(1) The Historical Roots of the United States' Involvement With Iran : From Coups to Sanctions
In 1908 a precursor to the British oil company BP was formed after oil fields were discovered in Iran (Kinzer 48-49). By 1950 their refinery in Abadan, Iran would be the largest in the world (Kinzer 49). In the early 1950's Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh nationalized the oil industry, partially as a piece of larger economic reforms and partially as vengeance for the invasion of Iran by the British and Russians during World War II (the Allies needed the oil as well as a place to land war planes the U.S. was lending to Russia). This made the British government more than a little upset, but they lacked mobilization capability after participating in WWII, so close to the action and for such a long duration (Risen I). British intelligence agency MI6 politely asked the CIA to help them overthrow Mosaddegh's government (Risen TOC, I ). In 1953 the CIA responded with Operation Ajax where they bribed and otherwise encouraged the Shah to kick Mosaddegh out of his position of power (Fairbanks 459). Mosaddegh replied with the intended paranoid response, dissolved parliament, and outlawed the secret ballot. This overreach of power convinced the Shah to dismiss him from office. Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. (Teddy's grandson) spread the CIA's money around on the ground to pay off both sides of clashing mobs in Tehran (Risen II). The Shah was further encouraged to install the U.S. backed General Fazlollah Azhedi as Prime Minister (Fairbanks 460). The U.S.'s first modern interaction with Iran was overthrowing their government, installing a puppet dictator, and stealing their oil (Fairbanks 460). Whatever potential threat or benefit Iran my pose to the international community in the future, the U.S. government will have a difficult time overcoming historical barriers to their perceived legitimacy to both Iran's government and its citizens enough to influence the behavior of those in control of Iranian policy (Fairbanks 460).
The U.S. government and some of its people have no problem pointing their fingers right back at Tehran for sleights against Uncle Sam. The Iranian public was unappreciative of the puppet regime controlling them and soon began to resist (BBC 2000). Most Americans who hold a persistently negative view of Iran and/or its people consider the hostage crisis as the starting point of the U.S.'s relationship with the Iranians (PBS 2010). Since then, the U.S. has consistently suspected and accused Iran of attempting to develop or acquire nuclear weapons (Eisenstadt 124). In 1996 Bill Clinton acted on these fears by signing into law the Iran–Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) (Clawson May, 2001) (MEED April, 2001). The act placed unilateral primary sanctions on military and certain non-military goods moving between the U.S. and Iran, as well as secondary sanctions on countries that continue to trade the sanctioned goods with Iran (MEED April, 2001). Clinton also established a policy of non-engagement with Tehran until they verifiably disassembled their nuclear program under conditions of total transparency (MEED April, 2001). The Iranians were not about to have their policy dictated by the U.S. again, especially when the U.S. was making the same demands on their rival neighbor Iraq. Neither Iran nor Iraq were in a position to be the first to cave to U.S. sanctions, because to do so would be to lose sovereignty to an imperialist entity and to give up their position in the local balance of power (BBC 2000). It was like a game of chicken crossed with a Mexican stand-off, but if there is one force warring factions in the middle east can rally against, it's the United States government.
(2) Current Fears and Sanctions
George W. Bush succeeded Bill Clinton as U.S. president. His Iran policy could be compared to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. After the September 11th terrorist attacks, Iranian politicians offered their condolences to the U.S., as well as a commitment to fight terrorism (although there were some heavily circulated videos of people celebrating in the streets), yet Bush still included Iran along with Iraq and North Korea in his “Axis-of-Evil” when he was laying out the path to invading Iraq (O'Sullivan 57). This rhetoric was inspirational to many who supported the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, but in Iran it was inflammatory to both moderates and hardliners. Moderate President Khatami was the most liberal person to hold office in the history of the Islamic Republic (Gerges 138). Rallying anti-Bush and anti-U.S. sentiment in 2005, hardliner Mahmud Ahmadinejad would quickly be elected to replace Khatami in reasonably democratic elections (Johnson and Murphy June, 2009).
