In China, university students use the Internet to save the life of an attempted murder victim. In Cuba, authorities unsuccessfully try to silence an online critic by sowing seeds of distrust in her marriage. And in Russia, a lone blogger rises to become one of the most prominent opposition figures since the fall of the Soviet Union. Authoritarian governments try to isolate individuals from one another, but in the age of social media this is impossible to do. Online, people discover that they are not alone. As one blogger put it, "Now I know who my comrades are."
In her groundbreaking book, Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices from the Internet Underground, Emily Parker, formerly a State Department policy advisor, writer at The Wall Street Journal and editor at The New York Times, provides on-the-ground accounts of how the Internet is transforming lives in China, Cuba, and Russia.
It's a new phenomenon, but one that's already brought about significant political change. In 2011 ordinary Egyptians, many armed with little more than mobile phones, helped topple a thirty-year-old dictatorship. It was an extraordinary moment in modern history-and Now I Know Who My Comrades Are takes us beyond the Middle East to the next major battles between the Internet and state control.
Star dissidents such as Cuba's Yoani Sánchez and China's Ai Weiwei are profiled. Here you'll also find lesser-known bloggers, as well as the back-stories of Internet celebrities. Parker charts the rise of Russia's Alexey Navalny from ordinary blogger to one of the greatest threats to Vladimir Putin's regime.
This book introduces us to an army of bloggers and tweeters-generals and foot soldiers alike. They write in code to outsmart censors and launch online campaigns to get their friends out of jail. They refuse to be intimidated by surveillance cameras or citizen informers. Even as they navigate the risks of authoritarian life, they feel free. Now I Know Who My Comrades Are is their story.
Emily Parker is available to speak with students about the book through video conference in the classroom. Please contact us if you'd like more details!
"Now I Know Who My Comrades Are fills a tremendous gap in the literature. I had been waiting for something enjoyable and easy to read about the current generation of internet activists and dissidents. Parker's book is already being used in a couple of courses in the program I direct. It's perfect for Professors (and there are a lot of us) looking for material on the media, soft censorship, new technology and the rapidly-changing media scene in China."-Anya Schiffrin, Director of the International Media, Advocacy and Communications specialization at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs
"In late 2010, Parker writes, 'the idea of social-media revolutions was out of vogue.' The failure of Iran's so-called 'Twitter revolution' had put a damper on commentators' belief in the ability of online dissent to be turned into action. A few months later, revolution broke out in Egypt, largely thanks to online organization. Parker, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and State Department policy adviser on Internet freedom, argues that online communication can undermine authoritarian rule even when its effects don't make their way to the streets. Despots, she says, use isolation, fear, and apathy to stay in power, and the Internet is particularly well suited to foster the sort of information-sharing and relationships that can combat these psychological controls. The book consists of portraits of three activists-in China, Cuba, and Russia, respectively-whose political beliefs and actions have been profoundly influenced by the Internet. She traces their paths to political awakening and their creation of 'parallel universes' on the Web."-Andrea Denhoed, The New Yorker
"Parker's book is clearly written, well researched, and contextualized. Her long-lasting relationships-she meets Chinese dissident Michael Anti for the first time in 2004, for example-allow her to create a narrative history of these bloggers' personal evolution as potential reformers, of Internet activism as a whole as seen through their experiences, and of government responses to it." -The Brooklyn Rail
"Emily Parker's book Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices from the Internet Underground is a rigorously researched and reported account that reads like a thriller . . . It's been a while since I have read a book that is so entertaining, not to mention one so encouraging for the culture of liberty."-Mario Vargas Llosa, Nobel Prize-winning author of The War of the End of the World and The Time of the Hero
"Now I Know Who My Comrades Are is a timely and necessary book. Story by story, Emily Parker shows how the Internet has changed lives and social realities in three oppressive countries. The clarity, honesty, and intelligence of her writing make this book both admirable and enjoyable."-Ha Jin, National Book Award-winning author of Waiting and War Trash
"Emily Parker tells us enthralling and beautifully detailed stories about bloggers and Internet activists in China, Russia, and Cuba, showing us the power of human connection even as she describes and analyzes it. The combination of her humanism and keen insight illuminates dimensions of the Internet that we so often miss, the ways it can create the personal ties and trust that are the foundation of collective action. A great read for both the nightstand and the scholar's shelf."-Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of the New America Foundation, and Former Director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department
"The heroes of this terrific book are 'Internet foot soldiers,' not the usual foreign ministers and businessmen, and those soldiers are changing Russia, China, and Cuba . . . and the world. Emily Parker is among a handful of the most promising new foreign policy commentators who weave together technology, culture, society, and politics with hard facts and clear analysis."-Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations
"This book is a must read for anyone interested in how the Internet and social media serve as instruments of change in societies where information has been tightly controlled by authoritarian regimes. Through a wealth of personal anecdotes enriched by judicious commentary, Emily Parker deftly shows both the possibilities and limitations of the Internet's ability to promote greater political openness." -J. Stapleton Roy, former U.S. ambassador to China, Singapore and Indonesia
"This book is about twenty times better reported or written than any book ever written about the Internet, period."-Tim Wu, author of The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires
"In this fascinating book, Emily Parker shows that the Internet affects politics by affecting the psychology of its users. Now I Know Who My Comrades Are demonstrates how much it can matter for citizens to have a voice, and to discover that they are not alone." -Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
"Parker, formerly with the policy-planning staff for digital diplomacy at the U.S. State Department, explores the lives of bloggers in China, Cuba, and Russia who are active critics of their governments. Through multiple interviews, her subjects discuss the ways in which they have challenged authority via social media. Although dissident use of the Internet is already part of the twenty-first-century story, Parker goes beyond the obvious headlines to the grinding daily battles of people and situations that receive only passing media notice. Some of what she reveals is stunning (2012 estimates find that only 5 percent of Cubans have regular access to the web), but the book's greatest strength is the intimacy with which she describes the lives of her subjects. Parker portrays reluctant activists drawn into action for a variety of personal reasons who are alternately bemused and surprised by their resulting renown. In every case, they take their largely unfunded work seriously and embrace the struggle to bring openness to closed societies. Parker profiles fascinating people and effectively shows why, in hands like theirs, social media is one of the most important tools for conducting positive political and social change around the world."-Colleen Mondor, Booklist (starred review)
"Parker, a former Wall Street Journal columnist and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, draws on interviews with dissident bloggers in China, Russia, and Cuba to measure the impact of the Internet on the growth of a public presence for democratic opposition. Despite the varied systems of censorship she details, there remain in each country ingenious avenues for shoring up the Internet's free-flow of information. This communication is having a decisive effect, Parker argues, on counteracting the misinformation, alienation, apathy, and self-censorship relied upon by authoritarian regimes. She takes as her guides some leading bloggers: China's dissident journalist 'Michael Anti'; Cuba's Laritza Diversent, Reinaldo Escobar, and Yaremis Flores; and Russia's attorney-activist Alexey Navalny. As in Egypt in 2011, Parker stresses, online communities of 'netizens' are hardly 'virtual' if they translate into successful calls to public assembly, spur demands for reform, and produce a sense of common cause and action. This informative book cleaves somewhat narrowly to a handful of individuals and political activities in three very different, if generally authoritarian, regimes with restive online populations."-Publishers Weekly