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White House's Online Silence on Iranian Elections Is Gaining Notice

By Jose Antonio Vargas
The blog on the White House's official Web site does not allow comments.

But the online masses can comment on the White House's Facebook fan page. And some people are using that outlet to urge President Obama to address a news story that has dominated Web discussion: Friday's elections in Iran and the protests that have erupted since the government announced a winner.

"Iran is in full-scale revolution at this moment. Although the media is barely covering it, the participants are tweeting out what is happening and it is epic," Scott Auld wrote on the White House's Facebook page at 4:52 p.m.

Meanwhile, the White House's official blog, which at this writing has posted not a word about the Iranian elections, was focusing on the debut of first lady Michelle Obama's music series focusing on jazz.

Just a few minutes before Auld, Traci Marie Smith wrote on the White House Facebook page: "...the white house should be streaming about iran."

A powerful meme is making its way online, where people in their own time, on their own social networks, are engaging with news about the election and the protests in the streets of Iran's capital: "Tiananmen + Twitter = Tehran." Or, to be more specific, it's "Tiananmen + social Web = Tehran."

In Iran, a country where 70 percent of the population is under 30 years old, text messaging is a norm. Blogging is in vogue. According to an online video called "Iran: A Nation of Bloggers," created by students at Vancouver Film School last year, Iran is the third largest country of bloggers. (For more on the Arabic and Persian blogosphere, check out these studies from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.)

There were more than 700,000 blogs in Iran in 2005, according to the Vancouver video, and about 100,000 of them are actively maintained, with bloggers discussing such "forbidden topics" as politics and romance. The video was featured on Digg and Boing Boing when it first came out a few months ago and, with interest in Iran and its politics as a peak, the video is now being passed around, from blog to blog, from Twitter to Facebook to YouTube.

Other videos, too, are making the rounds. Months before the election, supporters of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi created a YouTube channel to upload videos from Iran. Journalists are prohibited from filming the ongoing protests over the victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but Mousavi supporters are uploading raw and gritty videos of their demonstrations. Earlier today, the channel uploaded a 47-second video of a bleeding protestor being taken away.

A comment on the video read: "The world is watching and praying for you, Brave Iranians!"

Now the world that went online to follow every twist and turn of the 2008 presidential race -- and was fascinated by Obama's effective use of the Web to communicate his message and attract supporters -- awaits what the American president says and does about Iran.

This is one in a series of online columns on our growing "clickocracy," in which we are one nation under Google, with e-mail and video for all. Please send suggestions, comments and tips to vargasj@washpost.com.

By Post Editor  |  June 15, 2009; 8:56 PM ET
Categories:  The Clickocracy  
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Comments

I think Pres. Obama is doing exactly the right thing. The regime in Iran is their problem and if they want a change it is up to them to make it happen. Iran is run by religious leaders who do not wish to give up their power. All religions are similar ... they expect their followers to take things on "faith". The religious "boss" has said that the elections were fair and all are expected to believe him. You all have heard of excommunication and shunning....for the Iranians the price may be much higher!!

Posted by: nhgal628 | June 20, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

The President is handling this perfectly. From the beginning of the peaceful protests, Ahmedinejad has been blaming the US and Israel. Why give him more fuel for the fire? Successful revolutions (US, France, India, Eastern Europe) happen from within.

Can anyone seriously doubt the President's tacit support?

Posted by: GordonsGirl | June 18, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Just what is it that Obama is supposed to do about another nations elections, do you think? We stick our nose in enough places it doesn't belong and interferring in elections is not a good way to do things. Do we want Irans influence into our elections? Get real.

Posted by: carolo43 | June 18, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Sorry but amongst the hypocrisy (remember the massacres in Iraq and Gaza, deeds not words of destruction) we find a gem, a shining light of sensible reasoning which I repeat again - thank-you Rubiconski.

Dr. Ahmadinejad provides a much needed balance in world leadership.

