The article below, written by the U.S. State Department, tells how they have held a conference in Mexico City order to train young people to use CNN, Facebook, etc. to destabilize governments that disagree with Wall Street. This should be a good exposure for those who think the Iranian Resistance or the "Free Tibet" Movement are a "rebellions from below."
Young Leaders of Grass-Roots Movements Meet in Mexico City
New generation of activists uses social media networks to build coalitions
By Lauren Monsen
Washington — When Web-based activists from around the world convened in Mexico City October 14–16 at the second annual Alliance of Youth Movements (AYM) Summit, they received welcoming messages from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and a host of other dignitaries — a sure sign of their growing clout as agents of social change.
In a recorded video message to AYM participants, Clinton said: “You come from different cultures and countries and speak different languages. But you all share a common commitment to engaging with the world, to using every tool at your disposal to bring people together to solve problems. And that makes you the kind of leaders we need.”
The AYM conference focused on the role of technology in connecting young people who seek positive social change around the world. Participants included individuals from the private sector, the nongovernmental community and some of the most successful Internet-based movements around the world.
The agendas of these so-called “digital revolutionaries” are varied. Some online activists aim to stop violence, while others promote democratic reforms or financial services for underserved populations — but all embrace the goal of improving their societies by leveraging the power of the Internet. Creating their own organizations and using social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, these young leaders are mobilizing thousands of like-minded citizens to join their movements.
Participants exchanged stories about their experiences and offered advice to peers. Sophie Lwin, co-founder of the Burma Global Action Network, became an activist in response to the Burmese military regime’s September 2007 crackdown on peaceful anti-government protests led by monks. Her organization has played a pivotal role in raising global awareness of the regime’s human rights abuses.
“We grew to 300,000 members within one week of starting the group on Facebook,” she recalled. Despite censorship in Burma, Lwin’s group posted photographs on Facebook that documented what was happening in the country. The photographs were broadcast on the Cable News Network (CNN) television channel, sparking widespread condemnation of the regime.
Mehdi Yahyanejad, who runs a Persian-language news-aggregation Web site called Balatarin.com, spoke about marshaling public pressure to modify the behavior of local authorities in Iran. Anything that gets posted to his site’s front page “gets lots of exposure” and often migrates to other media outlets, including the British Broadcasting Corporation and CNN, he said.
“We’re trying to compete with Iranian news agencies that are controlled by the government.”
One of the site’s bloggers posted a story about an Iranian couple accused of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning. Readers started a campaign targeting the judicial authorities who were to carry out the sentence, “and authorities said the stoning would not take place,” Yahyanejad said. Unfortunately, the man was secretly stoned to death; the woman was spared. At least one life was saved, Yahyanejad said.
CNN’s Nicole Lapin, who moderated a discussion on 21st-century women, asked whether women are taking leadership roles in various movements around the world.
Reporter Kelly Golnoush Niknejad, of the independent online news organization Tehran Bureau, said Iranian women are increasingly active in public life, even though they must contend with gender restrictions imposed by the country’s religious establishment. She pointed out that Iranian women poured into the streets along with the men to protest the country’s disputed June 2009 presidential election.
Niknejad cited the impact of cell phone footage from a Tehran demonstration that captured the death of a young woman named Neda Agha-Soltan, who apparently was slain by Iranian security forces. The grainy footage appeared on Twitter, Facebook and other Web sites before being broadcast on CNN. Those images transformed the young woman into an international symbol of the Iranian protest movement, and her slaying dramatized the regime’s brutality, Niknejad said: “It was a huge fiasco for the government; they’re trying to rewrite the narrative” of that incident.
Yon Goicoechea, of the group Movimiento Joven de Venezuela (Youth Movement of Venezuela), said that alternative means of communication are essential to the defense of democracy and civil rights in Venezuela because the country’s traditional media outlets are controlled by President Hugo Chavez. “We took part against the constitutional reforms proposed by Chavez in 2007,” which would have solidified Chavez’s hold on power, “and we won the elections” that defeated the proposed constitutional changes, Goicoechea said.
Technology now facilitates civic involvement throughout the world, said the State Department’s Jared Cohen. In an essay for Web site The Huffington Post, Cohen reflected on the lessons of the AYM conference and concluded that “this new ability to connect [online] is leveling the playing field and breaking down previous age, gender, socioeconomic and circumstantial barriers to who can emerge as a leader, activist or grassroots agent for change.”
In his closing remarks at the conference, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual marveled at the profound changes effected by technology-driven movements. The U.S. government now realizes that reaching out to young activists “has to be part of the way that the United States engages as part of its diplomacy,” he said.