Be My Guest: Clover Hope

by
A supporter of defeated presidential candidate Mousavi is beaten by government security men as fellow supporters come to his aid during riots in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, June 14, 2009. (AP Photo) #

A supporter of defeated presidential candidate Mousavi is beaten by government security men as fellow supporters come to his aid during riots in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, June 14, 2009. (AP Photo) #

Clover is actually working on a really dope series of guest blogs. She’s going to highlight a story she wrote for XXL and show the entire process from writer’s draft to publication. But while we hash that out–she’s got something to say about how Twitter is impacting both political protests and journalism.

It’s timely and thought provoking. And I urge you to check it.

The Revolution Will Be Tweeted
By Clover Hope

I’d been reading headlines about protests in Iran and dismissing it. And then it became the number two trending topic on Twitter (#iranelections). Apparently, Iranians were tweeting about their experiences and posting pictures, and people outside Iran were talking about it.

Some Iranian citizens are up in arms about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defeating reformist candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi in the presidential election on Friday. There are charges of election fraud and some Iranians believe the election was fixed and they’ve taken their frustration to the streets.

The current protests are the largest since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

I don’t usually pay close attention to international politics, but what interested me about this story is how much Twitter is helping to spread the news. Reports started popping up on the microblogging site before CNN picked up coverage, which angered some people.

Twitter is the reason why I started researching the protests. I went to the Huffington Post Web site – because they do a good job of collecting information from different outlets – and found a liveblog of the Iran riots, citing various sources.

I discovered and started following the Twitter user @IranElection09 and began to get firsthand accounts of what was happening. A sample of @IranElection09’s Tweets:

People’s homes are being invaded across the Tehran, satellite dishes confiscated to prevent flow of news into country #iranelection

CNN where are you?: Tehran young girl SHOT, doesn’t look like she will make it http://bit.ly/UAQxL  #iranelection

RT @persiankiwi attacked in streets by mob on motorbikes with baton, firing guns into air, fire all over city roads closed #Iranelection

Of course you can’t fully trust tweets, but the fact that reports like this are even available is astonishing. I think of Twitter as a resource to locate interesting news that I can further investigate through more credible organizations.

I also came across a striking passage excerpted from the New York Times. It’s by Roger Cohen, who was reporting from Iran. All across the capital of Tehran, police have been beating protesting citizens . Cohen wrote about an encounter with one such protester:

Majir Mirpour grabbed me. A purple bruise disfigured his arm. He raised his shirt to show a red wound across his back. “They beat me like a pig,” he said, breathless. “They beat me as I tried to help a woman in tears. I don’t care about the physical pain. It’s the pain in my heart that hurts.”

This compelled me to read the entire New York Times article.

The protests are becoming known as The Twitter Revolution because of the role social media is playing. As a journalist, I’m in awe of the power of this tool. But I’m also noting that I’m not depending on just Twitter. Twitter grabbed my attention—and sent me to the Huffington Post which led me to the New York Times: All a sign that there will always be a need for different levels of journalism. From the citizen journalist armed with a Flip camera to the J-school grad at a mainstream paper with an international bureau.

I like how this Time article on how Twitter is helping broadcast the Iran Revolution, sums up the need for all these variables:

As much talk as there is about Twitter and other social media supplanting the likes of CNN in covering breaking news, they’re really another source rather than a replacement—and Twitter users know that as well as anyone else. Thus, they want—and demand—big news organizations to step up, nimbly and responsively, to cover fast-changing events like this.

Now what if this botched election happened in America? Would Americans utilize the power of Twitter to mobilize? Would they moblize at all?

Yesterday, a colleague of mine, Hyun, posed this question on Twitter (of course): “If Twitter &FB were around, would Americans have used them during the Bush elections like the Iranians? Would we have taken 2 the streets?”

My guess is no. If protests and rallies were being organized on a large scale via Twitter, I would hope I’d feel compelled to take action. But Americans are real complacent when it comes to politics.

Even with widespread claims of fraud and faulty voting machines in the 2000 and 2004 Bush elections, there was no rioting in the U.S. I’m not sure if Twitter would help. If Barack Obama had lost in such a dubious way as Moussavi did in Iran, who knows if idle Americans would have got up and done something.

