I don't have much to say personally about the Iranian election. It's sad but what can you do. But as the story has morphed into one that involves the tech community I thought I'd jump in. Here are a list of conclusions based on about an hour of research I did on Sunday morning.
Well-Backed Speculation: I don't like it but it appears Mr. Ahmadinejad won the election fair and square. Important to remember in regards to this is that both sides monitored the Iranian election closely yet Hossein Mousavi has provided no concrete proof (like exit poll results) that back up his claim that the election is rigged. Beyond that the international community is hedging their bets which means they too doubt Mr. Mousavi's claim. There's no point in hedging if you think there's a legitimate revolution about to happen. In that case you want to fuel the fire.
Fact: Every ACTUAL-Iranian I've spoken to (6 at this point) says they aren't surprised by the elections results. Though Tehran is very liberal the rest of the country is not meaning Ahmadinejad has broad support. The only reason it looks otherwise is because western media spent the week hanging out in the capital interviewing people under 25.
Fact: CNN is being maligned unfairly. CNN is a TV network which means it needs video footage to cover something in depth. As the video below shows Iranian police are confiscating Cameras and arresting Camera Men.
So their ability to cover the event is limited. But if you think for one second that the liberal media isn't interested in covering riots against Ahmadinejad you're out of your mind. They want to they just can't.
Fact: Anyone saying Twitter has been a source of news during this is lying or being deceived. Twitter is blocked in Iran (see comment by Michael C. Hough), Cell service including SMS is shut down and Satellite dishes are banned so no Satellite Internet. People want to believe Twitter is a great news source so they're ignoring the facts. In reality it was almost impossible to get accurate info out of Iran yesterday (which was of course the point)
For those coming to this from a search engine or some other source please take note of the date on the post. The above paragraph was written the day after the election and refers only to the Saturday niight when all Internet and Cell Phone service was cut off in Iran. Of course things like Twitter and Youtube are playing a part now that they are turned back on (that's the whole reason the Government shut them down in the first place). My point above was a counter point to those who were claiming Twitter was a good source of news during that night and all I was saying is that those tweets had to be fake because there was no internet access to post them.
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Fact: The tech blogosphere is willing to twist the facts to boost Twitter and indict CNN. Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb says...
One quip we've seen is that "Tienanmen + Twitter = Tehran." Twenty years ago this month, CNN brought live news about the Tienanmen Square uprising to the world. It's really strange that the network is absent from this story.
It's actually not strange at all. CNN did get a significant boost from their coverage of Tienanmen square but it was because they could cover it. As CNN themselves put it...
For CNN, it all started in early April when Alec Miran, CNN's special events producer for the Gorbachev visit, went to Beijing to propose an "outlandish idea" to the Chinese authorities -- bringing in the network's own transmission equipment to beam live television pictures from China.
The Chinese gave CNN permission to bring in their own "flyaway" satellite dish and additional microwave gear to be able to transmit live -- a permission unheard of at the time in closed, Communist China. CNN was granted exactly one week's permission, timed to coincide with the Soviet leader's visit.
So CNN, through a stroke of luck, was allowed to broadcast the events at Tienanmen square. They were only granted permission because of the Gorbachev visit and because there was no time to revoke that permission when the protests started. Mr Kikpatrick doesn't mention that. He's not alone in the practice of ignoring the facts here. CNet states...
Yet even as word of the urban strife, seemingly led by those posting to Twitter, spread next around the world on news networks like the BBC, NPR, and the Times, CNN remained mostly mute. Even when the network's Internet site finally posted a story late Saturday, the network's first "story highlight" was, "Ahmadinejad plans rally after winning second presidential term."
Notice he said "mostly." A quick search of CNN's website shows they've continuously had Iran related stories on their website since well into last week. What CNet is probably referring to is this article (which is the first that comes up when you search Google) which is dated 11:37pm EDT. But follow the link and you'll notice it says "UPDATED Saturday 11:37pm EDT." The fact is, CNN.com was covering rallies in Iran since before the election even begun.
Oh, and on the personal blogger front Scoble still preaches Twitter's power even as his Iranian wife (who is by all accounts very tech savvy) can't get through to her own relatives. So how are all those tweets from Iran getting through?
Well-Backed Speculation: As far as we know, the protests in Iran are no bigger than other protests that have happened around the world. According to the BBC about 100 people have been detained in Iran. This is similar to the number of people detained for protesting new car import fees in Russia or the number detained for protesting over the murder of an innocent girl in China. It's significant for sure but not really a sign of a revolution. To try to extrapolate hard numbers the protests in China numbered about 30,000. If the same is true of the protests in Iran that would mean less than .5% of Tehran residents are protesting against the election (based on a total population of 7,088,287)
Well-Backed Speculation: The statistical report going around claiming to have proof the election was rigged is almost certainly inaccurate. For more on that I direct you to fivethirtyeight.com (a site that has earned my trust over time)
Addendum: I just thought of a question that I wish I'd been asking throughout the day but I wanted to put it up here now. To anyone who disagrees with me I have a question. Has it occured to you that, if the election wasn't rigged, the people trying to overturn it are the dictators? All the disagreement I've gotten in the comments or via e-mail has hinged on the idea that this election must have been fixed. But no one at this point has shown me one shred of proof that it was fixed.
Again, nothing would make me happier than learning this election doesn't represent how the iranians really feel. But I also know that democracy is about allowing people to live in the way they vote for even if you don't like it and there's nothing I can see that says this election isn't how the nation of Iran chooses to live.