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The State of Iran's Ongoing Netwar 263

Posted by timothy
from the nineties-is-way-late-for-gibson-sterling-et-al dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Following disputed elections in Iran, opposition groups and activists have turned conventional protests into a major threat to the ruling government. The low-intensity protest movement is rapidly becoming the first true netwar of the 21st century. Opposition protesters have shown that within a few hours or less, the information technologies that are the mainstay of modern society can become its weapons, as well. This article examines the current situation in Iran and the part played by new media technologies and strategies, showing how far the theory and practice of netwar has advanced since the concept first emerged in the late nineties."
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The State of Iran's Ongoing Netwar

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  • Impressed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arizwebfoot (1228544) * on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @04:38PM (#28365929)
    TFA was one of the best written, well thought out blogs I've ever had the pleasure to read. Indeed JournalSquared should be invited to be an admin here at /.
  • Freedom for Iran! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @04:39PM (#28365943)

    Can you please post what we can do in order to help the Iranians throw over their dictatorship?

  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @04:45PM (#28365985) Homepage Journal

    Can you please post what we can do in order to help the Iranians throw over their dictatorship?

    Not much.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @04:45PM (#28365997)
    So wait.... We shouldn't have interfered in Iraq whenever almost the exact situation was going on, yet its perfectly ok to do the same thing in Iran?
  • by dAzED1 (33635) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @04:46PM (#28366007) Homepage Journal

    Anyone that writes a story about this that doesn't mention Fark specifically needs to do a bit more research on the subject. Tats(uma) obviously gets quite a bit of credit, but he wasn't the only person there keeping up with the tweets. Fark (and oddly, 4chan) became major filters for finding the real data for the first several days. I'm amazed at the people who still don't know there's effectively a civil war going on in Iran, since CNN and other mainstream media didn't really start reporting on it until yesterday.

    The other bit is, because mainstream media has to hedge their bets - they have something to lose, where sites like Fark [fark.com] aren't even media sites, so they have nothing to lose - CNN and such has to worry about whether the dissidents will be successful. Because if they aren't, then you've pissed off the people still in power. Media blockout is one thing, but there was reliable reports of many deaths long before MSM was reporting there being only a single death.

    BTW, Iranians still need proxies for their twitter updates. If you have the ability...

    Also, one of the ways people have been trying to make it more difficult for the Iranian police to track down dissidents is by changing their twitter location and timezone to that of Tehran. Feel free to do that too.

    But yeah, twitter is the only thing able to make it out right now, considering.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @04:46PM (#28366011) Journal

    I think meddling would probably be the worst thing to do. What is Obama going to do? March troops in? Bomb Tehran? Drop propaganda? I think just about any direct US involvement can only work to the regime's favor at this point.

  • by dAzED1 (33635) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @04:51PM (#28366069) Homepage Journal

    the situation in Iraq was no where close to the situation in Iran. Millions of Iranians haven't been killed by the Iranian government in the last decade, for example. Iran isn't targeting ethnic groups for extermination, and doesn't have a long history of killing dissidents. In fact, the dissidents biggest weapon right now is going up and giving the Basij hugs - seriously.

  • by epiphani (254981) <epiphani@TIGERdal.net minus cat> on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @04:51PM (#28366075)

    This is actually quite simple:

    Nothing

    Seriously, stay out of it. The Iranian government is already accusing the US of interfering in internal issues, and has lodged an official complaint through diplomatic channels. This is mostly propaganda, but honestly the best thing we can do for them is to stay out of it.

    In fact, if you see your local politician wanting to do something, tell them to shut up. You're not friends to the people of Iran, and speaking up with your opinion is something they don't want to hear.

  • by kyliaar (192847) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @05:01PM (#28366199)

    against an irate populace is something that is one of the main pillars of our constitution.

    The Declaration of Independance and the Right to Bear Arms were both very much about this. Basically, the Bill of Rights as a whole was meant to shore up the rights of the populace to defend itself against an abusive government.

    It is very interesting to see that the Internet has changed the battlefield enough to level it in certain areas. Really since the mechanization of warfare, no populace could really effectively stand up to the military might of a state.

  • by oneirophrenos (1500619) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @05:01PM (#28366215)

    You're not friends to the people of Iran, and speaking up with your opinion is something they don't want to hear.

