I was going to take Michael Goldfarb to task for suggesting that Iran policy ought to be dictated by some anonymous student demonstrator, but then The Guardian published an entire op-ed inspired by little more than a picture of some anonymous demonstrator’s placard.
One unfortunate result of the crisis in Iran has been a renewed interest in trotting out every demonstrator, exile or emigre who happens to agree with your perspective on the regime as a prop for scoring political points. Not only does this tell us nothing about the situation within Iran – who, after all, thinks either of these pieces offer a representative sample of Iranian opinion? – it’s also incredibly distasteful to have statements from brave protesters and exiles brandished like cudgels in yet another domestic political brawl.
The fact of the matter is that most pundits (amateur or otherwise) know shockingly little about the events of the past few days. My heart goes out to the demonstrators confronting the regime, but I don’t pretend to know anything about their opinions or intentions or What This All Means.
A few days ago, Sonny Bunch rightfully observed that we have remarkably little context with which to process the information coming out of Iran. And as fascinating as it is to watch demonstrations unfold in real-time or to follow every protester’s tweet, I don’t feel appreciably more informed about the situation despite all of the data at my disposal. The result of this information overload hasn’t been a clear picture of what’s going on inside the regime; instead, we’ve replaced traditional filters (media commentary, expert analysis) with ideological blinders, picking out stirring images or quotes that conform to our preconceived notions of how things ought to be. Many commentators seem to feel empowered by the flood of information emanating from Iran; I just feel confused and overwhelmed.