Things are getting worse over there. More violent, as the basiji and the riot police and the Revolutionary Guard crack down, dispersing crowds, attacking protestors, hauling people away to jail. Which isn’t good — but in the end, this may be what takes Khamenei down. I honestly don’t expect him to survive (politically speaking) past the end of this. Rafsanjani is almost certainly in Qom, and it sounds like he’s gathering enough support to either replace Khamenei with a new Supreme Leader, or ditch that structure entirely for something else (though still a theocratic something else). It’s possible Khamenei will muster enough armed force to survive the complete loss of legitimacy for his regime; he could potentially pull off naked military dictatorship. For a while. But I’ll be surprised if he does.
If you’re looking for a one-stop shop for Iranian updates, you could do worse than to go with Andrew Sullivan; he might drown you under the sheer flood of updates, but he’s staying on top of things.
I bring him up because he made a point the other day that’s really stuck in my head, regarding the way these events have changed American perception of the Iranian people. Not long ago, they were one pillar of the Axis of Evil: unknown, unknowable, the frightening horde who might destroy our way of life because they are Not Like Us. I think that’s changed, at least for anyone who’s been following this news. They may be anonymous, but they aren’t Other. How can they be, when they use Twitter and Facebook and Youtube, like any American might do? It isn’t just the familiar service names, either; it’s the way they connect us directly to Iranian voices. You can read their thoughts in 140 characters or less — broken, misspelled, sometimes mangled by Google Translate’s newly-instituted Persian capability, but it’s like they’re speaking in your ear. You can cheer the protestors on as they make riot police break and run; you can look through the eyes of the man filming a group of basiji arresting and carting away one of his neighbors, the camera perched on the windowsill, the man himself probably crouching out of sight so the basiji don’t spot him and arrest him, too, and hear his whispered curses. You can listen to a young woman speaking in darkness, while around her Tehran chants “Allahu Akbar” into the night sky.
You see people. You hear people. Foreign, but not alien. Men, and a lot of women; some old, but many young. Maybe they don’t speak English, or don’t speak it well, and maybe their ideas of what kind of freedom they want aren’t the same as yours, but that’s the Iranian people, right there on your computer, half a world away.
Bad journalism turns events into empty words, events without faces or meaning. Good journalism weaves it into a narrative, trying to create the reality in your mind, but even then it’s mediated and polished and tidied up. This is raw, fragmentary, chaotic, and immediate. This is a peephole through which you can glimpse a very large whole.
And when it’s over — whatever the outcome — there will be a lot of Americans who see people where the Axis of Evil used to be.