On Facebook, Ahmadinejad Is a Kid From Jersey

After Facebook opened the virtual floodgates to personalized URLs Saturday morning, millions jumped in – including one user who picked “Ahmadinejad.”

It wasn’t, of course, embattled Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The page traces to someone identifying himself as a high school senior from Glen Rock, N.J.

“I chose the name for attention,” the user wrote in response to an email message, emphasizing that he doesn’t support that “clown,” Ahmadinejad. “I'm a bored rich kid from the suburbs.” 

Whatever the reason for assuming the name of a largely reviled figure, one thing seems certain: no one in Iran can see the site. Facebook, Twitter and text messaging have been blocked there amid unrest following Ahmadinejad’s hotly disputed claims of a re-election landslide.

Ahmadinejad, who’s reality challenged when it comes to the Holocaust (never happened, he says), homosexuality (no gays in Iran, he insists) and quite possibly the outcome of his election, is clear on the power of social networking to organize his youth-driven opposition. Still, the shutoff hasn’t stopped rioting in Tehran, waged by supporters of his election rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Outside Iran, social networking is helping spread news about the turmoil – and even criticize news coverage: Twitter users are posting with the hash tag #CNNfail to protest what they say is the network’s insufficient attention to the story. The Twitterers also are tweeting links to other news sources, including citizen journalism.

So the "bored rich kid" from New Jersey may have inadvertently offered a commentary on the power of social networking as a tool of democracy and as a source of free-flowing information when he grabbed the Ahmadinejad name. Meanwhile, the 18-year-old, who expects to graduate from high school soon, is watching what’s happening in Iran. 

"Dude pretty much runs the gamut as far as terribleness is concerned,” he said of Ahmadinejad.

“Hopefully Mousavi can pull something crazy off and my Facebook name can retreat to the recesses of history.”

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.

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