    We don't need to speak our opinions, we just have to help the Iranian people voice theirs.

  • by dAzED1 (33635) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @05:04PM (#28366261) Homepage Journal

    precisely. Re-read what I wrote.

    Iraq - killing off ethnicities, millions of dead Iraqis, dissidents were made public examples of, their families killed.
    Iran - nothing remotely like Iraq.

    In Iran, dissidents are out in millions, hugging the Basij. In Iraq, dissidents were shot in high percentages. While people in Iran are being killed right now, it's substantially less than of 1% of the dissidents that are protesting. Phenomenally different situation.

    Which is why, if you look at what I was responding to, the question of whether or not we should have gone to Iraq is not really relevant to whether we should go to Iran. They are different situations.

  • by Old97 (1341297) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @05:05PM (#28366285)
    Maybe we could use reverse psychology. Obama could call Ahmadinejad, congratulate him and offer his full support. Mmmmmm. It would have worked better if G.W. was President because he could also publicly ask for pointer about how to steal an election in such a decisive way.
  • by blhack (921171) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @05:09PM (#28366323)

    BTW, Iranians still need proxies for their twitter updates. If you have the ability...

    I brought a couple of them up, but can't get in contact with anybody to distribute them, who do I need to tell?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @05:14PM (#28366375)

    The West thinks in binary terms: free/not-free.

    The East thinks in binary terms: Infidel / Faithful

    Muhammad's children did not build this Internet, hessain. You are leeches on the products of "nebulous" freedom, and a couple billion in ARPA funding.

    Go pray or something.

  • by Shatrat (855151) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @05:15PM (#28366397)
    That's pretty condescending and ignorant towards thousands of people marching and risking death for their own freedom and right to representation.

    The West thinks in binary terms: free/not-free. Life is more complicated than that.

    Maybe life isn't more complicated than that, people just try and make it so with their excuses and delusions.

    I say the peaceful protests in Tehran should be an example to people who are either apathetic or violent when confronted with problems.
    They seem to be following in the footsteps of Ghandi or MLK.

  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @05:22PM (#28366489)

    Besides, if you want real democracy in the Middle East this is the best thing you could possibly hope for; thousands of Iranians marching in the streets demanding to be heard. The Iranian people, it would seem, actually want this to happen for themselves, as opposed to someone else doing it for them. The US should keep lines of communication open when they have jurisdiction over them, say to the world 'We sure hope the rightfully elected leader will come out on top', and stay the hell out of it.

  • by T Murphy (1054674) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @05:23PM (#28366499) Journal

    The West thinks in binary terms: free/not-free. [...] All while we are increasingly banning our own freedoms here in the West

    We like our romanticized idea of freedoms. Our governments are slowly taking away freedom, so we would have a harder time justifying major rebellion. Too many people are complacent and vote our power-hungry politicians back into office. But in non-free states, we see an opportunity for people to unite to create a fresh start, to realize that romanticized ideal that our governments have tarnished. Sure, things aren't as simple as "the government dictates everything" or "do anything you want", but the closer you get to that stark contrast, the easier it is to get people to act together. No one here is trying to decide things for the Iranians, but to give them tools to better decide things for themselves; we are not forcing western ideals on anybody.

    I know idealism has little to do with reality, but if you want to talk about how corrupt or controlling governments are you need to establish a baseline, so why not let that be freedom? Given that a proper government should always work to improve things, it makes sense for the ideal model to be something we cannot quite achieve.

    Just because I say every government should work for freedom doesn't mean I think governments should minimize control in all cases. In the extreme example, communism might maximize freedom if less control meant people become abused by the upper class and become virtual slaves. Communism may minimize freedom if the people can generate a higher standard of living through their own economic choices. People simply need to have the ability to speak up about the current government and have the means to change it if there is a better way to establish fredom for the people.

  • by oldspewey (1303305) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @05:30PM (#28366589)
    Great idea ... because arming opposition groups has never turned out badly for the United States in the past.
  • Re:Listen... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grcumb (781340) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @05:44PM (#28366751) Homepage Journal

    Everyone who thinks they are helping by siding with the Iranian opposition has a very poor understanding of Iranian politics. It doesn't matter whether it's from the government or whether it's from regular Western citizens, helping the opposition figures does not help the United States in any way. It just puts a different face on the same anti-Western government.

