Unfulfilled Potential

by Conor Friedersdorf

Graeme Wood reviews a book on Iran's Green Revolution:

The instant photo-uploads and breathless tweets from the protests thrilled many an observer outside Iran, because with unprecedented immediacy the world could watch events unfold almost in real time. Death to the Dictator!, however, is one of the first books that appears to be reported from the protests. Its potential is to reveal what the ill-fated revolution felt like from inside, and whether its participants have the character of a permanent, grinding insurgency, or of a movement destined to fade away.

Unfortunately, this potential goes mostly unfulfilled. The lack of focus on the technology of the revolt – the Facebook-organised mobs, the masked kids with Twitter-enabled smartphones in one hand and brickbats in the other – does seem to confirm that social media meant less to the protesters than to their observers and supporters abroad. Such details help illuminate the still-obscure history of the protests. What Moqadam’s account lacks is illumination of issues wider than the experience of Mohsen himself: how the protests happened, who orchestrated them, what the protesters sought to accomplish. The book tells the story less of the revolution than of one revolutionary.