Bush the W as well as Obama have also continued the United States' support for the government of Israel, who remains on a collision course with Tehran (Schoenfeld 38). Reports indicate Israel has undeclared nuclear weapons on hair triggers pointed at many places in Iran (Schoenfeld 38). Iran has recently developed the Shehab-IV missile system, capable of bringing a nuclear of conventional payload to any address in Israel (Kemp 5). Previous National Intelligence Estimates made by the U.S. Government indicate that Iran abandons development of nuclear weapons while it is under intense scrutiny, but continues when the pressure lets off (Chubin & Green 160) (Eisenstadt 137). Between Israels launch on warning posture and Iran's “wipe the Zionist entity off the map” rhetoric, military skirmishes between the two are bound to eventually go nuclear (Schoenfeld 38). Make no mistake, there is no such thing as a limited nuclear war. Depending on the direction of the wind, some countries surrounding Israel and Iran would probably not enjoy the conventional and nuclear fallout (Falkenwrath 44).
Obama has also increased and strengthened economic sanctions against Iran (CNN.com). The problem is economic sanctions are probably doomed to fail at increasing regional stability, nuclear transparency, and hope for a peaceful future. This is because of three reason. First, they hurt the population of the country, not the regime in charge of it, who will outlive economic hardships at the expense of their people (and with the aid of oil money), which in turns makes it more difficult for the population to fund political campaigns, revolutions, or other types of regime change (Bahgat 149). Finally, sanctions provide a rallying point for hardliners, who recognize and acknowledge damage done by sanctions and point their finger at Washington (Gerges 138), which is why reformists were so quickly tossed out with the bathwater in 2005.
(3) The U.S. Government's History Problem, or “This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things”
There is political and social hope within Iran for improvements in external regional stability. There are many in Iran who oppose the current president, and Khatami, the previous Iranian President was much less confrontational with the U.S. (Noyes 48). Once in power, moderates could increase nuclear transparency, international stability, cooperation on terrorism, and diplomacy (Gerges 138). The increased transparency and stability emanating from Iran would reveal Israel's desperate clinging to its nuclear weapons as being derived more from from paranoia than legitimate security concerns. While, way down a chain of potential events, this could aid the U.S. in increasing the political viability of ending support of Israel. Peace in the middle east may ultimately rest in ending the Israeli double standard (Schoenfeld 38)(Kemp 5). We can not continue sending aid to Israel while they posses undeclared nuclear weapons while sanctioning countries like Iran for the suspected pursuit of developing those same weapons.
On a State-to-State or State-to-foreign-citizens level, The United States has very few if any viable options for facilitating situations encouraging change that will lead to increased stability to Iran and its neighbors. Operation Ajax, the embassy hostage situation, Iran Contra, decades of sanctions, Iranian production of nuclear weapons, and the U.S.'s perpetual support of Israel all serve as significant barriers to the efficacy of traditional international relationships and interactions (Fairbanks 460) but if the people of the United States wish to encourage this process, they must find international channels that do not involve the U.S. Government (Sick 16); as will be described in more detail later, certain aspects of the internet posses the potential to open and sustain these channels.
(4) Iranian Government and Recent Politics
Iran's government is an interesting one-party theocracy (CIA Factbook). The head of state is the Supreme Leader (CIA Factbook). He is in charge of almost all aspects of government policy. He is appointed or removed from office by the Assembly of Experts which is made of 86 scholars of Islamic law elected from a government approved list (CIA Factbook). Because Assembly members face reelection every eight years (CIA Factbook), and the government (the Supreme Leader) has the power to keep names off the ballot (CIA Factbook), Assembly members rarely act against the words of the Supreme Leader (Hotch 2006). The Assembly of Experts has never removed a sitting Supreme Leader (Reuters October, 98). Directly underneath the Supreme Leader, in terms of political power, is the popularly elected (according to the constitution) president (CIA Factbook). The president is afforded as much power as the Supreme Leader allows, at any time the latter can dismiss the former and call for new elections. If the Supreme Leader never stops approving of the president's job, the constitution limits the president to two terms of four years (CIA Factbook).