    1. I'm not American.
    2. Even if I were American, why would I not want to support democracy in principle, even if the results weren't in my favour?
    3. Even if I were only interested in Realpolitik, wouldn't I rather deal with a legitimately elected government than an illegitimate one? Legitimate governments tend to be more moderate and more, uh, sane.
  • Re:Listen... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @05:47PM (#28366785)

    helping the opposition figures does not help the United States in any way

    People who are lending their support are not trying to help the United States, they're trying to help the Iranians. This isn't about the US.

    What makes you think that if they opposition was successful in their political ambitions that they would become pro-American?

    Because the Iranian people would realize that the American people, if not the American government, are willing to step up and help them out when they ask for it. There have already been messages from Iranians acknowledging the support they're getting from Americans and expressing their surprise and gratitude, even while acknowledging a lack of coverage by US media. If the Iranian people understand that the American people are their friends, they will be considerably less likely to view America as an enemy and considerably more likely to oppose an anti-American viewpoint by their own government.

    This is more about Americans bonding with Iranians than it is about the US government bonding with the Iranian government.

  • Re:Fark (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @05:57PM (#28366913)

    Posting of relevant Twitter messages to keep everyone informed.

    It's been said before, but if this ends up working, we can't say twitter is completely useless anymore.

  • by skine (1524819) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @05:59PM (#28366949)

    "In Iran, first they (probably) rigged an election, and millions of people spoke up"

    Oh wait...

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @06:06PM (#28367031)

    Seriously, stay out of it. The Iranian government is already accusing the US of interfering in internal issues, and has lodged an official complaint through diplomatic channels. This is mostly propaganda, but honestly the best thing we can do for them is to stay out of it.

    So... because an authoritarian government might complain about it, we should stay out of it, for the sake of Iranians? That makes sense if we were talking about military force. TALKING about the situation, on the other hand, in no way hurts Iranians.

    It will create diplomatic tension between the US and Iran? Hmm... That's new. Wait, no, not new, the other thing "pretty standard."

    If I did have strong criticism of the Iranian government, you know what wouldn't make me want to keep it to myself? Knowing that they didn't want to hear it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @06:08PM (#28367047)

    And L-rd have mercy

    Religious taboos tend to be stupid, but this one is the silliest.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @06:10PM (#28367083)
    "Millions" killed? Seems the propaganda worked on you. Thousands of Kurds were killed by Hussein, many of which were during the uprising. Not debating the fact that it was bloody awful, but it's very likely than as many or more lives were taken in the invasion of Iraq. Using figures blown way out of proportion helps to justify the war machine.
  • Re:Listen... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 (1458) * <`jmorris' `at' `beau.org'> on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @06:25PM (#28367221)

    > Everyone who thinks they are helping by siding with the Iranian opposition
    > has a very poor understanding of Iranian politics.

    People are risking death over a stolen election. If they succeed I'd suspect they will a) take their new found liberty a bit more seriously than the average American who usually can't even be bothered to vote and b) after getting a taste of what Liberty is all about they just might decide the like it and want more.

    Look, I'm a conservative and all, but Kennedy had some things dead on. Like this:

    "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty. 4

        This much we pledge--and more."

    Now would be a good time to at least stand up and make sure the Iranians know we hope they succeed. And yes I know that too much open support of the rebel forces would backfire. But it would be nice to see our government have the courage give the opposition some sign of support.

    And besides, there is always the realpolitik angle, if they collapse into civil war it might slow down their nuke program a bit, buying time to find some solution other than waiting for Israel to solve the problem with high explosives.

  • by C10H14N2 (640033) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @06:40PM (#28367341)

    The problem, of course, is that sites like Fark are full of well-intentioned people who do not really know the first thing about what is going on or what they really should do -- they just want to do something, anything they can think of to feel like they are helping, while not even being very sure of WHAT they are helping.

    So, being net-savvy, they think that forwarding every piece of information they receive (with no way bar VERY few exceptions of vetting that information) is helping, when they could very likely be opening themselves up to being used for propaganda from just about any imaginable source -- including the Mousavi campaign which 99.9% of those trying to help didn't even know existed before last Thursday, much less know anything about what it really means. They just know it's not Ahmadinejad and that has to be just splendid, so anything masquerading as not-being-Ahmadinejad must be your new BFF in Iran.

    This is incredibly dangerous.