NOT afraid of Zionists.

GREAT for peace lovers all over the world.

Israel is gonna lose face and have to back down now.

No chance to sucker punch another innocent nation with a midnight attack.

Nations have responsibilities. It is long past time for the US and Israel to assume theirs and allow others to live in peace on their own lands.

Posted by: coiaorguk | June 18, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

What I find most interesting about Mr. Vargas' article is the focus on how Iranians are getting their voices heard in a regime that desperately wants to keep them silent.

I wrote the infographic video referenced in this article...based on research I did for a screenplay. I write about it on my blog here: http://www.scriptgrrl.com/blog/.

Posted by: ktremills | June 18, 2009 12:59 AM | Report abuse

President Obama is absolutely right in know coming forward backing the protesters in Iran. The former Iranian negotiator says this is the correct course to take. Several US Iranians have said to stay neutral. It is up to the Iranians to settle this conflict.
If came out supporting the protesters we would then be fighting the current regime in Iran.
He has said he does not like rights taken from the protesters. He has said that not allowing phone/computer;photos/media coverage is wrong. So get over yourselves and about his stance. He is dead on!!

Posted by: katerinaDeligiannis | June 17, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

I like the dinorsaur who has to bring up the tired old saw that Bush and Cheney stole the election! Ye Gads! Aren't we past that? We have a new President who needs to do something other than give great speeches from a teleprompter. He keeps reminding me of a person who doens't know what to do so he gives a vague speech to justify doing nothing. No, doing something constructive will help the Iranian youth know that they have support in their fight to become more Americanized (good or bad). They need us to support them, but we are silent. No, Obama doesn't have to blog, he's our President, he can speak forcefully in support of the youth of Iran. The theorcrats won't dislike us any more, but it will show that we stand for something positive.

Posted by: murzek1 | June 17, 2009 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Obama is faced with a dilemma, perhaps the first real test for his administration. He has a CIA director (how did he get the job?) who should be able to give some sound intelligence advice on how we can in some way assist the Persian youth who are pro-American. I have no answer, but I'm not trained in intelligence/counterintelligence. Let those people give Obama a plan to let us be on the side of the Iranian youth who want Ahmadinijad out of power. While the theocracy will still thrive, but with so many of the youth in arms, our tacit involvement might be what is needed to moderate the hawkish behavior of the Iranian leaders. We will never be welcome guests in Iran, but we could diminish its muscle power a bit in the Middle East. If we don't step forward to help now, we may lose whatever presence we have in the Middle East. Let's fact it, many Muslim nations are afraid of Iran. It's not just Israel. We have a chance to put Obama's Cairo and Ryadh's speeches into action. Obama gives a good speech but he needs to be able to take action to show that his speeches are serious and not just a college debate.

Posted by: murzek1 | June 17, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Obama is faced with a dilemma, perhaps the first real test for his administration. He has a CIA director (how did he get the job?) who should be able to give some sound intelligence advice on how we can in some way assist the Persian youth who are pro-American. I have no answer, but I'm not trained in intelligence/counterintelligence. Let those people give Obama a plan to let us be on the side of the Iranian youth who want Ahmadinijad out of power. While the theocracy will still thrive, but with so many of the youth in arms, our tacit involvement might be what is needed to moderate the hawkish behavior of the Iranian leaders. We will never be welcome guests in Iran, but we could diminish its muscle power a bit in the Middle East. If we don't step forward to help now, we may lose whatever presence we have in the Middle East. Let's fact it, many Muslim nations are afraid of Iran. It's not just Israel. We have a chance to put Obama's Cairo and Ryadh's speeches into action.

Posted by: murzek1 | June 17, 2009 7:41 AM | Report abuse

President Obama is doing right by saying very little about the election. This is Iran election and the United States need to stay out of their election. Obama did speak out against the violent on the peaceful demonstrators. Whoever is elected President will have to deal with the United States.

