The world changes in a click
: I saw the world change last night.
Spirit of America showed its new Arabic-language blogging tool at a reception in Washington.
I have been hoping, dreaming, cajoling, and begging for this for more than a year, since I first met Hossein Derakhshan online and saw the blogging revolution he started in Iran and since I met, also online, brave Iraqi bloggers Zeyad and then Omar and Mohamed and others and read the stories of their true lives they brought to the world.
I believed that a tool of citizens’ media in the languages of the citizens would free them to tell their stories to each other and the world and dethrone the tyrants who have tried to silence them. Now it begins.
Spirit of America — Jim Hake, Kerry Dupont, Janice Abrahams, and some brave people in Iraq (more on them later) — made it happen. This weekend at Rebecca MacKinnon’s international blogging confab at Harvard, they’ll unveil this tool, but I got to see it tonight.
And though I could not, of course, understand a single word, a single letter on the pages, I saw pixels that looked as beautiful to me as the graceful, courageous, ancient script on the Declaration of Independence.
With this tool, citizens throughout the Middle East will be able to declare their independence. They will be able to build bridges to fellow citizens in other parts of the world — just as the Iraqi and Iranian bloggers have been able to do (allowing you and me to meet and make friends in a way that never could have happened without this). They will be able to tell the truth in ways that media cannot and their leaders will not.
Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz came to tonight’s reception, along with some members of Congress. I thanked Wolfowitz for reading blogs from Iraq and quoting them in columns and drawing attention to their messages in the halls of power. Then I asked him whether they are making a difference. “Yes, but not as much as they deserve to,” he said.
He told of reading a blog that reported on religous organizations that were really just fronts for Saddam and how he did not see this same coming from U.S. intelligence for too long.
Later, I said that the same is true in media. I told him the story of the antiterrorism demonstrations that Zeyad, Omar, and Mohamed covered that The New York Times did not cover.
The priesthoods of information are being upset, I said. We agreed that this is a good thing.
Secretary Wolfowitz said that citizens’ blogs in Iraq are helping. “Things that every Iraqi knows, Americans have to learn for the first time through the barriers of the Green Zone,” he said. He said that not only has he quoted blogs and learned intelligence from them, but he “got a lot of mileage in Congress” out of blogs stories of religious women’s objections to efforts to impose religous law in Iraq a few months ago. He is grateful for what the bloggers are telling us and he is grateful for their courage.
And, by the way, Wolfowitz himself reads blogs, he and his staff members made clear. He regularly sends them links to what he has learned online. (And, by the way, I enjoyed meeting him.)
When I asked that question about blogs, I mentioned the blogs in Iran and Rep. Darrell Issa of California was amazed that there were blogs there. I told him the story of Hoder and the blogging revolution and he remained amazed. “I missed that briefing,” he said. No, Congressman, you just got the briefing, I told him.
They see how these tools will change the world. But you already had that briefing, didn’t you?
All of this is not just a plug for contributing to this cause and helping bring the Arabic blogging tool to Arabic lands. But it is also a plug. So please give to the cause here. Help some brave people change the world.
: UPDATE: Judith rounds up other reports here.