In the short history of the Islamic Republic, Iran has had two Supreme Leaders, Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini (1979-1989) and Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Hoseyni Khamenei (1989-present) (Hotch 2006), and it has had six presidents. Iran's first president, Abulhassan Banisadr was impeached within 18 months of taking office (PBS 2010). The next president, Mohammad-Ali Rajai was assassinated by leftists 28 days after taking office in August of 1981. His replacement, Ali Khamenei would make it through two full presidential terms and immediately become Supreme leader. Iran's fourth president Akbar Rafsanjani would also spend the full eight years in office, using his time to liberalize the economy, but being careful no to get too comfortable with the west (PBS 2010).
Iran's fifth and only reformist president was Mohammad Khatami (PBS 2010). He opened up European embassies in Iran, fought for democratic reforms and economic liberalization, and drew harsh criticism from more conservatives. Despite his lack of air time during his election campaign, Khatami received more than 70% of a vote that included 80% voter participation. During his presidency, many of his allies and cabinet ministers were threatened, beaten, or killed. He served and survived his entire eight years in office, and even briefly ran for president again in 2009, before withdrawing from the race and putting in his support for fellow reformist Mousavi. Recently he has taken the shocking (among Iranian politicians) position that the Holocaust actually happened, although he makes it very clear that Israel is in the wrong in regards to their treatment of the Palestinian people.
Iran's sixth and current president is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (PBS 2010). Due to a splintering of the reformist votes between candidates, his first presidential bid resulted in the first run-off vote in Iran's history. Because the fractured votes were on Iran's political left, the run-off ended up being between hardliner Ahmadinejad and more moderate former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Despite the unification of Ahmadinejad's opposition, the former mayor of Tehran trounced the former president of Iran at the polls (PBS 2010). Supreme Leader Khamenei immediately approved Ahmadinejad as president, and Ahmadinejad demonstrated his dedication by kissing Khamenei's hand.
(5) The 2009 Iranian Presidential Election Crisis
On the morning of Saturday June 13, 2009, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen woke up to their 23rd birthday, fabric stores in the U.S. braced for the slight uptick in sales that occurs the day before Flag Day, and some of the most massive protests in the history of Iran hit the streets of Tehran (CBS News). Official state announcements had declared Ahmadinejad reelected, and the people of Iran were not buying it (Worth and Fathi June 15, 2009). Mousavi urged his supporters to exercise restraint in voicing their opposition to the election results (CBS News). On June 19 Supreme Leader Khameini declared the election of Ahmadinejad to be the will of Allah and indicated protests would be met with the full force of the state (CBS News). This dropped the number of protesters in Iran's streets from the millions to the tens of thousands. Satellite rallies near Iranian embassies and in public squares continued in countries around the world. The American media covered the elections and the protests with both ends of the political spectrum’s' commentators agreeing the election to be fraudulent. This was a rare instance where Bill O'Reilly and Jon Stewart had nothing to argue about (Leo June 16, 2009) (Friedman June 23, 2009).
In the following few days many voting irregularities would surface (Berman and Rintoul 2). Conservative provinces reported higher than 100% voter turn out, in more than 30% of districts Ahmadinejad supposedly received all conservative, moderate, and new voters as well as almost half of reformist voters (Berman & Rintoul 2).
Protesters used different internet communities and services to help coordinate, record, and publicize their anti-election result activities (Shachtman June 15, 2009). With traditional media outlets in Iran on total lock-down, many western news services had to rely on these internet communities for information on the protests (Shachtman 2009). With the majority of internet experience lying between western computer screens and western office chairs, internet users in Iran had to rely on a specific group of U.S. and European citizens for information as to most effectively coordinate their digitally organized attacks (Shachtman 2009). The history and structure of the Internet is as important a factor in facilitating the relationship between Iranian protesters and western individuals (Shachtman 2009), as is the history of Iran itself as well as the relationship between the governments in Washington, D.C. and Tehran.