I’m not sure I would have either.

Would you?

If nothing else, The Twitter Revolution is showing us that we can make a difference, even from our laptops—as journalists and as citizens.

How will you use it?

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Clover Hope is a writer and editor based in New York City. Her work has appeared in publications such as Billboard, ESPN The Magazine, Vibe, XXL, Essence, King, Giant, Village Voice and Amsterdam News.

portrait

Dear readers: If you’re a journalist/writer/PR rep/politician/activist/ can you please tell us how you’re using Twitter and Facebook in your work? What are the benefits to using Twitter to find sources and news? What’s the downside?

And as far as what’s happening in Iran, Clover raises a great point. If there was airtight evidence of voter fraud in the 2008 election and McCain won:  would you have protested in the streets?

Clover and I would love to hear from you…

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10 Responses to “Be My Guest: Clover Hope”

  1. clove Says:

    this is really interesting – CNN has been using reports from Twitter users in their TV news segments. when they do, they label it “unverifiable material”

  2. thatone Says:

    I am sad to say that I did NOT riot when Bush V. Gore stole the election, nor did I shake my fists in the street when any of the police beat any number of black men in NYC. I did NOT rush down to New Orleans to help out during the flood.

    I did FEEL bad tho. I watched and wished something could be done. Since, I promised myself I would no longer stand by and just be mad at these things. Twitter or no twitter.

    Plus, I don’t think America needs Twitter or FB. But it can help reach people where they are. Iran needed it because media was/is being shut down. Thanks for staying on top of it Clover. I think it’s a huge story for our generation.

  3. Incilin Says:

    Sure Americans would use Twitter; They’d bitch and moan about how McCain stole the election, but no they wouldn’t actually do anything about it.

    But don’t think American complacency is a bad thing; People are complacent because they’re comfortable. They figure, “Things are bad, but their not terrible. And they might get better. So it’s no big deal.” (NYPD shootings) or “Someone else will clean it up.” (Katrina). The Civil Rights movement happened because things were terrible and people had a new found sense of justice. As bad as black people may have it today, but they certainly have it better today than they ever did before.

    In Iran 1979, things were terrible: The CIA had installed a puppet regime, the Shah had been exiled, the students were furious, and the middle class was betrayed by the new US-backed regime. Inspired by the writings of Ali Sharati the students took it to the streets, but with the help of the middle class (the people who are usually complacent if they’re comfortable) they had themselves a real revolution. (Quick note: In the history of the world there have only been 5 revolutions: American Revolution, French Revolution, British Revolution (magna carta), Russian Revolution (twice) and the Iranian revolution. Plus Iran’s is the most recent).

    The real factor that should be pushing Iran right now isn’t the fact that the elections were probably rigged, but the fact that their economy is in utter ruins. Which is why the lower class is rioting. However, the middle class isn’t feeling the purge just yet, and they’re the real catalyst to revolution.

    Remember, Iran is a Shiite nation and their citizens are being driven by a Shiite sense of justice. This has a lot to do with the history of Islam, but to sum it up quickly; back in the day, the Shiites let their leader get killed and since then they swore they would never be complacent ever again. To use another Civil Rights analogy, Sunni’s are like MLK while Shiite’s are like Malcolm X (Sufis are without a doubt are hippies).

    All American elections are rigged, though not to the extent that Iran’s elections are said to be rigged. And I’m not just talking voter fraud, but also problems with machines, the way districts are aligned. And the same way the religious clerics must give early support for a candidate to run, American corporations must support candidate before they can make a serious run. (“In America money is God, and supermarkets are Cathedrals.”)

    I could go on for hours about all this….

  4. SpottieOttie Says:

    Thanks for your intelligent coverage!

