On the right-hand side of Twitter's homepage, there's this little box that shows the top ten "trending" topics, or tags — those words with the pound sign, old man.
Usually, this little box reflects the kind of garbage most people assume has piled up on Twitter — last night's episode of Jon and Kate, say, or "jokes" from Jimmy Fallon. This Sunday, there they were: #iranelection and #cnn FAIL.
I'd like to think I clicked on #iranelection because I'm a savvy news consumer who works in online activism.
It was at once gross and engrossing: I saw Iranians live-tweeting the locations of tanks and militia, photos of Moussavi supporters taking to the streets, videos of government militia beating citizens. I saw non-Iranians live-tweeting the locations of proxy servers in a kind of smuggling operation dealing in unfiltered bandwidth that would have made Pablo Escobar proud.
I also saw the tags #cnn FAIL and #iranelection appear together fairly often.
A few clicks and Googles later, and it became obvious to anyone who cared to care that CNN had utterly dropped the ball on covering the election results.
(I mean, seriously, when did it become legitimate journalism to retweet the story shilled by a lunatic like Ahmadinejad as if it were just another press release?
)Now, admittedly, I didn't comb the entire Internet last Sunday afternoon to verify this yellowcake-caliber dropping of the ball, but I did notice that other legitimate news sources — The Wall Street Journal, for one — had essentially begun shelling the Iranian government's propaganda.
This despite, you know, smart people calling out the agitprop for what it was; the Iran guru from The Council of Foreign Relations had declared that "The fact that this was a stolen election is not in doubt at all."I'm pretty sure someone important once said something about evil winning when good people do nothing.It seemed, at least to this (somewhat liberal, somewhat skeptical, but not emotionally so) activist, that the evil in Iran had begun to win because the watchdogs were acting like lapdogs.So I decided it was time to cut off the flow of false information and force them to, you know, report.If Ahmadinejad's propaganda machine stopped functioning, maybe the truth would start to. The link that I repackaged and distributed on Twitter this week was to a tool called Page It does exactly what you'd expect it to do: refresh whatever Web site you want at whatever frequency you set.Sure, the site's intentions center more on winning e Bay auctions than, say, affecting the outcome of a democratic election, but democracy's a loose term in Iran.