(6) A Brief History of the Internet
“The internet is a messed up place. If you would have told my ten year old self that due to all of the computers in the world being connected my kids will know more about Rick Astley than Thomas Jefferson, my child-self would have demanded a gun and a bullet.” – Joe Spaulding on Reddit.com
In 1957 the USSR launched a sophisticated tin can wired to a small battery named Sputnik into the Earth's orbit (Garber October, 2007). The United States responded with a wave of anxiety and paranoia (Garber 2007). No U.S. citizen knew whether or not Sputnik could see them and take their picture or focus a laser beam to kill an individual or town (Garber 2007). Washington responded by ordering the creation of a ARPA, which became DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in 1996, and put it in charge of developing new technology for military application. ARPA answers directly to the Defense Department, and immediately after its creation it in turn created the Information Processing Technology Office (IPTO) to strengthen the durability of the military's communication networks as well as develop ways to interconnect the computer networks at the U.S.'s most important military bases. The IPTO developed standard protocols for packet switching data between networks and used these standards to created the ARPANET. The ARPANET is both the precursor to the modern internet as well as the world's first computer network of networks. The International Telecommunications Union would use ARPA's research into packet switching to develop the X.25, a network of networks the public could access. In 1979, Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis, two Duke University students would use X.25 to transfer news and messages, and to host records of these data transfers. This was the beginning of Usenet, the first digital entity resembaling a modern online social networking community. People also used Usenet to play text-based role playing games as well as post adult narratives. Before 1980, the internet had already established its four most popular uses: news, social connections, video games, and porn (shopping, advertising, movies, and music would be added later as network capability, connection speeds, and popularity of the internet increased) (meatballwiki). Several companies like CompuServe and AOL began connecting people to the World Wide Web, but kept their subscribers from accessing older parts of the internet like Usenet, until the fall of 1993 (meatballwiki).
(7) The Eternal September
When Usenet access was limited to students attending universities with access to the internetwork, every fall new freshmen would have to learn the norms of posting on Usenet boards (netiquette) (meatballwiki). This would take a few weeks, but before Thanksgiving, the freshmen usually stopped making themselves look terrible online (meatballwiki). To long time Usenet members, September was a month to be avoided (meatballwiki).
Under Steve Case, AOL was marketed as providing access to the internet for people who are bad with computers. In September of 1993, AOL opened up access to Usenet without informing its subscribers they were being allowed access to a previously existing network, not a new feature made for them by AOL. The influx of belligerent and ignorant new posters was too rapid for the old users to be able to effectively educate all of them about proper netiquette (meatballwiki). The sudden access to information led internet access to spread like a virus across the developed world, but netiquette was left in the dust. Because internet civility never recovered from the influx of new users in 1993 like it did every previous fall, old Usenet users refer to it as the Eternal September (meatballwiki). The explosion of internet users would immediately lead to the dot-com boom of the late 1990s to early 2000s (meatballwiki), and the death of internet civility would plant the seeds for a fringe internet community that would later gain attention for its efforts during the 2009 Iranian presidential election protests (among other things).
(8) Dotcomexplosion.com and the Internet Today
The dot-com boom had instant as well as long-lasting economic impacts on individuals as well as pretty much anyone in the world. A brand-new market that was rapidly increasing in popularity in general looked like a pile of free money to investors. This established first wave internet communities and corporations like Google, YouTube, eBay, Craigslist, the Internet Movie Database (imdb), and Napster. In the early 2000's the dot-com economic boom revealed itself to be a bubble when it burst. This would damage markets all around the world and sink many start-up operations, but most of the mentioned institutions survived.
