voice of their message that continues relentlessly crying out from their graves, for justice, liberty and freedom.

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Folke Bernadotte

July 28th, 2009
12:13 am

I’m told by a source with personal contacts in Iran that cellphone access in Iran has been massively curtailed. This is liable to be mainly due to the authorities being well aware of the power of such a weapon in the hands of their people. But triumphal announcements in Western media of the power of such a weapon must hasten and increase action against it. Cellphone networks are totally in the hands of their operators. The handsets are very short range devices which depend on cellsite access for connectivity. “Turning off” the threat is trivially simple, adn this has been done. Cellphones and other electronic devices can still be used as cameras – but they are no more effective than any other electronic cameras. Photos can be stored for future display but can not easily be distributed internationally.

[...] in the country of Iran and the revolt against probable election fraud that followed made use of cellphones to transmit information to the outside world. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Island nation of [...]