The Future of Despotism: Blogging the Iranian Presidency
While some in the U.S. may feel that a lack of governmental transparency here has led to significant shortfalls in recent policy decisions, those in Iran are getting the chance to chime in on policy while simultaneously learning a little bit about the mind of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The President's personal blog, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Personal Memos, is available in four languages, including English, and features Ahmadinejad's personal thoughts and policy concerns. The blog also allows readers to post comments. On the English version of the site, opinions openly critical of the President's policies go uncensored. According to the New York Times, the Farsi version of the page does not allow the same level of freedom to critics but falls short of completely suppressing critical comments.
Though political blogging by politicians has been commonplace in the U.S. for some time now (particularly before elections), Ahmadinejad's blog is the first to be written by such a controversial world leader. Another surprise is that President Ahmadinejad appears to be answering some personal letters and comments by readers, though authenticating the sources of those letters could prove challenging. An ironic twist is that many bloggers in Iran have had their blogs blocked by the state telecom company, and on one occasion the President's blog was accidentally blocked.
How exactly Ahmadinejad's blog will affect world opinion on the leader remains to be seen. This author doubts that it will lead to any breakthrough regarding the Iranian President's views on important issues such as Israel or Islamic law. However, it is nice to know that even the President of a repressive state can take the time to let people know what's on his mind.