17 June 2009

Ever Time You Facebook, You Defeat Ahmadinejad

(Continued from a post made about three weeks ago) In late 2006 or 2007, I was sitting in one of those mandatory annual classes on operational security. The instructor, your stereotypical grumpy old man, decried Soldiers’ use of social networking sites, citing security concerns. He was furious at the fact that the US, as a democracy, lays itself open to the entire world. (He must have been a paleoconservative if there ever was one, as this issue was tackled nearly 2500 years ago by Pericles in the city of Athens)

The instructor even went on to mention that Soldiers—gasp—posted information about what they were doing in Iraq on “The Myspace”, and claimed that “The Myspace” would be responsible for losing the Iraq War. Yes, apparently in 2007 or so, the best explanation we had for the deteriorating security situation in Iraq wasn’t a lack of a comprehensive counter-insurgency strategy, ethnic cleansing in Baghdad, sectarian civil war, or al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, but rather, those crazy kids and “The Myspace”. I never could tell if the instructor actually was serious or if he was a carefully constructed parody of right-leaning pundits, particularly with his use of the term, “The Myspace”.

Joke’s on him, however. While Myspace is, well, Myspace, other social networking sites have, in a strange way, been able to at deal some damage to a number of organizations and individuals on the US’ naughty list.

Take the FARC (Revolutionary Army of Colombia), for example. Last year, a Facebook group entitled “One Million Strong Against the FARC” helped organize massive anti-FARC protests, held in cities throughout the world. These demonstrations resulted in alleged large-scale desertions from the FARC. Indeed, it might seem that these Facebook-organized demonstrations might have actually dealt a greater blow to the FARC than decades of narcotic eradication programs, and significantly less expensive, as well.

Although at least one technology expert doubts the extent to which Twitter and Facebook have affected community organizing in Tehran—after all, Iran isn’t quite as wired as the US—few can doubt that the New Media is becoming the number one source for news coming out of Iran, with ubiquitous cell phone cameras and mobile Internet connections operating almost as guerillas in the streets of Tehran. Small, dispersed, and easily concealed within the Iranian population, the New Media is everywhere in Tehran, and operating far more effectively than the larger, more conventional news organizations (I'll leave you to draw the 4GW analogy with this one).

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