This New York Times piece nicely summarizes recent moves by the Iranian regime and the Revolutionary Guards to further clamp down on Iran’s already tightly controlled information space. The Times argues that the government is stepping up its ‘soft war’ in order to “re-educate Iran’s mostly young and restive population” by:
…implanting 6,000 Basij militia centers in elementary schools across Iran to promote the ideals of the Islamic Revolution, and it has created a new police unit to sweep the Internet for dissident voices. 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.
As the article notes, these efforts to fight a ‘soft war’ seems to indicate the growing influence of the Revolutionary Guards in Iran, which some, like Abbas Milani, argue are more powerful than even the Supreme Leader.
In the end, however, these moves may be futile. The ‘police unit’ to monitor the Internet has only 12 people. Satellite TV has been illegal for years in Iran, and yet by the regime’s own account 40% of households have access to it, twice as many as last year. There are occasional crack downs that try to clear satellite dishes from everyone’s rooftop, but they always go back up eventually. And finally, as NYU’s Mehrzad Boroujerdi says:
By trying to gain more control of the media, to re-Islamize schools, they think they can make a comeback. But the enemy here is Iran’s demographics. The Iranian population is overwhelmingly literate and young, and previous efforts to reinstall orthodoxy have only exacerbated cleavages between citizens and the state.