After this market adjustment, the Web 2.0 social networking “revolution” introduced a few new internet communities that were loosely connected with each other. Instead of being online gathering places for people around the planet that shared a specific interest, web 2.0 communitarian were primarily massive social networks and as a secondary feature, they allow users to express all of their interests.
Web 2.0 also opened up new digital pathways that made possible real-time access to information, as well as systems for determining the importance and accuracy of that information. Social bookmarking sites like Fark, Digg, and (most awesomely) Reddit allow users to post links to new articles and other web pagers, vote on their importance, comment in any way they wish, and communicate with other users about sources and information reliability (Reddit.com). There is a joke among Redditors that whenever anything important happens in the world, a person writes about it on a small website or their blog, someone sees it and posts it to Reddit and Fark. After that, a Digger sees it on Reddit and posts it on Digg (Reddit.com). Once it gets to Digg, the rest of the internet, disc jockeys, and TV newscasters learn about the event in that order (Reddit.com). Two days later there is an article about the important event in the world's major newspapers.
Facebook and Twitter are the two web communitarian that best demonstrate the essence of modern online social networking. Facebook acts like a multimedia autobiography of any user bundled up with the same type of autobiography of anyone they care enough about enough to type their name into a search bar (Facebook.com). Like most other online services, it allows users to do from the comfort of their home what they used to have to go outside to do; for Facebook users, this is stalking and having actual relationships with people. Twitter allows users to share short messages and internet links with any other users who are currently discussing the same things. Most of the time it ends up being like a giant dinner conversation where all of the participants are too busy catching new people up to speed on what has been discussed so far to contribute anything new to discussions anyway, but when emergency situations occur in areas that have traditionally been difficult to export information out of, Twitter allows any person with access to a cell phone the ability to quickly tell the entire world about things like election fraud and government death squads (Shachtman 2009).
One of the amazing aspects of these new communities is the fact that they are self policing. Not only that, but because of the increasing popularity of wifi hotspots and smart-phones, internet connectivity follows people around everywhere. At all times and in all places people are consuming content from and producing content for the internet. They are also aware that everyone else is always watching – a metamacropanopticon. People are allowed to voice their opinions but if they are out of line the hive-mind lets them know. Posts to Reddit that are lacking in the truth and/or verifiability department are down-voted into digital oblivion. People that recycle old material, or try to game the system for internet recognition are mocked until they start acting up to the community’s standards or they move on to a different digital playground (Reddit.com). When congressman Pete Hoekstra tried to compare Republicans on the floor of Congress tweeting to tweets in Tehran during the June 2009 protest, the internet wasted no time reducing the comparison into the absurdity from whence it came (Hoekstraisameme.com).
(9) The Butt-Plug of the Internet
Do not go to 4chan.org, and if you do, don't look at their random board (/b/) (4chan.org). Members of /b/ call themselves /b/tards and refer to their community as the butt plug of the internet (4chan.org). The idea is that when 4chan or /b/ goes offline (for technical or legal reasons) the massive metaphorical bowel movement (/b/tards) it was containing are unleashed on the entire internet in general, and the “normal” users have to put up with hoards of basement dwellers who's only experience with the internet involves trolling (making others upset for laughs) (4chan.org).
When /b/ is alive and kicking it is full of pictures of gore, racism, and graphic porn. Some images gain particular notoriety like Lemon Party, Tub-girl, and Goatse (4chan.org). These can be found doing simple searches on Google, but people probably should avoid doing so. It is as /b/ says : “what the eyes see can not be unseen. (4chan.org)” These outward displays of vulgarity are a screen against undesired non-marginalized people who wander in from time to time looking for a cheap laugh. Offensive rhetoric and pictures keep the “normals” out. Some people revel in only this initial layer of this particular community of internet outcasts. These people are tolerated to a certain extent because they contribute to the facade of decadence. If they get out of hand and seem like they will be a threat to others, especially children or cats, other members will alert the real world authorities (God protect you from the internet if you get caught hurting a cat).
