Anne Applebaum puts the Neda video in context , by forcefully arguing that women's rights advocates - not Bush or Obama or Twitter - are behind the incredible energy in the Iranian vote and the protests: "The truth is that the high turnout was the result of many years of organizational work carried out by small groups of civil rights activists and, above all, women's groups, working largely unnoticed and without much outside help." She also explains why the presence of so many women on the streets matters:
For at the heart of the ideology of the Islamic republic is its claim to divine inspiration: The leadership is legitimate, and in particular its harsh repression of women is legitimate, because God has decreed that it is so. The outright rejection of this creed by tens of thousands of women, not just over the last weekend but over the last decade, has to weaken the Islamic republic's claim to invincibility in Iran and across the Middle East.
Dana, when you worried over the instrumentalizing of Neda's death , and what it means when a tape of one person bleeding her life out on the street catapults all around the world, and so becomes a propagranda tool, some of your commenters thought you were questioning the relevance of the death itself. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I think you were making a subtler point - that no matter how relevant, Neda has been converted from a self into a symbol, and you wouldn't want that for yourself. I see that. I wonder, though, about calling the video a propaganda tool. (Snuff film just seems right, since that's literally what it is.) For sure the video is being circulated to send a message and stoke the fires of outrage, but the nature of its dissemination makes me think that calling it a propaganda tool for me is too unsympathetic. The man who sent it doesn't sound like he works for anyone . He sounds like a guy who smuggled his footage through the Iranian cyberspace censors, however he could, to get it viewed. YouTube and Twitter and CNN did the rest. If the video is propaganda, it isn't only that. It's also a collective howl. Impotent and even exploitative, but also a heartfelt expression of the hive mind.
Photograph of Iranian protesters by Louisa Gouliamaki/Getty Images.