Posted by: lclon | June 16, 2009 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Obama obviously hoped for Ahmadinejad to be beaten by Mousavi. The president on Friday, the day of the election, spoke of "a robust debate taking place in Iran" bringing with it "new possibilities" and "the possibility of change."

How naive Obama's words sound in retrospect. His wishful thinking has crashed head-on into Islamofascist reality.

Now, with Iranian freedom fighters in need of support, Obama, always the rhetorically brilliant and gifted speaker, has chosen an extremely odd time to keep his mouth shut. He can only hope the newly re-elected and empowered Ahmadinejad might agree to come to Camp David for friendly negotiations.

Posted by: mock1ngb1rd | June 16, 2009 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Remember John McCain´s "We´re all Georgians now" when Russia retaliated to Georgia´s attack? He hoped that the public would buy the story that Russia attacked first. People who rush to condemn and pass judgment often lack wisdom. President Obama understands the psyche of people in the Middle East and knows that it is foolish to take sides when you do not have the facts. Conflicting reports and opinions are coming in, everyone is aware that things are seldom what they seem. A rush to premature taking of sides would indeed be foolish.

After so many years we still do not know who are the real perpetrators of the 9/11 attack. This information would be the harbinger of much needed catharsis.

Posted by: hyalum | June 16, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Hey tdl62 - "Silence is Golden".....

Posted by: BullyLover | June 16, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

It's a good thing that the majority of Americans support our President. These flakes, who yesterday wanted to bomb Iran, and today are now, oh-so concerned about the Iranian people make me want to throw up. Some clown yesterday posted that Obama should "push something in the Security Council." What exactly should be pushed he of course had no idea. But Obama should rush to the microphone and "say something." Forget that we have no hard facts to point to. Forget that the U.S. trying muscle it's way into the Iranian electoral process at this time does nothing but provide ammunition to the religious hard-liners in Iran. Just say something Obama. Sorry boys and girls, but children's hour is over at the White House. The adults are back in charge, and poorly thought-out, knee-jerk reactions are no longer in vogue.

Posted by: sonny2 | June 16, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Look, everyone knows, Obama is love with the cameras but until his teleprompter is fixed he is speechless..................

Posted by: tdl62 | June 16, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Romney re: election (6/14/2009): "The election is a fraud. The results are inaccurate."

And today, a recount - albeit limited - is announced. Let's see if quick/unconditional v. no/limited response prior to any sort of investigation holds up...

Posted by: Goombay | June 16, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."

"A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government."

'A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine."

Thomas Jefferson

Posted by: tdl62 | June 16, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

So i can only imagine the outrage if Iran had weighed in on our election in 2000. What do you expect Obama to do? This is our problem, we dont like the results of other countries elections so we want to get involved. How would we feel if other countries got involved in our elections?

Posted by: rharring | June 16, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

WHY ARE YOU SURPRISED - OBAMA JUST TALKS AND HE WILL PROBABLY GET MORE TV TIME TODAY TO SAY NOTHING OF IMPACT

this is our leader (no surprise)

did not spend the formative years of youth growing up in America, and culturally reallynot an American.

has never run a company or met a payroll.

has never had military experience, thus doesn't understand its core.

lacks humility and "class," always blaming others. on and on and on

THIS IS NOW HIS MESS TO DEFEND INCLUDING THE QUADRUPLED DEBT - HE NEEDS TO GROW UP AND MAYBE DO SOME WORK

Posted by: barbiek1 | June 16, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

President Obama is doing the smart thing about the Iranian election turmoil:
Saying nothing!

The US should not be seen to be interfering in Iranian affairs, something that would play into the hands of Ahmadinejad and his supporters.

Events in Iran have been moving in America's favour for a number of years, in that Iran's young people - who will be running their country within the next 20 years - are, by and large, favorably disposed to the United States. This trend will surely continue - as long as America does nothing foolish.