/b/ is not ruled by anarchy (encyclopediadramatica.com). The internet in general shares structural similarities to the global system of international relations in that the rules are limited to the laws of nature and whatever anyone with both the will and the power wants to have happen (encyclopediadramatica.com). Users of /b/ have compiled an informal list of rules they claim apply to the entire internet, the first two of which were broken in this sentence alone (which are “Do not talk about /b/ and Do NOT talk about /b/) (encyclopediadramatica.com). The next few rules refer to an entity called “Anonymous” (encyclopediadramatica.com).
Anonymous is a metacommunity with a deliciously interesting structure (encyclopediadramatica.com). At any time, any poster, on any website on the internet may be anonymous and/or acting as Anonymous. The totality of the collective is different than the sum of its parts, although they do cathex to certain symbols like Guy Fawkes masks and lolspeak (a dialect of internet jargon obsessed with laughter)(4chan.org). It is part movement, part community. Because it's members revel in anonymity, the (dis)organization lacks any real leadership. Most of the time Anonymous confines itself to /b/ where it isn't noticeable in the forest of crazy, but it will make its presence known in other regions of the internet if it thinks there are more laughs to be had there or if it senses an injustice involving access to free speech especially involving digital data (4chan.org)(encyclopediadramatica.com).
When Anonymous is making itself noticeable, intelligent web administrators, anti-virus software writers, and internet service provider network managers all pay close attention. Anonymous' wrath can be targeted at individuals, websites, online communities, massive computer networks, “churches” and the internet as a whole, and it has specific methods for each. It has orchestrated global protest of the “Church” of Scientology in response to the “Church's” over-zealousness in pursuing litigation against people speaking against the words of L. Ron Hubbard online. Anonymous routinely arranges massive DDoS attacks that use the power of many members' computers working together to cripple web servers (Shachtman 2009), at one time forcing AT&T to “turn-off” access to 4-Chan or risk watching their network crash. They then had many members call and clog up AT&T's customer service hotline to complain about the outage of one website. When YouTube purged thousands of videos from their servers due to request made by the RIAA (the music and movie copyright watchdog group), Anonymous collectively uploaded hundreds of porn videos labeled as Justin Bieber songs (4chan.org). If individuals get them angry, they can expect death threats, having all of their online accounts hacked, pizzas delivered to their house at all hours, and many weird items arriving in the mail. Anonymous is composed of intelligent and tech savvy people who are obsessed with finding ways to weaponize information technology. While organized online, the attacks used have economic, psychological, physical, and digital targets (Iran.whyweprotest.net) (4chan.org) (encylopediadramatica.com). The only thing keeping most people safe is the fact that it takes more than the word of a single Anon to start up the “Internet Hate-Machine.” A common statement on discussion threads is “Anonymous and/or /b/ are not your personal army” (4chan.org).
(11) Anonymous in Iran: The Twitter Revolution's Personal Army
Immediately after Ahmadinejad was announced the election winner on June 13th, 2009 tweets and status updates on other sites were popping up from inside Iran indicating the public's dissatisfaction with the election outcome. The Government responded by closing down access to certain websites like Facebook and Twitter (Shachtman 2009). When Anonymous got wind of a government trying to sensor more of the internet than usual, they started collectively increasing their anger levels (Iran.whyweprotest.net). Modeling after the “raids” on the “Church” of Scientology Anonymous started up Iran.whyweprotest.net as an organization hub. Anonymous reached out to traditional activist organizations that had experience protesting governments, wars, and organizations like the WTO all over the world and were well aware of potential crowd-control tactics and possible counter-measures (Iran.whyweprotest.net). The IRL (in real life) and OTI (on the internet) (h)activists communicated in real time with protesters on the ground in Iran (Shachtman 2009). Initial contacts were used to establish further secure channels for information transfer after the Iranian government found ways to cut off access to Iran.whyweprotest.net (Iran.whyweprotest.net). Westerners did all they could to confirm they were talking to activists and not government spies, Iran's spies did all they could to infiltrate and close off access to the influence of Western activists (Shachtman 2009) (Worth & Fathi 2009) (Iran.whyweprotest.net). American and European activists provided two different types of help through Anonymous in Iran: advice and services.
