June 14th, 2010
If you are an Iranian in Tehran, you might have received a text message recently similar to this one:
“Dear citizen, you have been tricked by the foreign media and you are working on their behalf,” the message read. “If you do this again, you will be dealt with according to Islamic law.”
Pretty damn intimidating, particularly when it’s sent by the government and it arrives on a cell phone that’s probably in your pocket. Whether the messages were sent to known anti-government activists or just blasted out to phone numbers at random, this kind of direct and personal threat would dampen just about anyone’s revolutionary fire. And coming soon after a Foreign Policy piece that demolishes the idea of an Iranian “Twitter Revolution” last summer, it clearly demonstrates the ability of electronic tools to work FOR an authoritarian government as well as against one. Also note that the Times article that quotes the text message above mentions that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has now set up more of an infrastructure for monitoring electronic communications.
Depressing, and another reminder of the limits of the internet to make immediate change happen in the real world, particularly in a state like Iran that’s becoming increasingly despotic as its moral legitimacy fades.