When I look at what is currently going on in Iran, I cannot help but think of Tienanmen in that spring of 1989. In both bases the populace was attempting to send a message to it’s government about what it wanted. However in 1989 China was able to effectively shut down all communications within it’s coutry and prevent any news of the protests and subsequent crack down from reaching other parts of the country. Even today, most Chinese still don’t really acknowledge what happened.
How would things have changed if there was Twitter in 1989, or Facebook? Or even the Internet? With the advent of satellite phones, Facebook and Twitter it is much, much harder for the ruling regime to quiet any dissension. Essentially, the people changed the game. With state controlled media people were forced to consume whatever news the state chose to make available, but now you can gather your information from anywhere.
And this is a game the people can win.
Peter Bregman wrote in the Harvard Business website an article entitled, Play the game you know you can win. Essentially if you are up against a more powerful opponent then change the game to play to your own strengths.
This is also something straight out of Sun Tzu’s classic Art of War and as old as the story of David and Goliath. Malcolm Gladwell wrote an entertaining article on how Davids go on to beat their respective Goliaths by changing the rules. When David took off the armour and dropped the sword in favor of the sling, what would have been a hand to hand fight he couldn’t win became something he could.
How the Iranian populace will win the struggle with the ruling regime is if they keep changing how they protest and continue to feed information to the world and to each other.
They are already using Twitter and Facebook to get the news out, but now they need to flash mob. Start gatherings of people that quickly form and quickly disperse. They cannot withstand direct confrontation because the Basij and police are armed while, as we have seen, the populace is not. Also working in real time favours the insurgents. If they plan on having a protest tomorrow and announce it on Facebook then the government can prepare. If they flash mob the groups will be smaller but more agile.
And they need to dispense with custom. Protest during the call to prayer, protest in the mosques, protest in the government buildings, disrupt the common threads that the government uses to control people.
They need to continue to expose information to the Persian communities outside Iran. Here in Toronto there have been multiple protests, but they are not in the right part of town. They are in the Persian part of town where most people already know what is going on. As we have seen from the Tamil Tiger protests, you need to inconvenience people before they pay attention. The protestors here need to inconvenience their own governments to get them to apply pressure to the ruling regime.
By changing the rules fo the game, the Iranian people have a chance to instigate the change that most want to see, or at the very least get another election, one that this time won’t be so easily rigged.