Clay Shirky is wrong to be upbeat about how technology is boosting Iran's democracy movement. If anything, it's helping the regime crack downby Evgeny Morozov / January 5, 2010 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2010 issue of Prospect Magazine
Read Clay Shirky’s response to this exchange here
I am glad that Clay Shirky has offered such a balanced and much-needed rejoinder to the initial optimism that he espoused in his widely-publicised book of 2008, Here Comes Everybody. As I wrote in Prospect’s December cover story, “How Dictators Watch Us On the Web,” I, like Shirky, also view the ongoing events in Iran as a key test for social media’s growing prominence in the politics of authoritarian societies. Where I strongly disagree with Shirky, however, is in his upbeat interpretation of the current political developments in Iran.
I am much less impressed by the role that the social media has played there. The palpable digital enthusiasm surrounding the situation in Iran appears very similar to what we observed in the autumn of 2007, as the “Saffron Revolution” was getting underway in Burma. Similarly, that revolution was abetted by mobile phones and text messaging and was widely expected to loosen the junta’s tight grip on power. Today, however, one would need a powerful magnifying glass to notice any major democratic changes in that country.