Posted by: GaryPeschell | June 16, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

President Obama is doing the smart thing about the Iranian election turmoil:
Saying nothing!

The US should not be seen to be interfering in Iranian affairs, something that would play into the hands of Ahmadinejad and his supporters.

Events in Iran have been moving in America's favour for a number of years, in that Iran's young people - who will be running their country within the next 20 years - are, by and large, favorably disposed to the United States. This trend will surely continue - as long as America does nothing foolish.

Posted by: GaryPeschell | June 16, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

A most likely crooked election:Boring, done that with the Republicans -- hated it.

Jazz going on at the White House: very cool! -- real American music.

So who wants to blog on boring things.

Posted by: roye1 | June 16, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Obama is silent becaue it looks like Iran has taken a page out of American elections. How can we cast a stone at these Religious radicals when our own elections are rigged. Maybe they had ACORN and the black panthers standing at the polling places with night sticks and handing out dollar bills.....

Posted by: tdl62 | June 16, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Haven't you knee-jerk, firebreathers done enough damage?

Take a pill. Boss Limbaugh will be on in a few hours and you can have your world-view validated.

Posted by: willandjansdad1 | June 16, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Everyone should notice that of anything and everything President Obama is or is not saying is the fact that he supports a free and open election process, without any obstruction.
One of the most precious freedoms in America is an open and free election process. Why would President Obama and/or his Attorney Journal dismiss the case against New Black Panther Party for threatening, intimidating, hurling racial slurs, and taunting voters at the election precincts?

Posted by: oharward | June 16, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

So now the peanut gallery is suggesting foreign policy tactics and communications. The WH will make its comments when it is appropriate but a blog is not the place to do that.

Posted by: rias2500 | June 16, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Let's see, the last time we commented in force on Iran (in 1953) we got the Shah, which gave rise to the current regime. Sometimes silense is golden.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | June 16, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

To bad that the American people did not show the same level of disgust when Cheney-Bush stole the election and proceeded to dismantle the Constitution and the Bill of Rights!

Posted by: KBlit | June 16, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse


Are we now going to protest Obama because there's no Iran comment on the WH blog??

I know it's an online world now, but "no comment on a blog" is not the same as "no comment.

The President has made remarks about the violence in Iran. He has said what he wants to say for now. Attacking Ahmadinejad at this point only gives him and the mullahs an excuse to go hardline.

Stealing an election is wrong, but it is not the same as invading a country. Comparisons to Neville Chamberlain are ridiculous.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | June 16, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

So, "Neville Chamberlain" is the new talking-point buzz word from the Republicans.
So breathtaking, so predictable. Ho hum.

Posted by: martymar123 | June 16, 2009 8:07 AM | Report abuse

"Obama is handling it just right...Calm and reassuring without obviously taking sides."

Handling it just right if you want your president to be the Neville Chamberlain of his time.

Posted by: joanne600 | June 16, 2009 8:03 AM | Report abuse

It's really sad that there are Americans like hedgehog1, who fundamentally have no idea of the subtleties and dangers of the Iran situation. This type of one-dimensional thinking was voted out with the Bush administration.

Posted by: Pupster | June 16, 2009 7:35 AM | Report abuse

"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
JFK would be considered a right wing whacko today. See how far the Democrat party has fallen

Posted by: jim_bevan | June 16, 2009 7:31 AM | Report abuse

Motormouth wrote:

"You can have our childish things when you can pry them out of our cold, dead fingers!"

No thanks. I'm just going to get a good heady whiff of Cordite and walk away and leave your rotting corpse for the buzzards.

Posted by: Tomcat3 | June 16, 2009 7:27 AM | Report abuse

Great.
Suddenly our nation is filled with foreign policy experts who obviously know far more about how to handle Iran than does the White House and/or State Department.

Aren't these the same people who want to bomb Iran back to the Stone Age?

Yeah, I thought so.

