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Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices from the Internet Underground [Kindle Edition]

Emily Parker
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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 freedom of speech is impossible to contain. 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 civil rights 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 activism 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. These activists 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.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* 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


"One can practically overdose on the levels of intrigue at play in this account of "netizens," bloggers turned social crusaders turned Internet rock stars." —Boston Globe

"It is [Parker's] tracing of the more subtle, psychological effects the internet has had on activists, regular folks, and authorities that makes this book an essential read...if one is restricted to a few voices, oh what voices Parker has chosen." —The Los Angeles Review of Books

"Parker's reporting...captures well the online activists' pervasive feeling of being constantly monitored." —The Wall Street Journal

"One of the merits of Parker’s work is to have captured these characters not just glued to their keyboards...but also in their intimate reality, in the cafes or pubs where they seek refuge, in their families, in the political rallies they support or in the hiding places they seek out when persecuted. That fills this book with color and life...Some of the personalities in Parker’s book stick to memory with the same vivacity and dynamism of a Joseph Conrad or Andre Malraux character." —The New Republic

"Now I Know Who My Comrades Are" is a valuable reminder of social networks beyond Facebook and Twitter...The book also succeeds in introducing readers to the wilds of Chinese, Spanish and Russian webs unexplored by English-speakers" —The Economist

"Parker’s work is a shining example for women writers around the world; this book is a clear showing of her prowess as both writer and researcher." —The California Journal of Women Writers

"Parker...argues that online communication can undermine authoritarian rule even when its effects don’t make their way to the streets." —The New Yorker

“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’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


A New Yorker Book to Watch Out For, February 2014

Product Details

  • File Size: 956 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0374176957
  • Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books (February 18, 2014)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00EGJB08W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #342,595 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly informative while being a real page turner! February 21, 2014
By Eric
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What I love about Parker's book is that her storytelling brings you in on the ground floor with her as she sets out to explore how the Internet is changing the lives of Cuban, Russian and Chinese citizens. It is clear she put in the time to gain her subjects' trust and formulate her own nuanced analysis of a topic that is often oversimplified or misunderstood by the outside world. I commend this work, it is a beautiful read both stylistically and content-wise!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read. February 24, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a native Russian speaker and a product of the former Soviet Union, I have to say Parker's section on Russia is spot on. The characters are vivid, the environment they operate in - painfully familiar and real. She gets that very illusive Russianness in her coverage of a relatively new Internet phenomenon. Having read the book I cannot help but view the everts unfolding in Venezuela and Ukraine in a different, richer light.

Parker adds a politically and culturally significant dimension to a layperson's understanding of the word blogger and the notion of a modern day political activist. The China and Cuba perspectives are fascinating, even to someone with only a basic understating of these countries. That is because Parker's book is not about cold technology and the Internet. It is about people: funny, controversial, selfish, brave and altogether very human. People who want to live like human beings and willing to push the boundaries of the ruling regimes using the Internet as a tool of resistance. Their stories are the heart of the book and their collective experiences define today's political arena - even in repressive societies.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear writing and in-depth reporting on internet activism February 26, 2014
I came at this book with an interest in internet policy but there's plenty here for someone without that. The book is smoothly written and accessible while still having a strong core of content. Parker interviews a wide range of "netizens" in China, Russia and Cuba over years, which lets both the subjects, their views and their environments evolve. She also seems to come at these interviews with a refreshing lack of preconceived perspective. She lets the internet activists speak for themselves, which as bloggers all, they're particularly good at doing.

I read the book right after reading Rebecca MacKinnon's Consent of the Networked and they made an interesting contrast. MacKinnon focuses on internet freedom from a very high-level, focused on history and theory. Now I Know Who My Comrades Are focuses on internet activism as it looks from the ground in China, Russia and Cuba.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Technology requires New Citizens March 9, 2014
By eric
What becomes immediately clear after reading Now I Know Who My Comrades Are is that technology requires and creates new types of citizens to utilize it. This careful study of three cases of dissidents in authoritarian regimes shows that the Internet has the ability to challenge statecraft effectively, though also be used as a tool of states, by allowing alternative means of expression and assembly to thrive and achieve a critical mass. The accidental nature of much of this activism affirms the mutually transformative power of the Internet and its users and the cracks in authoritarian control.

The writing itself also deserves special mention because the author is very present in the text. She earns our trust by contextualizing her interactions with her subjects (the writing is so fluid that quotes separated by years seem as natural as an uninterrupted chat) and explaining her credentials, while detailing the power of the Internet to catalyze assembly by connecting citizens with one another and helping them discover that they are dissidents.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare exception to the rule March 5, 2014
This book is a rare exception among many books written on similar subjects: the author really knows what she is talking about. A must read for anyone who wants to know the truth.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timely, thoughtful book February 23, 2014
The book stands out because it is real. It describes in true detail the ins and outs of the life on the web and beyond in countries where freedom of speech is not a guarantee. Highly recommend for scholars and students alike.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Art March 24, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed reading the book. The author's ability to establish relationships with all the Facebook and Twitter dissidents and get them to go on the record was very impressive.

