Monday, June 22, 2009

Taming the savageness of man

Whenever there's a Terminator film in the cinemas, the discussion about how and when technology is going to murder us all becomes customary.

This, not the sight of Leonardo DiCaprio freezing to death, will be James Cameron's despicable gift to the modern world.

Tehran is tearing itself to pieces at the moment. Ayatollah Khamenei is trying (and failing, it seems) to quell the street battles by calling for the children of his nation to pause and show respite, so that his Basij thugs have time enough to shoot and beat them all in turn.

As long as there is power there will be protest. That much is clear.

But the unique facet of this particular unrest is the remarkable deployment of the internet, most notably Twitter, as a weapon for the student groups that are providing the energy and the enthusiasm and the blood that is rocking the Islamic Republic.

Twitter has allowed the co-ordination of protests and the sharing of intelligence, and has become the pulpit for the rallying cries that have kept the protesters united and kept Tehran burning.

The traditional tools of silence and misinformation (such as Khamenei fabricating quotes from Barack Obama in Friday's address to the nation) don't work in the modern age.

No regime has power over the internet.

But the problem with the individualisation of the web is that you have to suffer this kind of excess:
The Dundon gang's posturing for the camera to the sound of gangster rap shows another aspect of what anyone, anywhere can now do with the internet.

Of course, criminals have been boasting about their wealth and promising to murder their rivals for as long as there's been anything to steal. Al Capone built his image as much through manipulation of Chicago newspapermen as his crimes.

But the Dundons' video touched a raw, painful nerve with the people of Limerick; people who have had to suffer the murder and drug abuse that they have unleashed on our city.

In the past seven days, we have seen how an individual's interaction with the internet can inform, inspire and enrage.

Ayatollah Khamenei cannot stop Iranian students defying him through Twitter. None of us can prevent the Dundons posting their arrogant displays on YouTube.

The wonderful and the disgusting faces of humanity are now visible in everyone's inbox, on everyone's iPhones, behind everyone's keyboards.

This is the world we live in.

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