    The urge to help, be part of history and change the world is strong, but it is extremely easy to exploit. Unless you _really_ are actively involved and _know_ your contacts and know what the hell you are doing, you stand a very high chance of hurting instead of helping -- and, let's face it, with no risk of danger sitting at a computer terminal in the U.S. and blind faith that everything you do is helping the cause, considering the conflict, you could end up contributing to people being killed.

    BE CAREFUL.

  • Re:Fark (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BakaHoushi (786009) <.Goss.Sean. .at. .gmail.com.> on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @06:55PM (#28367487) Homepage

    May I still be allowed to say that "Twitter is almost, usually, completely useless?"

    At the very least I'd like to be allowed to still throw my shoes at the TV every time I hear some new show/news report based on it.

  • by Brietech (668850) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @07:38PM (#28367821)
    It might be more like if John McCain had of won San Fransisco with 70% in november, and the Democrats took to the streets to protest a rigged election. The Libertarian party has not shown itself capable of becoming a mass movement in any real sense. In regards to the last part of your comment, 1) I'm pretty sure the constitution doesn't define a "fiscal system," even though you probably meant economic system, and 2) the violence has largely been on the part of the Baseej, a super-nationalist militia, against the fairly peaceful protesters
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @10:13PM (#28368807)

    If you think Iran's problems will be solved via bandwidth, twitter or facebook, you are being misled.

    Who said solve? The OP was asking how to help. And it isn't bandwidth, its uncensored access to information to assist in the revolution, not to start it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @11:28PM (#28369275)

    Besides, if you want real democracy in the Middle East this is the best thing you could possibly hope for; thousands of Iranians marching in the streets demanding to be heard

    Because public demonstrations worked so well for the Chinese people in 1989 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square_protests_of_1989)?

  • by walshy007 (906710) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @12:36AM (#28369683)

    Yes, but it was, universally, a large religion that brought them about.

    Not particularly, if I were to start a religion saying 'murder is A-OK!' even in times where myth and fanciful things were the highlight of ones life, it would have been shot down instantly (or believers would have killed each other out).

    Morals do not equate to religious precepts, however religious precepts throughout history do tend to encapsulate the morals of the time of the founding of the religion. What better way to fit the people your trying to make believers than to say you completely agree with most of their way of life, but you should worship $deity to make it better?

    People tend to want to believe in something larger than themselves, to give their life more perceived meaning, it's in our nature to want our lives to be meaningful and to fit in with our peers. Religion fits that bill perfectly, thus it's prevalence throughout history, it only takes one man to think of one, and sufficiently convince others.

    But essentially, you think morals came about because of religion, and I think religion just adopted some of the morals people already had.

  • by Nebulious (1241096) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @01:16AM (#28369907)
    Believe it or not, the people over on Fark are being very measured about what we should and shouldn't do. Mostly, we've been getting proxies to reliable collectors and figuring out which Twitter feeds are reliable by checking how much of their information is later proven true. The other focus is assembling an accurate picture of what exactly is going over there without endangering protesters since the mainsteam media is completely dropping the ball on this.

    It sounds like you haven't even glanced at the Fark effort. If so, you're making the exactly same mistake you just accused us; blindly blurting out uninformed and detrimental analysis on a situation you only know a tiny bit about. So before you go and discredit the hard work of Tatsuma, why not scroll up to his pasted summary and point out what exactly about it is false or is hurting the Iranian protesters' cause.
  • by Omestes (471991) <omestes@gmail.CURIEcom minus physicist> on Thursday June 18, 2009 @04:39AM (#28371023) Homepage Journal

    I am a general fan of the "give them a proxy" idea, or a prepackaged darknet, or such. Sending them guns probably wouldn't work, they seem to be doing a damn good job with mostly peaceful protest actions.

    I would rather the US government stay out of it. A lot of the world, justifiably, hates us for meddling, so I'd rather we don't.

    I hate to say this, but Twitter is fulfilling an important need now, both for helping the actual protesters (and increasingly revolutionaries) do their thing, and for helping those of us in the West to know whats actually going on there without having to listen to the Iranian governments spin.

    I don't think this is as much the US governments fault as many other actions we've done. If we are involved (don't have any proof either way) we're not involved in nearly the same way we were when we messed up the political systems of much of South America and the Middle East. But then again I'm always a fan of spreading unrest.

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