Posted by: Tomcat3 | June 16, 2009 7:24 AM | Report abuse

As for the toadie who described Obama's response as ``pitch perfect.'' Right on, Neville Chamberlain. Churchill wrote of walking into Chamberlain's office the day Hitler invaded Poland, to find Chamberlain adamant about taking no action, saying nothing threatening about the invasion until Hitler responded to Chamberlain's personal letter asking that Germany withdraw all of its forces from Poland.

``PERFECT PITCH.'' Get your head out of Obama's butt. It's embarrassing.

Posted by: hedgehog1 | June 16, 2009 7:20 AM | Report abuse

If we too stridently back the protesters, the Ahmadenijad regime has all the excuse he needs to crack down on the "USA puppets".

Obama is handling it just right...Calm and reassuring without obviously taking sides.

Ahmadenijad would love this to morph into an Iran vs USA fight.

Posted by: willandjansdad1 | June 16, 2009 7:16 AM | Report abuse

This gutless coward now leading our great country can not even put out a press release that doesn't reek of bone chilling timidity. Isn't he the guy who once said, ``words matter!'' He has no words, no leadership, no respect for other people in another country putting their lives on line against evil. I am embarrassed to be an American with this toadie in the White House. And after this is all over, with blood running in the streets of Tehran, he wants to go over their and kiss the ring of the mullahs. Get ready for the nuke, Israel. Obama really does want a new Caliphate, with the president of the United States kneeling at the feet of the mullahs.

Posted by: hedgehog1 | June 16, 2009 7:08 AM | Report abuse

Maybe Obama is figuring out that Iran is part of the Axis of Evil... just two of the original members, Iran and NKorea, left, but they are joined by Hugo Chavez, still consolidating the iron hand in Venezuela! Of course, Chavez is Obama's friend! Chavez is a pal to Ahmadinejead... it follows that "a pal of my pal, is my pal."

See what's in store for US, America? The heavy hands of Obama/Emanuel/Axelrod.

Posted by: Mainer1776 | June 16, 2009 7:04 AM | Report abuse

CBS reported:

"Wary of making a wrong move, the White House is exceedingly careful in choosing its words about the election results and protests in Iran."

http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/06/15/politics/politicalhotsheet/entry5089552.shtml

Not "perfect pitch" nor "admirable" but
"exceedingly careful". How's that for an update?

Posted by: Judi1 | June 16, 2009 12:56 AM | Report abuse

I believe that a newspaper columnist like this one should determine our nation's policies.

Posted by: motorfriend | June 15, 2009 11:22 P
===================
I believe that a newspaper columnist like this one should NOT determine our nation's policies.


Posted by: mixedbreed | June 16, 2009 12:55 AM | Report abuse

Would it make you more comfy if we just rewrote history too? It's in the past after all so it shouldn't matter anymore.

Posted by: Judi1 | June 16, 2009 12:26 AM | Report abuse

I assume this piece was written before Obama's fairly lengthy remarks on the Iran issue late this afternoon. Perhaps it should be taken down or updated to reflect that.

As for Obama's actual words, I think they were pitch perfect.

1) Stress that we are not interfering.
2) Express admiration for the protesters
3) Remind Iran that "the whole world is watching"

Posted by: ElrodinTennessee | June 16, 2009 12:03 AM | Report abuse

Like most dictators, Ahmadi is busy writing his obituary with the blood of his own people. He will not escape Judgment.

Posted by: JPRS | June 15, 2009 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Based on the videos coming out of Iran, it seems pretty clear that Ahmadi-Nejad and his goons are a more than comfortable throwing cheap shots in the dark of night. Like most cowards they run for the light of day.

Like most dictators, Ahmadi is busy writing his obituary with the blood of his own people. He will not escape Judgment.

Posted by: JPRS | June 15, 2009 11:57 PM | Report abuse

Thank goodness we have some new media and columists that are not afraid to speak.

