Monday, January 6, 2014

Vargas Llosa review of "Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices from the Internet Underground"

Mario Vargas Llosa, an important Peruvian novelist who began as a liberal and later ran as a conservative candidate for president, has written a review of the forthcoming (February 18) book "Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices from the Internet Underground," by Emily Parker, a former journalist at the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

The book reviews the role of the Internet and social media revolutions in China, Cuba and Russia, and Vargas Llosa says:
If Parker’s testimony is accurate, and I believe it is, China is the country, of the three here profiled, where the digital revolution has produced the biggest changes and seemingly unstoppable momentum. Cuba, for its part, is the one where the changes have been the least significant and most vulnerable to reversal.
The title of this book reminds me of the first example of politically oriented citizen journalism that I know of -- the use of Usenet during the Soviet coup attempt of 1991. The Net was used to bring information into and out of Russia and to spread information within Russia. One could read statements like this from Nizhniy Novgorod:
Yesterday at 17:00 a rally in support of Yeltsin was held; regional deputies participated. Today at 17:00 hours there will be a rally in the city center where a strike committee will be formed ... The atmosphere is calm in the city, there are no troops to be seen.
or this from Kiev:
It is relatively quite in Kiev as it all seems like a silly joke from here. On top of this, relevant information is not being supplied on the TV. I was on the central square at 12:30. A group of about 100 people was discussing the news.
China and Cuba made their decisions with respect to control of the Internet in the mid 1990s -- the Chinese opted for a widespread, controlled Internet and the Cubans, mindful of the fall of the Soviet Union, opted to control the spread of and access to the Internet. Where would we be today if Cuba had followed the Chinese lead?

Update 3/8/2014

Emily Parker was interviewed about her book at the New American Foundation:

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