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Retweeting a Revolution

Dear Friend,

Tonight I did something that I have never done before. And I feel good about it.

On the other side of the world from me, a revolution is brewing. It’s an internal political matter in a fairly large foreign country, but a country that has little or no direct impact on my family’s life.

Like anyone else, sometimes I find myself drawn to these stories of drama and danger in a far away land. Intense news like this can be intoxicating for many.

So what did I do last night that was so special?

I “retweeted” (repeated to my approximately 20,000 followers on the Twitter social network) messages from several Iranian college students who were hunkered down in their Tehran dorms, receiving gunfire and numerous teargas canisters from Iranian state riot police.

I passed on messages about a seriously injured friend of some students who need medical care fast if he was to survive.

I repeated messages from a young man who cowered in his home with lights off, listening to police outside breaking windows at random, and announcing that anyone who came outside would be killed.

I passed on a home made video, taken on someone’s cell phone, of a large group of riot police intercepting a kid on a bike, and apparently beating him to death with batons.

And I passed on photos of bloody student bodies after an apparent invasion of college dorms by a group of religious “militia.”

These images were not photos on the news. They were not images from war correspondents seen on TV or in a magazine as transmitted from some unfortunate war some years back. I was watching these events happen live, right in front of my eyes.

I saw the images as they were uploaded. I read the posts of these young people, often in broken English, as they feared for their lives in a place that they should have felt absolutely safe (a college dorm). And I reported these events to anyone who wanted to hear about them. And apparently, many did want to know.

After hours online, I took a break (many of the students had fallen asleep) and checked out the coverage of this obviously historic event on the major news outlets.

There was no coverage. I mean, none worth mentioning. And what the attractive talking head behind the desk said did not fit with what I was hearing. Amazingly, their news outlets’ most intense coverage was reserved for the Twitter network itself.

And in that coverage I believe they were correct.

Tonight, I saw the traditional news outlets, traditional sources of what needed to be known by any man or woman, be eclipsed, replaced, and made superficial, by a couple of folks on PCs and Blackberries, often who were typing while shopping for groceries.

The poor kids in Iran continue to experience a tragic situation. I knew that they needed me and all the rest to get their message out tr the world. And they deserved justice. I did my modest best to do what little I could for them.

But the real revolution that happened last night involved myself and all of the other folks who “reported” on this “news.”

In some far corner of the world, every day, there are tragic stories unfolding of bravery, courage, despicable horror, and fascinating excitement. When these stories reach us, we folks far removed from the direct cause or significance of these matters, they are called “news.”

The traditional news outlets simply cannot be everywhere all the time. CNN apparently didn’t even have a reporter in Iran to bring back a story. At least I never saw one. And it didn’t matter. Because we had those kids. And the person with the cell phone camera. And a secret proxy access to the net that they used, possibly via Uruguay, to get those messages and images out to the rest of the world. And we had lil ol’ me and all of the rest of us who got the students’ message of social revolution out to our Twitter followers around the globe.

Presumably, around the proverbial water cooler Monday morning, the recipients of this new kind of news will pass on their newly formed knowledge to their friends and peers. It’s a viral system. And in about six moves, the information will pass on until practically everyone has heard one version or another of this story.

Who needs the media? Good analysis after the fact, and checking out of unsubstantiated facts, will still be needed. But once the news reaches this stage, it’s not really “news” anymore. It’s just history. Its impact on our fast paced world will be negligible, and it precision an academic matter.

Perhaps, the mainstream media will also soon be history as well? Who knows.

I guess we will all witness the development of these matters together. As for me, I found it much more exhilarating, enlightening, and satisfying to participate in the news rather than to simply absorb it passively as it is doled out by traditional media. And perhaps I made an impact for justice as well.

Talk to you soon,

Hugh

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