Most of the advice involved detailed techniques for circumventing the government's controls on the internet. Westerners dedicated difficult to trace servers to rerouting signals to and from Iran (Shachtman 2009). These servers spoofed IP addresses. The result was the Iranian government thinking they had blocked the activists from communicating, while at the same the the activists actually were communicating unhindered (Iran.whyweprotest.net). These techniques were passed to people inside Iran who made more of these proxy servers inside the countries boarders, this made international communication appear to be originating within Iran. Advice was given to Iranian hactivists as to the potential digital forensic capabilities of their government (Shachtman 2009). Iranians were also taught how to execute server attacks within Iran without being detected (Iran.whyweprotest.net).
A small fraction of the advice being shared was logistical and aimed at people protesting on the streets (Iran.whyweprotest.net). Experienced protesters from the E.U. and the U.S. gave tips for countering tear gas and pepper spray, as well as safety and first aid lessons (Iran.whyweprotest.net). Ideas for effective nonviolent resistance were shared (Shachtman 2009).
The services provided by Anonymous in Iran were almost all digital. Question and answer boards were created to exchange stories from the streets of Iran and protest tips from the west (Iran.whyweprotest.net). Translation services for Farsi to English and back were provided and peer-reviewed by other translators to ensure accurate transfer of information (Iran.whyweprotest.net). Coordination of massive DDOS attacks were made on Iranian government web servers (Shachtman 2009) (Worth & Fathi 2009). Western journalists were provided with a single nexus through which all information leaking out of Iran would pass, which in turn provided nearly real-time access to information for everyone outside of Iran (Shachtman 2009). This culminated in the viral spread of a video showing the death of a young Iranian protester named Neda Agha-Soltan (Youtube June 20, 2009). The video of her death became a metaphorical condensation of the damage done to the people of Iran and the world's inability to do anything about it. Massive brain drain prevented Iran from having the keyboard power necessary to repel these leaks and attacks on a micro level. The Iranian government responded by shutting down as many cellular networks and other internet service providers as possible, and blaming their internet problems on attacks from western governments and CNN (CNN.com June 22, 2009).
(12) Conclusions, or Searching for Lulz in a Sea of Serious Business
Iran became a focal point for people with three attributes: a love of rebelling against authorities, access to the technology to access people in Iran, and a target in the form of Ahmadinejad’s government. The initial coordination of protesting on the ground in Iran would have been more difficult, and the government would have had an easier time quashing the activists had it not been for online social networking (Worth & Fathi 2009). Marginalized groups of internet users in the western world had an easier time accessing the truth of events within Iran than both the traditional media and governments with massive intelligence budgets (Shachtman 2009). There were times when a public library card provided more information than Department of Defense security clearances. At the very minimum, the interaction between western hactivists and Iranian protesters shows that Iran's animosity toward the U.S. government doesn't necessarily apply to all of the citizens of the U.S., and that some Americans and Europeans care more about the people in Iran and their freedom than the oil they live on top of (Shachtman 2009). Ahmadinejad is currently still the president of Iran, but to be fair, the only vote that mattered was the Supreme Leader's (CIA Factbook). The fraudulent election, protests uniting Americans and Iranians, and Ahmadinejad's crackdown on life and freedom are all well documented online and will never be completely forgotten, nor will the Supreme Leader's involvement (Shachtman 2009). The important lesson for the world to take home is, when the citizens of the internet are united, even their outcasts can exercise more power than governments like Iran's and the U.S.'s for, at the very least, short periods of time.
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