Posted by: Judi1 | June 15, 2009 11:40 PM | Report abuse

I hope you don't believe that you think Obama is so ignorant that he didn't already know that people wanted to hear from him before the columnist wrote.

Posted by: Judi1 | June 15, 2009 11:30 PM | Report abuse

I believe that the government should listen to the people, even though some can't think of anything to say.

Posted by: Judi1 | June 15, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse


I believe that a newspaper columnist like this one should determine our nation's policies.

Posted by: motorfriend | June 15, 2009 11:22 PM | Report abuse

WELL! I guess you think OBAMA is childish now?

Posted by: Judi1 | June 15, 2009 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Judi1 | June 15, 2009 11:20 PM | Report abuse


We Republicons categorically refuse Obama's demand to put away childish things!

You can have our childish things when you can pry them out of our cold, dead fingers!

Posted by: motorfriend | June 15, 2009 11:16 PM | Report abuse

The Obama administration is doing exactly the right thing by remaining quiet and watching events unfold.

This power struggle will be decided exclusively on the streets of Iran and any outside interference can only hurt the cause of the protesters.

If a US president publicly takes their side that will immediately be used by the Ahmadinejad camp to portray the protesters as agents of foreign interference. He would like nothing better. Look at how he is already using British and French denunciations of the result to stir up nationalist outrage.

Moreover, the clerical establishment, which is now divided and sitting on the fence, would feel compelled to come down on Ahmadinejad's side. They cannot afford to appear to be pawns of the US, or be bowing to US pressure.

Even in the old days before the Bush administration totally trashed America's credibility on democracy promotion by invading Iran's neighbor, the US would have been wise to keep quiet.

This is all the more true because we don't really have the facts and can only discredit ourselves, like Ahmadinejad, by calling a winner prematurely.

Posted by: tomscanlon1 | June 15, 2009 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Why, at such a diplomatically critical juncture, would Obama comment in any other way than what he has?

That would be a pretensious, empty-headed, self-seeking gesture -- that would be the action of what is called a "neocon intellectual" -- whatever that is...

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | June 15, 2009 10:59 PM | Report abuse

In the old days, our government would not have been silent about freedom. This shows how low we have fallen.

Posted by: Judi1 | June 15, 2009 10:40 PM | Report abuse

FREEDOM DOESN'T COME WRAPPED IN CHAINS.

Obama is probably doing just exactly what our lovely government wants him to do. I have nothing against the man, but I do wonder about free people in America not beholden to anyone that can't speak for themselves.

Posted by: Judi1 | June 15, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Obama is behaving admirably. Why should he comment before Iran has completed its investigation of fraud? There is no reason to weigh in with accusations that may not be true. If he did so and were proven wrong, I can just hear the critics of his silence....let's face it, he can do no right in some people's eyes. You need to get over the fact that he won.

Posted by: FactChecker1 | June 15, 2009 10:24 PM | Report abuse

This isn't about Obama, this is about the people. Are you or you not FOR FREEDOM OF THE PEOPLE? Do you have a mind, feelings, dreams and hopes of your own?

Posted by: Judi1 | June 15, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Vote Obama in 140 Characters ≠ Complex Iran Policy Statement in 140 Characters. Twitter people need to get over themselves. Obama is not going to tweet "Iran :("

Posted by: endhaiku | June 15, 2009 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Our government should be in full support of the Iranian people. If they were in full support of us and our freedom, they would be. But anymore neither Democrat nor Republican office holders seem capable of doing this.

Posted by: Judi1 | June 15, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Ahmadinejad provides a much needed balance in world leadership.

NOT afraid of Zionists.

GREAT for peace lovers all over the world.

Israel is gonna lose face and have to back down now.

No chance to sucker punch another innocent nation with a midnight attack.

Nations have responsibilities. It is long past time for the US and Israel to assume theirs and allow others to live in peace on their own lands.

Posted by: Rubiconski | June 15, 2009 9:57 PM | Report abuse

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