Iran’s army of mutts

I’ve just spent a day monitoring Twitter.com’s #iranelection feed.

idogThe BBC’s Richard Sambrook has elucidated at length about the perils of relying on Twitter as the Tehran regime teeters (and if that’s too much alliteration for you for now then I totally understand). I won’t repeat but never has that old New Yorker cartoon seemed so relevant; Sambrook writes:

if you had a reasonable understanding of news flows, a developed sense of scepticism, and an above average understanding of the political situation in Iran, you would have emerged much better informed than the lay viewer relying on TV or Radio news.

I feel it’s the scepticism that comes top when evaluating tweets coming in thick and fast at a rate of between 5 – 25 per second. That’s a lot of 140-character brain dumps to take in and assess. You try your best to pick out the nuggets but even when you’ve corroborated as much as possible you get stung. One tweeter I contacted seemed to be a bona fide Tehran resident with on-the-spot reporting skills. I followed him, he followed me, I DM’d him and he sent me back this:

toosinbeymen: Thanks for the query. I’m an American sympathetic to the Iranian cause and RTing credible tweets. Still interested?

I was tempted to write back to Mr. toosin and say thanks but no thanks, but you know what, I held off. We all should watch this space. If the Mullahs scarper and the regime does eventually fall then it won’t be the tiny proportion of Iranian e-revolutionaries on Twitter.com we have to thank. Instead, raise a glass to those thousands of wannabe agiators who, like the mutt in the pic, were armed with nothing more than a mischevious glint and a somewhat lackadaisical attitude to traditional news values and who may just end up being responsible for some of the most dramatic events the Middle East has ever seen.

UPDATE: 18th June 2009. My debut on the flagship Newshour programme where crucially Pauly remembers not to crack any stupid jokes.

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