Saturday, June 27, 2009


Learning about Iran: Fox vs. YouTube

by Larry Geller

Dave Winer, in a podcast I recently listened to, pointed out (I have to paraphrase) that while cable news was busy talking about a story, whether Sotomayor was a racist, YouTube was focused on events in Iran.

Sotomayor isn’t a racist, but Fox News and the others had a story about that, and they were all engrossed in retelling and debating their story. It wasn’t about observable facts.

Meanwhile, new events in Iran caught the focus of the world. There was a story, with basically two poles to it, both accepted by what I’ll call MSM, or Mainstream Media for a moment. The two poles were: (1) the election was rigged (despite lack of evidence), and (2) Mousavi is a good guy who should be the president of Iran. Sure, it can be sliced other ways also. But the MSM likes black-and-white distinctions. Saves them from having to do much digging, and perhaps (sadly) that is what the audience also prefers to be fed. There is info on Mousavi for the Googling. In fact, the first hit, and not a bad one, was from the MSM itself, a CNN article:

Though the 67-year old is credited for successfully navigating the Iranian economy as prime minister during a bloody eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s, he also was a hard-liner whom the Economist described as a "firm radical."

He, like most Iranians in power, does not believe in the existence of Israel. He defended the taking of hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Iran in 1979, which led to the break in ties between the countries.

He was part of a regime that regularly executed dissidents and backed the fatwa against British author Salman Rushdie.

And as late as April, he opposed suspending the country's nuclear-enrichment program but said it would not be diverted to weapons use.

The complete article has more, and the alternative media more still. For background on Iran, the alternative media is much better. Fox would not want to remind readers that it was this country that destroyed Iranian democracy, and I wonder if they have mentioned that not so long ago George Bush and of course Dick Cheney were salivating over the possibility of bombing Iran unilaterally. Remember McCain, singing Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran? Now we seem concerned about their democracy.

Ok, cutting to the present. While Fox News remains Fox News, citizen journalism does way better. The television will show protesting crowds. Search YouTube for Tehran, though, and you will see news posted from cellphones and camcorders on the ground. The first hit was very hard to watch – a young woman dying of a chest wound.

The use of Twitter may have been exaggerated by the media, but YouTube and Flickr  will bring you there. It gives us new choices. We can skip the filter of the MSM, even the filter of alternative media and go right to the streets along with the protesters.

This is new. So it is possible to cancel the cable TV subscription and get better news. Twitter is not bad either. YouTube and Twitter are direct. No stories about stories. Filter the news yourself, make of it what you will.

There’s another way to slice newsmaking besides mainstream/alternative. In another article I’ll try to write about the professional/amateur slice. With the newspaper meltdown, there are professionals out here among us amateurs, so alternative media may benefit. At the same time, we can’t do without the professionals, whether they are writing print stories or blogging.

Anyway, check out YouTube for news or Iran and see what it’s like to move your eyes away from the talking heads and go right to the scene of the action yourself. If you spend time there, I predict that for many, there’s no going back.


KPFA ran a couple of very good reports on Iran last week. These links will only be functional for a few more days, so I recommend taking a listen soon:

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