Sunday, June 14, 2009

Iranian elections (random thoughts prompted by)

I don't have much of value to add to what other, better-informed people are saying about the Iranian election, but I strongly recommend keeping your eye on this continuously-updated HuffPost roundup.

I also want to record some random thoughts that occurred to me as I was sitting at the coffeeshop waiting for my laundry —


While watching the protest footage, I was suddenly reminded of a moment, long ago, while I was traveling in Greece with a bunch of college classmates. Our Greek tour guide was saying something along the lines of "Ancient Greece had the first democratic government. Of course, you may wonder how the birthplace of democracy could keep slaves, but..." etc. There was no hint of irony in her utterance of this sentence. One guy in our group leaned over to me and said, in a low voice, "Does she realize she's talking to Americans? Slavery at the birthplace of democracy? Isn't that how it's done?" I surmised later that the tour guide's patter was probably designed with pan-European audiences in mind.

I don't know what exactly about the Iranian elections made me think of this, except possibly that both remind me of how thoroughly imperfect real-world democracies are, and how many different pieces have to fit together just exactly right to make this form of social organization function to modern standards.


I usually find Huffington Post annoying, but their post seems to be a better guide to what's going on than anything else I can find right now. This sort of real-time but human-curated index synthesizing links to news"paper" stories, blog posts, Twitter posts, and embeddable user-uploaded videos really does seem quite powerful.

It is also a type of media object which traditional outlets are currently ill-equipped to create (and possibly even ideologically opposed to creating). Compare the HuffPost article with the NYTimes equivalent: the latter has less variety, slower updates, and more focus on "official" sources. And this makes the NYTimes version worse, not better.


If Obama determined American foreign policy by listening to everything Joe Lieberman says and making sure to never, ever do that, then he would have a pretty good foreign policy.

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