I was not aware of all this activity and was pleasantly surprised and hopeful

I particularly enjoyed the Afterword. The author was realistic about the impacts while hopeful that these internet activities will cause needed changes if not revolutions
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I’m not particularly interested in the Internet, so I approached this book with some trepidation, only to be delighted and deeply affected by its rich on-the-ground portrait of 21st century dissidents in China, Russia and Cuba. In this riveting page-turner, the author, who traveled extensively (and in some cases at great personal risk) takes you to the streets and back alleys of Beijing, Havana and Moscow where she details the cat-and-mouse game between authoritarian governments and ordinary citizens trying to overcome the punishing hand of state control.

Parker tells us poignant and deeply human stories, for example of a Communist party loyalist whose allegiance to Beijing is shattered by images of the Tiananmen crackdown he sees online, or of a Cuban judge so disgusted by the injustices wrought by the Castro regime that she takes to the web to inform fellow citizens how to assert their rights under the law. In the Russia section we are introduced to an upstart anti-corruption activist, Alexey Navalny, who launches online campaigns to build a network of engaged citizens demanding political and corporate reforms, and in doing so challenges Vladmir Putin’s once iron-clad grip on power.

The author does not romanticize the individuals she profiles, nor does she engage in Pollyanna-ish “the internet will set you free” arguments. Instead, the greatest virtue of this book is its use of funny, terrifying and uplifting stories to illustrate the irreversible psychological transformation that the Internet catalyzes by delivering truths that upend the official government line. As Parker transports you from Beijing to Havana to Moscow, you will hear the battle cry of 21st century freedom fighters everywhere: Now I know who my comrades are.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Page-turning narrative and sober analysis
This book, written by a long-time journalist who's worked for both the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times, analyzes how dissidents in three authoritarian countries are using the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Joe User
4.0 out of 5 stars Short Review
I initially bought this book because of an academic interest in China, but after reading it I was really impressed by the work as a whole. Read more
Published 8 months ago by froyo lover
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Book
Very engaging and relevant read. I'm using it as research for my own novel, and it's been incredibly helpful. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Dariel
1.0 out of 5 stars The Internet Mostly In the Mind
Bring me the eyes...

Of Alexey Navalny...

It is that easily done...

The blogger and his straw insurrection...

Defeated... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Chris Roberts
5.0 out of 5 stars now I know who my comrades are. .Emily Parker
Our book club read Emily Parker's book as so much in the news is citing the internet in China, Cuba & Russia. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Arlynn Brody
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly insightful - a nonfiction page-turner!
Emily captures and examines some of the most interesting examples of political censorship through compelling personal narratives and examples. Read more
Published 9 months ago by H. Priebe
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Book Club read.
Thought it was an interesting read, very novel like. Traveling in China almost 20 years ago I encountered some of the very same answer to questions. Glad I read it.
Published 9 months ago by Barbara Ornstein
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and Inspiring
Emily Parker's compelling narrative of netizens in three politically repressive countries is enlightening and inspiring. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Selma Meyeroworiz
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read
Not being a social media fan (and possessing little knowledge of the subject), I came to Emily Parker's book wondering if I would understand it, and if it would be aimed at... Read more
Published 9 months ago by George H. Sullivan
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More About the Author

Emily Parker is the author of "Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices From the Internet Underground." Mario Vargas Llosa, winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote that the book 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 so encouraging for the culture of liberty." Vargas Llosa's full article about "Now I Know Who My Comrades Are" can be found here:

Emily is currently digital diplomacy advisor and senior fellow at the New America Foundation, where she has been writing her book and working on a US-China innovation project. Previously, Emily was a member of Secretary Clinton's Policy Planning staff at the U.S. Department of State, where she covered 21st-century statecraft, innovation, and technology. While at State she advised on issues related to Internet freedom and open government, and traveled to the Middle East to explore the role of new media in post-revolutionary Egypt. She no longer has any affiliation with the U.S. government.

Emily is a founder of Code4Country, the first open government coding marathon between the United States and Russia. Code4Country brought together Russian and American software developers to identify technological solutions to challenges of government transparency. Emily is a former International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, an Arthur Ross Fellow at Asia Society's Center on U.S.-China Relations and a Global Policy Fellow at Carnegie Moscow Center, where she researched the role of blogging and social media in today's Russia.
Emily spent over five years working for The Wall Street Journal, first as a writer in Hong Kong and later as an editor in New York. From 2004 to 2005, she wrote a Wall Street Journal column called "Virtual Possibilities: China and the Internet." She was also a staff op-ed editor for The New York Times.

She has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, Newsweek, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, The Far Eastern Economic Review, Project Syndicate and World Affairs. Her chapter on Chinese nationalism appeared in China's Great Leap: The Beijing Games and Olympian Human Rights Challenges (Seven Stories Press, May 2008). In 2002 she worked at the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) in Tokyo, where she researched how historical tensions between China and Japan would affect Sino-Japanese business relations.

She has worked in China and Japan, and speaks Chinese, Japanese, French and Spanish. She graduated with Honors from Brown University with a double major in International Relations and Comparative Literature (French and Spanish). She has a Masters from Harvard in East Asian Studies.


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