Small Media, Big Revolution: Communication, Culture, and the Iranian Revolution

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Small Media, Big Revolution: Communication, Culture, and the Iranian Revolution

By Annabelle Sreberny-Mohammadi and Ali Mohammadi
University Of Minnesota Press, 1994
225 pp. $44.95

The authors make no secret of their political sympathies: they opposed the shah's regime and hoped to see a progressive, populist revolution emerge from the Islamic revolution. Instead, shortly after the revolution they left Iran, disillusioned by the Islamic theocracy that Ayatollah Khomeini imposed. Along the way they collected a great deal of fascinating material about how the various currents that made up the Iranian Revolution used communications technology to advance their goals. Much has been said about the role of cassette recordings of Khomeini's sermons in creating a mass following for the Islamists. But this is the first serious study of how informal networks of "small" media emerged, undermining the shah's best efforts to control the "big" media. Cassettes could reach a preliterate audience in a way that print never could, and thus the role of intellectuals in the Iranian Revolution differed from those in other cases, and political discourse had a different tone. The Iranian Revolution succeeded in providing "authenticity" and "identity" to its followers, but at the expense of reason and democracy. The authors wistfully conclude that on balance the Iranian Revolution has been an enormous failure, precisely because it did little to advance freedom and tolerance.

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