Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Iranian uprisings and the challenge of the new media

...The pedagogical force of culture is now writ large within circuits of global transmission that defy the military power of the state while simultaneously reinforcing the state's reliance on military power to respond to the external threat and to control its own citizens. In Iran, the state sponsored war against democracy, with its requisite pedagogy of fear dominating every conceivable media outlet, creates the conditions for transforming a fundamentalist state into a more dangerous authoritarian state. Meanwhile, insurgents use digital video cameras to defy official power, cell phones to recruit members to battle occupying forces, and Twitter messages to challenge the doctrines of fear, militarism, and censorship.  The endless flashing of screen culture not only confronts those in and outside of Iran with the reality of state sponsored violence and corruption but also with the spread of new social networks of power and resistance among young people as an emerging condition of contemporary politics in Iran. Text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,  and the Internet have given rise to a reservoir of political energy that posits a new relationship between the new media technologies, politics and public life. These new media technologies and  Websites have proved a powerful force in resisting dominant channels of censorship and militarism. But they have done more in that they have allowed an emerging generation of young people and students in Iran to narrate their political views, convictions, and voices through a screen culture that opposes the one-dimensional cultural apparatuses of certainty while rewriting the space of politics through new social networking sites and public spheres.  

A spectacular flood of images produced by a subversive network of technologies that open up a cinematic politics of collective resistance and social justice now overrides Iran's official narratives of repression, totalitarianism, and orthodoxy–unleashing the wrath of a generation that hungers for a life in which matters of dignity, agency, and hope are aligned with democratic institutions that make them possible.  Death and suffering are now inscribed in an order of politics and  power that can no longer hide in the shadows, pretending that there are no cracks in its body politic, or suppress the voices of a younger generation emboldened by their own courage and dreams of a more democratic future.

In this remarkable historical moment, a sea of courageous young people in Iran, are leading the way in instructing an older generation about a new form of politics in which mass and image-based media  have become a distinctly powerful pedagogical force, reconfiguring the very nature of politics, cultural production,  engagement, and resistance.   Under such circumstances, this young generation of Iranian students, educators, artists, and citizens are developing a new set of theoretical tools and modes of collective resistance in which the educational force of  the new media both records and challenges representations of state, police, and militia violence while becoming part of a broader struggle for democracy itself.

Any critical attempt to engage the courageous uprisings in Iran must take place within a broader notion of how the new media and electronic technologies can be used less as entertainment than  as a tool of insurgency and opposition to state power. State power no longer has a hold on information, at least not the way it did before the emergence of the new media with its ability to reconfigure public exchange and social relations while constituting a new sphere of politics. The new media technologies are being used in Iran in ways that redefine the very conditions that make politics possible. ...

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Iran's Supreme Leader unleashes threat of militias against election protesters

Ayatollah Khamenei gave strong backing to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was controversially declared the winner of last week's presidential election and made clear further dissent would be crushed. "I am urging them to end street protests, otherwise they will be responsible for its consequences, and consequences of any chaos," he told worshippers at Tehran University. "The result of the election comes out of the ballot box, not from the street.

"If there is any bloodshed, leaders of the protests will be held directly responsible."

Ayatollah Khamenei denounced Britain as the "most treacherous" foreign power working for the overthrow of his regime, a declaration that prompted the Foreign Office to summon the Iranian ambassador in London for a rebuke. The British ambassador in Tehran has faced mounting criticism from the regime, which regularly incites mobs to attack the UK embassy.

The Supreme Leader said the electoral contest was "over". Drawing cheers of "God is Great", he said the Basij militia, or religious vanguard force, would be mobilised against the demonstrators.

In a clear endorsement of the incumbent president, the Supreme Leader said that his own views were closest to Mr Ahmadinejad's vision for Iran.

In a long sermon at Friday prayers at Tehran University, he declared the election outcome was a vindication of the Islamic Republic.

He said that on the basis of an 85 per cent turnout, the vote was an earthquake for the country's enemies. "If the people did not trust in the system they would not participate in it," he said. "Iran's enemies are targeting the beliefs and trust of the people."

He declared that Iran was a functioning democracy, a message he said he wanted to send to Western countries "which are leaders of the media".

He said: "These divisions come from the Zionist radio and the bad British radio trying to change the meaning of the election."

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For more on the official Iranian regime's stance of blaming the ills of Islam on Zionist enemies see: Taliban defectors: US, Israel funding militants

Former Scotland Yard anti-terrorist police chief calls for 7/7 inquiry

Mr Hayman, at the time Assistant Commissioner for Special Operations, says he is "uncomfortable" with the official position that an inquiry would divert resources from the fight against terrorism.

He is the first figure from the security establishment to call for an open inquiry, almost four years after the attacks carried out by Mohammad Mohammed Sidique Khan and his cell that killed 52 people and injured more than 700.

In his book, The Terrorist Hunters, being serialised in The Times, Mr Hayman says that "incidents of less gravity have attracted the status of a public inquiry".

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Jean Gionno's 'The man who planted trees'

Giono ran into difficulties with the American editors who in 1953 asked him to write a few pages about an unforgettable character. Apparently the publishers required a story about an actual unforgettable character, while Giono chose to write some pages about that character which to him would be most unforgettable. When what he wrote met with the objection that no "Bouffier" had died in the shelter at Banon, a tiny mountain hamlet, Giono donated his pages to all and sundry. Not long after the story was rejected, it was accepted by Vogue and published in March 1954 as "The Man Who Planted Hope and Grew Happiness." Giono later wrote an American admirer of the tale that his purpose in creating Bouffier "was to make people love the tree, or more precisely, to make them love planting trees."

Giono interpreted the "character," as an individually unforgettable if unselfish, generous beyond measure, leaving on earth its mark without thought of reward. Giono believed he left his mark on earth when he wrote Elzeard Bouffier's story because he gave it away for the good of others, heedless of payment: "It is one of my stories of which I am the proudest. It does not bring me in one single penny and that is why it has accomplished what it was written for."

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Edward Louis Bernays quotes on propaganda

Great post at Dendroify:

Edward Louis Bernays (November 22, 1891 – March 9, 1995) is considered one of the fathers of the field of public relations along with Ivy Lee.

Combining the ideas of Gustave Le Bon and Wilfred Trotter on crowd psychology with the psychoanalytical ideas of his uncle, Sigmund Freud, Bernays was one of the first to attempt to manipulate public opinion using the psychology of the subconscious.

For more info check out the excellent documentary Century of the Self by Adam Curtis for the BBC.

"If we understand the mechanisms and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it... In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons ... who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind."

"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country."

"We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized."

"The American motion picture is the greatest unconscious carrier of propaganda in the world today. It is a great distributor for ideas and opinions."

"Propaganda will never die out. Intelligent men must realize that propaganda is the modern instrument by which they can fight for productive ends and help to bring order out of chaos."

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image from http://www.spitting-image.net

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