Radio and revolution

Radio and revolution
: Hoder (do I have to introduce him anymore? he’s the pioneering Iranian blogger) has a fasincating post about radio that can be read different from two perspectives, Iranian and American. The post:

I’m sure that no government in thw world is more scared of foreign radios than Iran. Even before revolution Shaah used to think that BBC Persian section made the revolution happen, and now those who toppled him two decades ago think the same. Iranian supreme council for National Security has issued an order on Nov 2002, preventing any official or political activist is allowd to talk to Persian sections of foreign-based radios such as BBC, VOA, etc. I know this is absurd, but it is true!

The key here is that this is media that is out of control — that is, it’s out of the control of the mullahs. Foreign radio is out of control because, clearly, it’s foreign.

Now substitute the word “radio” with “weblog” and I’ll be you’ll be reading history of some dictatorship somewhere less than a decade from now. You’re reading that about Iran right now. Unlike foreign radio, weblogs and the Internet are internal; they allow the people to get a voice that’s not under control. That’s even more frightening for dictators (witness the arrest of Sina Motallebi).

Now read this from the perspective of America, where radio is not revolutionary; it’s safe and controlled. The NY Times complained about the blandness of broadcast this weekend. Now we all know why it’s controlled (not just consolidation but also both copyright and, moreso, performer rights that prevent upstarts from playing music on the Internet and challenging the dullness of radio). Howard Stern is the only real rebel on radio; he lead the rebel charge and he complains that the suits around him have lost that sense of rebellion and fun.

Bottom line: What makes media — not just radio but newspapers, TV, movies, music, and, yes, weblogs — compelling is that they are not controlled; they are surprising; there is a dash of surprise and a pinch of revolution about them. Newspapers at their best speak on behalf of the people against power, whoever holds is today; they are revolutionary. Radio at its best pushes the limits, whatever those limits are today; it is revolutionary. Weblogs are cpmpelling because, to paraphrase Les Miserables, bite the butt of the Pope or whoever’s holy today.

Media at its best is revolutionary — in Iran or Iraq or America.