Wednesday, May 23, 2007

This Machine Kill Fascists?

Siva Vaidhyanathan has written about removing a sign from his laptop computer that read "This Machine Kills Fascists," after Woody Guthrie's famous slogan on his guitar, during the post 9-11 security hysteria. This week bloggers are struggling with how they can use their computers to effect change in the real world, in the face of the arrest of the director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Middle East Program and the threat of charges and trial in Iran. There is a blog dedicated to the effort to free Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari, but Juan Cole has warned about the limited efficacy of online petitions and has bemoaned his own inadequacies as an organizer of face-to-face politics, despite his high profile as an influential blogger on the region:

Everybody does some things well and some things poorly. I have been pretty successful in various kinds of writing. But I'm not an organization person and don't have the slightest clue how to get up a successful protest in front of the Iranian embassy in London and Paris and Tokyo. Iran does a lot of trade with Western Europe and Japan, and the case of Haleh should be brought up every time they seek a new contract. We have to get her out of there, folks. Can anyone help? Can we set up a wiki project page and try to coordinate?

Scholarly associations like MESA have written formal letters of protest, and Amnesty International has issued a human rights alert about her unjustified detention, but the Iranian government has yet to be dissuaded from moving her trial forward. Nobel prize-winner Shirin Ebadi has taken up her case.

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