Dictatorship 101: Control all means of communication

After getting burned by all those Tweets following the national elections last summer, the Iranian government is taking steps to see that they don’t lose control again.

Iran Expanding Effort to Stifle the Opposition

The government uses the usual gun-thug technique to crack the heads of the opposition. It is also setting up 6,000 military centers in elementary schools to “promote the ideals of the Islamic revolution.” And it has turned over control of land line phone systems, the Internet and mobile phone companies.

A company affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards acquired a majority share in the nation’s telecommunications monopoly this year, giving the Guards de facto control of Iran’s land lines, Internet providers and two cellphone companies. And in the spring, the Revolutionary Guards plan to open a news agency with print, photo and television elements.

The power-hungry leaders complain that the root of the country’s domestic ills are because of Western subversion, especially in the form of cultural subversion. (Damn, those Barbie dolls.)

The arguments are the same with any dictator. In China the government wants to control the message and messenger to protect social stability and fight spiritual pollution. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez wants to control the media to make sure the people are not influenced by Yankee imperialist thought and are properly schooled in Bolivarian revolutionary thought.

It really doesn’t matter what the background ideology is, the bottom line is that dictators of all stripes don’t like a free press. After all, once people start getting more than one side of a story, they might actually start thinking about changing leaders.

Maybe the Iranians will learn what the Chinese and Venezuelans are already experiencing. The harder they try to control the lines of communication, the more ridiculous they look to the world and their own people. The truth always leaks out. And in.

First published in Journalism, Journalists and the World.

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