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Power of Images in Media & Iran’s Twitter Revolution

2 July 2009 No Comment
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Tiananmen Square Massacre Tank ImagePowerful Influence of Images in Media

When I say Tiananmen Square Massacre, what is the first thought or image that comes to your mind? For the vast majority of people it is the image of the young man making a stand in front of the rolling tank.

There are many such images or photographs out there that has forever influenced public perception. One can cry all you want about starving children, but nothing moves a person emotionally until they see a picture of precious young child starving without food.

This is the power of images. Whether an image of news, or the images we see on TV.

The Iran Twitter Revolution

As you may or may not know, everyone has been following the news of the turmoil in Iran through the Internet. As journalists are not allowed (or more like afraid) to officially transmit news out of that country, all the recently events have been followed through YouTube videos and twitter updates. It has been one of the most interesting phenomenons of late.

Iran Election Protest ImagesHundreds of Thousands of Iranians have been protesting the recent elections between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mir-Hossein Mousavi and 2 other candidates. The crowds are crying fraud due to multiple suspicious figures and the bias way the government conducted the elections. The following demonstrations are now being captured on YouTube videos and being twittered all around the globe. The Tehran’s leaders had taken down telephone systems, took down websites, confiscated tapes from journalists and dispatched police to beat and arrest anyone who dares to protest. The leaders have done everything they could to try to control the news coming out of Iran. Yet they completely underestimated the power of the citizen journalists and the use of social media. Iran, as a highly computer literate country, had citizen hackers working to keep media lines open while the government continually try to shut them down.

One example of Iranian Twittering about the Demonstration: Tehran Bureau

YouTube Videos of Recent Demonstrations

Protest News Coverage from Different Parts of Iran

Power of a Images in Turning Public Opinion

Recently a young woman named Neda Agha-Soltan (Neda means “voice” or “the calling” in Farsi) was shown on video being shot by a sniper’s bullet during a demonstration. As she fell to the ground, she instantly became the face of “freedom”, the symbol of the entire opposition. As this video, which was caught on a cell phone camera, spread quickly around the globe, it has strongly impacted the view of the world’s public opinion.

“[Neda] has become a global symbol of innocence destroyed by evil.” – Times Online

Below is an excerpt about the power of images by Breakpoint
Note: The Book referenced here called “How Now Shall We Live?” is one of my favorite books of all time.

Other photos have moved entire nations. As I wrote in my book, How Now Shall We live?, I’ll never forget the first time I saw the famous 1972 photo of a little Vietnamese girl, Kim Phuc, running away after a bombing, her skin burned by napalm. That photo broke my heart and the hearts of countless others, and as I would later write, it “became an emblem for an entire nation questioning its reason for being in Vietnam.”

Another photograph from Vietnam had a similar effect: the photo of South Vietnamese General Nguyen executing a Viet Cong prisoner in February 1968. The picture has often been cited as the image that “as much as any, turned public opinion against the war”—even though the photographer, Eddie Adams, who saw both sides of the story, had not intended it that way.

Adams later wrote, “The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world.”

Adams was right. For better or for worse, images shape our thinking, our emotions, and our responses to the world around us. Context is always important, for sometimes images can mislead, as Eddie Adams discovered. But sometimes images can show us the truth about ordinary people, people just like us, fighting for the same rights that we so often take for granted.

Could the video of Neda’s lifeblood pouring out on the streets of Tehran be the image that changes everything for her country?

That I don’t know. But I do know this. No matter how hard the Iranian government tries to silence the calls for freedom, Neda has given her fellow Iranians a voice that the world can’t help but hear.

  • What is your opinion about the power of images in media?
  • What does this tell us about how we should approach the intake of all media such as tv shows and movies?
  • What is your reaction to Iran’s Twitter Revolution and the role of social media?

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