Soyeshin’s Blog

Internet Reshaping Middle East Politics, Starting with Iran [Marketing Vox]

Posted on: March 12, 2009

2005 » Jun » 15 » Internet Reshaping Middle East Politics, Starting with Iran…

Internet Reshaping Middle East Politics, Starting with Iran

Unlikely ‘net geek,
Likely winner

If the free flow of information is the enemy of repressive regimes, it’s no wonder authoritarian states have attempted to censor online access to it. So the U.S. foreign policy establishment might do well to reconsider its approach to altering the political map of the Middle East. After all, why place hundreds of thousands of troops, not to mention civilians, into harm’s way and spend hundreds of billions of dollars to wage a war when the growth of the internet is already redefining and reshaping Middle East political processes? USA Today writes that the country apparently most affected is none other than that prominent “Axis of Evil” bogeyman, Iran. Meanwhile, an article in MarketingProfs highlights the online and offline branding efforts of the frontrunner, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, in this Friday’s presidential elections in Iran.

Internet usage is growing faster in Iran than anywhere else in the Muslim Middle East, according to a recent Stanford University study. It has transformed campaigning and is laying the groundwork for political change. The transformational power of the internet has brought to the election campaign a free-flowing flurry of blogging activity, allowing the campaigns themselves, not just the man – and woman – on the street to bypass restrictive state-run television and the limited number of newspapers.

Personal freedom is a major issue in the presidential campaign, as are the economy and Iran’s isolation from the West. Candidates often use the unofficial political sites “to spread rumors and trash other candidates,” says Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian who introduced blogging in Farsi (Persian) three years ago. Iranian newspapers then print the information, citing the websites. “They are using this mix of media to influence the public,” Derakhshan says, who adds that there may be as many as 100,000 blogs in Farsi.

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