No question about it, they're making a revolution in Iran and we're seeing it televised. Only it's not being televised through the usual channels. It's coming to the western world through YouTube and Twitter and Myspace.
And, of course, the traditional media is having a hard time making sense of it at such a distance. I'm glad they've had the good sense to qualify their publication of the social media accounts and images by admitting it is impossible to verify the authenticity of the material. It would be good if they continued that skepticism even when the news comes from Pittsburgh or Atlanta. On the Net, you just don't know what you're getting.
I watched some late night coverage Saturday night into Sunday morning. I found transcripts today to help recall what I saw, but unfortunately transcripts don't tell you what was on the crawl. I was interested because I remember being shocked that Fox news had the death toll at 126 on the crawl and CNN at 112 -- at least that's what I remember -- and the New York Times had it at 10, then 19 this morning. Here is the reporting from the Times:
"There was no verifiable accounting of the death toll from the mayhem on Saturday, partly because the government has imposed severe restrictions on news coverage and warned foreign reporters who remained in the country to stay off the streets.
"State television said that 10 people had died in clashes, while radio reports said 19. The news agency ISNA said 457 people had been arrested."
Quite a difference, but I may have been wrong about the crawl. The late night cable reporting, however, was frantic. Shepard Smith at Fox was particularly dramatic. Police were attacking protesters with tear gas and water cannons, he said -- the same report at CNN. Then he added, with real foreboding in his voice, helicopters have been reportedly dropping liquid on protesters, nobody knows what the liquid is, "but it is hot."
I didn't see any reports of this terrifying tactic anywhere in the light of day.
Interestingly, the reporting on both CNN and Fox felt like the kind of dreams you get late at night when you're running a high fever. Call it War of the Worlds reporting. Let's hope it doesn't whip up passions enough to push the president into a disastrous move that will satisfy conservatives (OK, they're never satisfied...) but undercut what brave Iranians are doing on their own.