I don’t have much to add to the coverage of Iran’s e-revolution, but could I ask that people calm down just a little bit? It’s all well and good that Andrew has decided to turn his site into a clearinghouse for every stray Iranian email that comes his way — and I absolutely mean that; his blog was fantastic this weekend and one of the few sources of information for any news whatsoever out of Iran — but all of these first person emails lack context. They simply aren’t trustworthy as anything more than a “Oh, that’s kind of interesting” series of posts. For example, this email that he just reprinted:
“Life has come to a halt. There were at least 2-3M in the streets today. I’ve never seen such anger. We are not going let this go. They’ve closed all the universities (during final exams) and have started a purge. Many of our professors are missing and student organizers are moving constantly to avoid detainment. The police is just watching and the army has declared neutrality. The violence is 100% caused by the BASIJ and thugs who are roaming the streets. They seem to be targeting girls, swinging with clubs and chains. Its disgusting but we are protected by numbers. Get the word out– the more of us stand together, the safer each individual will be. The reports of the university attacks yesterday are true. We don’t know how many were hurt or killed.”
First of all, there’s no chance that the person coming up with that number is qualified to make crowd estimates. (I mean, I guess there’s “a” chance, but still: It’s incredibly difficult for the average person to distinguish between, say, 100,000 and 500,000. People don’t understand orders of magnitude very well, especially visually, especially when they haven’t any experience in doing it.) Secondly, the population of Tehran proper is just north of 7 million. That means that almost half of the people in the city have taken to the streets. Again, there might be a chance that this is true, but it seems much more likely that the correspondent has no idea what he or she is talking about.
What all of these first person missives are missing is context. I’m thrilled that the Iranian people are finally fed up with what they’ve seen from their government (and again, Andrew’s doing the lord’s work by passing all this stuff along). But it’d be really, really unwise to read too much into what’s happening before we have someone on the ground filling in the gaps who doesn’t have a vested interest in the result of this revolution.
(As an aside, I wonder what Obama should do in response. The U.S. is stuck between a rock and hard place: Ignoring what’s going on is tantamount to hanging those looking for our support out to dry, but we can’t really throw out any support without making this a “the U.S. versus Ahmadinejad” thing. Not sure what the proper course of action is.)
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