New Book Investigates the Role of Bloggers in Authoritarian Regimes

Young bloggers are more worried about shopping, sex and music than politics, according to a recent article by Anthony Loewenstein. Loewenstein still finds that there is a unique power to blogging, though, when he writes:

Across the world, young generations are challenging tired state media by writing online about politics, sex, drugs, relationships, religion, popular culture and especially Angelina Jolie. From Egyptian activists opposed to female circumcision to outspoken, pro-Western women in Cuba, people are being empowered by new technology to create spaces away from the prying eyes of meddling authorities.

Lowenstein’s views are based on interviews he did with bloggers, a bit different than our more empirical approach, but still interesting findings, and more in line with a journalistic analysis anyway. It seems that bloggers around the world are arguing more for incremental reform than revolution. Lowenstein quotes an Iranian blogger in Tehran, “Most of the people (I know are) in favour of reform, not revolution, because people are too tired to experience another revolution.” A common refrain he heard from bloggers in other countries he visited, including Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and China.

Yet, he still found an increase in awareness about political rights because of the Internet and satellite TV in the countries he visited.

He also talks about censorship in China, noting as we did that many Chinese are not as sensitive as those in the West regarding censorship. And in China, he also quotes a young Internet user who says she and her friends prefer to use the Internet for “entertainment, sharing information, earning money and other fun.”

Loewenstein concludes, however, that these types of activities are still revolutionary:

Letting people speak and write for themselves without a Western lens is one of the triumphs of blogging. The culture of blogging is unlike that of any previous social movement. Disjointed and disorganised, its aims are deliberately vague. While many want the right to be critical in the media, others simply crave the ability to date and listen to subversive music. That in itself is revolutionary for much of the world.

I’m looking forward to reading Loewenstein’s new book, The Blogging Revolution, which forms the basis of his article–but only after I finish John Palfrey and Urs Gasser’s new book on digital natives, Born Digital, which has also just been released!

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3 Responses to “New Book Investigates the Role of Bloggers in Authoritarian Regimes”

  1. Antony Loewenstein Says:

    Greetings from Sydney,
    Thanks very much for your kind mention of my new book (out September 1.)
    As I explain throughout the work, the internet is not in itself a democratising force, but provides tools for activists, dissidents, bloggers etc to challenge authoritarianism and one-party state power (even if many people in the countries I visited are more interested in meeting girls than revolution.)
    I also challenge the Western media’s insistence on seeing countries as either “enemies” or “allies.”
    It’s a compelling read, so hope readers will enjoy it.

  2. Bruce Says:

    Hi Antony,

    All fair points that our research bears out as well. Look forward to the book Sept. 1.

  3. How web rights are coming | Antony Loewenstein Says:

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