    I’ve been enamored w/ this election/the candidates for months, I’ve followed Ahmadinijead since he told Bush to suck it a few years ago…and in the reaction to his stolen re-election, I see the same spirit in Iranians that we had here after Bush won in 04…we were fed the f*k up, we wanted positive change and we wanted the world to know he was not reppin’ for anyone but himself. I also see the difference in that while they have the need, and the heart, to fight/die…we have the resources & the freedom to organize & mobilize. That’s how President Obama won…now, had he lost, I do believe there would have been blood in the streets. They are over there fighting (5 days later…) w/ rocks and sand and sticks. Here, it would have been AK’s & sawed-offs…

    I just hope the relevance of Twitter makes the upper echelons of media/journalism realize that time are changing and people are getting the news for themselves and sharing it w/ the world, rather than waiting to be told what to think (which, I’m sure, has them shaking in their boots..or parkas…or whatever it is that “real journalists” wear these days).

  5. clove Says:

    “I just hope the relevance of Twitter makes the upper echelons of media/journalism realize that time are changing and people are getting the news for themselves and sharing it w/ the world, rather than waiting to be told what to think”

    good point. people are finding out news on their own more. but I think it’s important to distinguish the facts. news organizations are (should be) more reliable because of their factchecking. I think that’s what distinguishes what you know when you first hear about something that happened from when you read a final reported piece that has the finer details

  6. serenakim Says:

    hey guys. thanks for this awesome post. i love it when urban media brushes against global news. my quest as an editor has always been about making that connection. as a publicist, i’m now representing an iranian-british pop act named mams taylor (single out with snoop!). he released a message about the unrest in iran and now i’m trying to broadcast it to the world. lemme know if this is something that interests you. check out his statement:

    “The protest movement is about freedom. The irony of this election is that there is no democracy. They sabotaged the voting. It’s not fair and they cheated. And though Moussavi isn’t much better than Ahmadinejad, the opposition gives the youth hope. The majority of the population is 30 and younger, and they are fighting for freedom. It’s tragic that protesters have been killed and injured, but the protests have also brought people together. We are moving towards revolution. Iran is years behind other countries because they let religion govern their laws. How many times have we learned in England that the kings separated church and state? ‘Cause every time they mix, the results are disastrous. We’re learning that same lesson in Iran now. I feel so blessed to have the freedom to express myself through art and everyone else in the world should have the right to express their truths through art or otherwise.”

    –Mams Taylor

    There’s a lot to chew on!

  7. Michael Says:

    Great post.

    To be honest, had McCain won I probably would’ve been turned off from politics for several years — if not permanently. Would I have protested? Possibly, because I did when Bush was re-elected, but I’m not sure if my display of political discourse would have made any difference. I guess that’s where I and the young Iranians taking the streets differ. But they’re the ones who have it right, not me.

    I’m impressed by how they’ve used Twitter to mobilize their efforts, but I’m also worried that governments will make it difficult for people to organize protest via the web.

    Take for example China actively working to build a high-tech police state (with the assistance of American corporations…shocker).

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/20797485/chinas_allseeing_eye/print

    Even in Iran now they disabled Yahoo and other mediums in an effort to try and stop protesters from organizing their efforts.

    It will be interesting to see if people will manage to stay one step ahead of the government. Hopefully since internet users tend to shift from one social media site to another it will be hard governments to keep up.

  8. Sunny Dee Says:

    Wow! I love this conversation and I so earnestly appreciate you ladies putting this together. It’s very intelligent and aside from just showing that Twitter can create a source of media information when it was designed for social networking, you’ also proven the way blogging can be used for a similiarly effective purpose.

  9. Golianopoulos Says:

    An election was stolen in 2000 and no one cared. In fact, people who voted for Gore were calling for him to “go away”. Nine years later, I’m still not sure what that meant. Get fat and grow a beard? This time around, however, I think there would have been protests if another Florida happened.

    I use social media sites primarily to find sources. Not many people have land lines anymore so white pages and lexis nexis aren’t as useful as they were five years ago. I don’t rely on them for news, however. I actually think they are kind of silly and destructive in a way. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from using them.

    There have been more than five revolutions.

  10. la negrita Says:

    I use FB and Twitter primarily for entertainment. My school was on FB from the very beginning, so I have always viewed it as a way for young people to procrastinate. I don’t really take either seriously…although I should because of archival reasons. I have found sources on FB, but I always contact them the old school way because I don’t know if they use their account for business or pleasure. I agree with Golianopoulos on the “destructive” tip. Once it’s on the internets, it’s there forever. That’s very dangerous.

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